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Southern Pride

POSTCARD FROM GEORGIA

By Courtney A. Coursey

Each time I return home from college, I am surprised by all that I appreciate about the South that I never really noticed during the 20 years that I have lived in Stone Mountain, Georgia. After spending nine months in Boston, it's refreshing to be able to go into a restaurant and order sweet tea and have the waiter know exactly what you're talking about. It's nice to be back in a place where, while jogging, you're greeted by friendly hellos from complete strangers instead of the blaring horns of impatient drivers, a place where strangers (usually older people) refer to you as "sugar" or "dear."

I never realized how much I loved fried okra until it was gone.

Though I sometimes feel stifled by aspects of Southern culture--such as feeling that I have to have my hair and makeup done whenever I leave the house--all in all, I have to say that I have come to love and appreciate the culture of the South. Though as a Southerner I have to put up with my share of jokes about inbreeding and rednecks and even the half-joking remark made by a Harvard professor about people in the South eating dirt, I cannot think of another region in the United States where I would have preferred to have grown up.

Unfortunately, the South is losing much of what makes it unique. Until recently, I did not really notice or care about the demise of Southern culture. But while I was not paying attention, it was slowly deteriorating around me.

My junior year in high school, the girls in the Homecoming Court stopped wearing the hoop skirts reminiscent of the Old South because the principal said it was too expensive to rent and dry-clean the clothes. Though some might say that wearing such outfits was a silly custom, I think it is sad that a tradition so evocative of the region's heritage was stopped for such a pragmatic reason.

Other entities that once made the region unique have fallen by the wayside all over the South. Friends and relatives who used to do their banking at BankSouth or Citizens and Southern (known as C&S) must now bank at Nations Bank or Sun-Trust, larger banks that have merged with the more local banks. Grocery stores such as Piggly-Wiggly have been replaced by larger chains like Publix. Though changes in the name of the place where you bank or buy your groceries may seem trivial, I think they are part of a larger, unfortunate trend--the homogenization of the United States. Just as much of the rest of the world has come to look like the United States, with the invasion of McDonald's, Coke and the Gap, the South is starting to look more and more like the rest of the United States as well. If all of the U.S. becomes the same, it will be just plain boring. Therefore, I think that it is the duty of all Southerners and people in every region of the country to do what they can to keep regional identities alive. I am doing my part by boycotting the CVS franchise that just opened near my house.

To the North I say, "You can keep your Star Markets, Au Bon Pains and Filene's--we'll keep our Winn-Dixies, Waffle Houses and Rich's."

Courtney A. Coursey '99 is working in a genetics lab at Emory University this summer.

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