Correspondence

Space Invaders: Part I

As Americans continue their flight to the South from the regions that they've already ruined, I continue to monitor the low-intensity conflict between Yankee settlers and Southern natives. This public service is needed, I think, because we just don't know much about what's going on. Foundations and government agencies tended to see Southern migration to the north as a problem, so we have some studies of the north's Bedford-Stuyvesants and Little Harlems. But now that the migration is going the other way, nobody with grant money to give away seems to be worried about it.

Not that it isn't a problem. To begin with, it raises questions of etiquette. What do you say when someone tells you he comes from Boston? "I'm sorry"? In the 1850's Joseph Baldwin suggested that the polite response was to pretend that you'd never heard of Boston, but that probably won't work anymore. It's been in the papers a lot.

In some parts of the South, of course, the question no longer arises, because nearly everyone comes from Boston, or someplace like it. A Chapel Hill friend of mine was present when two of his new neighbors discovered they were both from New Jersey. "Oh, yeah?" one of them said. "Which exit?"

But when cultures do collide, some degree of misunderstanding is almost inevitable. There's a great scene in the movie Sharky's Machine....

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here

X