Sunday, April 16, 2006
Huntsville Times

In a recent Washington Post, an editorial by an "authority" blamed all the country ills, foreign and domestic, on Southerners who hold strong religious views. The writer called them a "rogue coalition" and compared them to the pro-slavery voters of the 1800s.

Paul Krugman, columnist for The New York Times , a Princeton economist, and the "go-to" man for smug media outlets, wrote a column about the brainless people of Alabama. One criticism was the "educational level in the Southern United States was so low that trainers for Japanese plants in Alabama had to use ‘pictorials’ to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech equipment."

A while back, I was watching a cable news show that had an expert explaining the complexities of the relationship between Bill and Hillary Clinton, why a woman stays with a man who humiliated her while most women would have kicked him to the curb. In extolling Hillary’s superior intelligence and depth, Ms. Expert actually said, "It is not like she (Hillary) is a housewife from Alabama."

The people of the South were ridiculed for wanting to see a movie about the last days of Jesus Christ, but were condemned for not rushing to see one about gay sheepherders cheating on their spouses. They were alternatively called religious zealots or unsophisticated hate-mongers.

The know-it-alls tell us cartoons of Mohammed are offensive and should be censored, but we should praise "art" that defiles the Virgin Mary and the Holy Cross.

These are views from New York and D.C. The people making the decision to move to Huntsville as a result of BRAC are exposed to this level of disdain held by the self-proclaimed most respected news outlets.

As someone who was a New Yorker for 29 years, I used to have these views. I thought Southerners lived in trailer parks, married blood relatives, drove with Confederate flags and gun racks and wore Klan headgear.

In hindsight, my level of ignorance astounds me. I was not alone, and the attitudes have not changed.

I went back for my 20th college reunion at a prestigious, northeast Ivy League university. When I told my classmates I was living in Huntsville, to a person, they expressed sorrow for me.

One sorority sister – the class president, Harvard Law School grad, millionaire lawyer who lives in D.C. – was appalled. I thought of my recent visit to D.C. and compared the urban blight to the beauty of northern Alabama and wondered how she got into any law school.

Of course, I asked her whether she had been to Alabama, she said "Of course not." My fellow alumni thought I was so cool and smart when I lived in Manhattan where there were 2,400 murders a year, homeless people camped out in my lobby and Al Sharpton marching in the street.

I believe the best way to counter this propaganda is with facts.

If our workers are so dumb, why is Detroit a ghost town and Southern states have become a magnet for foreign automakers?

If the area is so bad, why is New York City losing both its black and white residents to Southern states?

If our economy is so awful, why is the unemployment rate in New York 5.6 percent but only 3.6 percent in Alabama?

If they are so adamant about discrimination, why do they allow condo boards to screen people they consider unworthy of being their neighbor?

If The New York Times is such a great newspaper, why was it forced to admit two front-page stories written last month were riddled with lies and fraud?

There is plenty wrong with the South, as with every section of the country. Let us see realistic and objective criticism, not tainted by decades old stereotypes and religious prejudice.

The population trend is out of these pompous cities for greener pastures and clearer minds. I think the news trend should be away from the out-of-touch and cocooned echo chamber of the cities of New York and Washington, D.C.

I have learned so much since leaving the Northeast, and surely have more to learn.

Maybe others should make the same journey of discovery.

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