A few days ago I ran into an old friend, an historian, who started in on the Partisan. “I’ve lived all my life in the South,” he grumbled, “but I don’t see what makes Southern life so wonderful that you and your friends want to impose it on the rest of the country.” I did my best to reassure him that nothing was further from our intention than any form of standardization—whether making the South like New England or vice-versa. He seemed somewhat mollified. Still, his remark set me to thinking about the great gulf between educated Southerners (like my friend the historian) and those plain folks we have learned to despise as rednecks, grits, and crackers.
We are in a period of time, when most affluent and educated Southern people have come to identify their interests with members of their own class in the Northeast and California, instead of with their region. They are, by and large, proud of urbanization (still more of suburbanization), commercial culture, and the values of liberation which characterize life in Atlanta and its Northern originals. Among such people, it is a race to see who can give up the most first (a reversal of “First with the Most” Forrest’s strategy): collards are replaced by spinach and mushroom salad, Country Music by Rod Stewart and Paul Simon (if you’re under 40), Wayne Newton (if you’re older), and regional dialects by a way of speaking that resembles a cross between Dan Rather and a California car salesman. A very decent businessman confessed to me recently that he hated to hear his own voice on a tape (sounded like a cracker) and always preferred to hire an actor with a “neutral accent” for any promotions.