(I’ll get to Roy Moore shortly.)
The Mason-Dixon Line of Elitism
Who knew that Queens was just a half mile east of Dayton, Tennessee?
Christopher Hitchens (RIP) once said that the English wear their class on the tips of their tongues. That is also true about Americans, only, more generally our tongues revealed where we were from.
It was elitism that stigmatized American regionalism. At least that’s what justified Bob Beckel, formerly of FoxNews, to leap directly to the notion that racism was a uniquely southern sin, and there was no easier way to identify a southern racist than to listen to him talk. Bob Beckel was wrong, but hey, he was just a kid when Dr King was murdered, and never bothered to listen to Dick Gregory, who died only recently, as he tried to paint elitist northerners Yankees with the same racist brush as southerners, while Dr King was still alive:
(Don’t care how close you get so long as you don’t get too big, versus, Don’t care how big you get so long as you don’t get too close—Can you tell which is which in the regional world of racism? And which survives?)
I thought that stigma had been dead and buried by the mid 70s, when Jimmy Carter was elected president and Boss Hogg had become a comedic buffoon icon, much like Senator Claghorn had been in the 1940s.
Seems I may have been a bit premature.
I’m a little more sensitive about that tip of the tongue matter than most, for I grew up in Appalachia, a peoples who carried a twang around that separated us from mere “Ya’ll” southerners. “Appalatchy”, from West Virginia down to the Smoky Mountains, stood out alone.
Those of us who left home to seek educations and above-ground work outside the mountains were acutely aware of this infirmity…for within a week of taking a part-time job in a college bookstore I already had picked up a nickname.
A world traveler by the 80s, I still had words I knew were dead giveaways of my origins, so sequestered them in safe places, never to use except among folks back in the hills. My most damning giveaway was “far”, only not taken from Dickens’ “a far, far better thing I do”, but “far truck”. I nearly cleared a conference room in Cincinnati once in 1992 with that unscripted, open mic outburst, the audience likely wondering how I’d gotten across the Ohio River without having my visa stamped.
The Mason-Dixon Line of American culture has existed since the very beginning and it largely ran only one way.
There was Yankee culture and there was Southern culture and that divide wasn’t rent solely by the racial divide defined, well into my high school years by separate facilities, “separate but equal” school segregation, the KKK and a general sort of racism about where people were allowed to sit in a diner, and words (names) people could call other people out loud without getting their blocks knocked off[…]
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