So Hillary Clinton walks into an Alabama church and speaks to the folks there with what some people think is a "Southern Accent."
"Har-har-har" say the nattering nabobs of conservativism. "That's a Clinton for ya; she'll be anything to anybody in her relentless ambition."
Yes, very funny. But this time the joke is on them, because to many in the South - the great artesian spring of nascent conservatives - too many of us know all too much about adopting a "fake" accent everyday. Only it's not a Southern accent we fake - it's Yankee.
More on the flip.
I am from the South. I am a Southerner. I am from that region that gave birth to both the Confederacy and the modern Civil Rights movement. To the consternation of my fellow liberals on this board and elsewhere I remain a proud Southerner and embrace all my history and culture and revel in its contradictions. If you and I are talking face to face, and you insult my region or culture, then you are cruisin' for a bruisin'.
And yet ....
Every single day I get on the telephone to people who are not from the South and with whom I must do business. I need to do the business with them because I need to eat and I need their money to survive. But if I speak to them with my native accent - the one that reflects all the deep, flowing culture of which I am so proud - I am considered a dolt; an imbecile; an uneducated doofus, riding into town on a turnip truck just waiting to be bamboozled, flim-flammed and generally hoo-rahed into prostrate submission.
So I pretend that I am a Yankee. I do all I can to drop the drawl and chop off my syllables in neat, precise cuts. I pretend that I am a TV weatherman from Anywhere, USA.
And I hate myself for doing it.
You cannot do business in this country if you are perceived as an uneducated hick, something I most certainly am not. I have attended a four-year college, received a degree and have spent the last 30 years in a field of immense technical complexity. When I am home with my folks in West Georgia I speak in a way which is indistinguishable from other family members who are just as intelligent as I, yet some never went to college; a few never made it through high school. We are a family, and a microcosm of the South at that.
Yet however comfortable we may feel among ourselves, each of us know that when we leave that cozy environ and go back to our working worlds we must conceal the only sign that most people have of our heritage and all the stereotypes it represents: our voice. So I start speaking in a different way. I don't succeed, entirely, of course, but at least I do not sound like an early Andy Griffith episode.
But all the time I am doing it, I am angry. I am angry at you, America, for believing all that horseshit about dumb Southerners. I am angry at you, my fellow liberals, for believing the notion that we are all a bunch of conservative yahoos. On the one hand the stereotypes about the South inhibit me in my dealings to earn my keep in the world; on the other hand the prejudices keep my voice from being heard among the constituency with which I identify.
Southerners are among the few people that all people enjoy stereotyping and making fun of. But it isn't funny to some of us, even if we join in from time to time. Not funny at all.