A dear friend of mine, a Harp like myself but born and raised in the Deep North, repeated to me for the umpteenth time one of the most persistent of all Southern stereotypes, the duplicitous Southerner.
This type is all smiles and sweetness, until the proper time comes to lower the boom. As my friend put it, “No, we are not as polite in the North, but at least we know where the bullet is coming from.”
This friend and I taught together at a school in the South whose professional and social environment was challenging to say the least. The enrollment, however, was overwhelmingly Northern expatriates, a point that I never tire of repeating to my skeptical friend. Moreover, I have again and again explained to this friend of mine that the “South” is a very big and very diverse place. Where I grew up in the border Tidewater region, duplicity was not looked upon kindly. Forthrightness was the preferred virtue, and being respected was prized above being respectable. Duplicity almost always resulted in shunning or a right hook. No, duplicity was not our capital sin in the Tidewater, our capital sins were of the Satanic variety: pride, vanity, and arrogance. Still is my friend all wrong? Are there places in the South were duplicity is cultivated like a fine California cabernet? Where the smile and the verbal stiletto are the mainstays of social intercourse? I do know of a place or two like that below the Mason Dixon, but I am still convinced that duplicity is a far more universal fault.
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