"When you come back to England from any foreign country," George Orwell wrote at the height of the Blitz in 1940, "you have immediately the sensation of breathing a different air."
He knew that feeling well. Not long before, he'd come back to England from Spain one step ahead of the comrades he'd joined to fight Franco. And who had turned on him when he held on to some flinty idea of English freedom. It was not just the relief of escape George Orwell was expressing, but the exhilaration of coming home. Not just to a country but a whole way of life and web of unspoken custom. Now that it was menaced, he appreciated it. As you do when you look back and see your family from the perspective of time -- as if you were seeing them all for the first time, and are enveloped by cascades of feeling.
Any Southerner who's been away for any length of time will know that feeling -- the wave of warmth on hearing that familiar accent, driving down those same country roads, having that sensation of breathing a different air. It is the air of your country, your childhood. ("Hey porter! Hey porter!/ Would you tell me the time?/ How much longer will it be till we cross/ that Mason Dixon Line? ... Tell that engineer I said thanks a lot,/ and I didn't mind the fare./ I'm gonna set my feet on Southern soil/ and breathe that Southern air." --Johnny Cash, "Hey Porter")
Some countries are more than countries, some places more than places but a whole world, some people more than people but your people. As we inquire of someone we've just met in these Southern latitudes, who are your people? Or ask after a family we know: "How're your people?"
When those people, this place, this hearth and home, are suddenly threatened, we will rally to save it. Fiercely. But when the old ways are only slowly, gradually eroded, we may scarcely notice, let alone miss them. Till one day we awaken with a start and realize what has happened, as voters in Britain may have done last week:
"That England, that was wont to conquer others,/ Hath made a shameful conquest of itself." (Shakespeare's "Richard II" tends to prove ever more relevant as history proceeds from decadence to decadence.) And at that moment of realization, people vow: Enough. No more. And begin the work of Restoration .