Once I sat down next to a lady who was strumming a guitar-like instrument that she held on her lap. I asked her about it. She smiled and told me it was, "a very simple instrument, very easy to play. Southerners invented it, and they're pretty stupid."
I come from a family of real Southerners. My relatives say "purdy" instead of "pretty" and "dawg" instead of "dog." My brothers and I used to speak very quickly to each other so that, with our big-city accents, they wouldn't understand us.
My grandfather owned an orange grove for many years — the typical southern farming figure. He also opened his own real estate business and, working hard, made it into a success. My grandmother worked at the county courthouse for many years. They raised a family of five children, all of whom earned college degrees. Yes, they speak slowly but they are smart, successful people.
When my mom got married and moved to a "big city," a three-hour drive away from her small-town home, she ditched the accent.
"If you speak like that, people think you're stupid," she always told me.
And that's just sad.
Small-town folk make up a huge percentage of the American population. They feel more pride in their country than most, often hanging American flags from their windows. To them, Memorial Day is more than just a day off of school - it's a day to honor our country. They may not start with much, but they work hard to get ahead. They are usually religious, attending church every Sunday. They are real people, not just cartoon figures in cowboy hats yelling "Yeehaw!"
Most importantly, they have their own culture. A culture made up of country music and county fairs complete with hog competitions in which the winner is awarded a ribbon by the newly-crowned Watermelon Queen. My cousins compete with their hogs every year.
Unfortunately, this culture is losing strength.
Of all of my aunts and uncles, only one raised his family "southern" - the rest moved away to cities. Even people who still live in small towns are influenced by the television so that their accents are slowly fading.
The southern culture may survive the technological era or it may be melded into generic "American," like so many other cultures. But in the meantime, let's respect southerners for who they are. And please, don't call my relatives stupid.