One Way to the Southern Heart

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“Among other common lies, we have the silent lie—the deception which one conveys by simply keeping still and concealing the truth. Many obstinate truth mongers indulge in this dissipation, imagining that if they speak no lie, they lie not at all … There is no art to a silent lie. It is timid and shabby.”                   Mark Twain (1882)

WE HAVE LOST the South. Again. “We” are not a political party, but Southerners of all persuasions who happen to be gay; and “The South” is not a geographic region, but a country. It always has been. Seven years into a new century the American South, indistinguishable in hue from the rest of the interior on election night, is still dappled with enough swatches of William Faulkner and Margaret Mitchell to merit another shade of red entirely; something in the maroon family perhaps, worthy of the region’s status as America’s odd cousin, no longer confined to the basement. The ubiquitous bumper sticker, “American by Birth, Southern by the Grace of God,” is stated without irony. Scratch the surface of even our most metropolitan cities, and the scent of your dotty aunt’s mothballs will waft up past the skyscrapers and stucco. After half a century of integration, immigration, and homogenization, the median core identity of the American South is closer to Zell Miller than Jimmy Carter. Furthermore, all of this is okay with most Southerners. Quirky is good here, and modernity has its limits.

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