Some undigested odds and ends this month. Let’s see—let’s start with some survey research on regional differences, real and perceived.

From California comes word that the Stanford Research Institute has come up with a typology of Americans based on their (excuse the expression) life-styles. Not surprisingly, the types are not distributed uniformly across the U.S. Three in particular are geographically concentrated. “Achievers” are more likely than others to be wealthy, middle-aged suburbanites in Southern California and the Midwest. (George Babbitt lives!) The “Socially Conscious” tend to be younger, welleducated folk, also financially well-off: They pile up in New England and on the West Coast. “Belongers” make up 37 percent of the U.S. population: They are patriotic, family-oriented, politically conservative, and tend to live—guess where.

Meanwhile, the Roper Poll has been asking Americans how they see regional differences in the U.S. Overall, the West is seen as the “most exciting” region, the prettiest, and the best place to vacation. The Wild Northeast is seen as most dangerous— most cosmopolitan and most expensive, as well. It is also believed to be where “most of the people who run things” live. Fair enough. The Middle West is regarded as middle-of-the-road—neither best nor worst—in most respects; it does get the “least exciting” title, making it sound more and more attractive the older I get. The South gets credit for the best weather (although last summer we just about dried up and blew away), and its people are seen as the friendliest and most religious. The survey was conducted before the bottom fell out of oil prices, but Roper found that Americans believe the South also has the best job opportunities. Look out, Yankee, Sunbelt’s gonna get yo’ mama.

Which may have something to do with mini-course 2062: How to Speak Southern, offered by MIT’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Make of that what y’all will.

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A little North-South parable from The Anglican Digest answers the perennial question: Can any good thing come from Arkansas? In Lincoln, Massachusetts (not far from MIT, in fact), a Filipino Sister of St. Anne took her cheap but treasured wristwatch to a jeweler for repairs. “Only an Arkansas tinkerer could repair this,” he told her, whereupon she sent it to the parents of a student from Arkansas—and it came back good as new.

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Speaking of the South’s friendly and religious people—I don’t plan to vote for any TV evangelist for President, but I do admire some of them and defend them occasionally from ignorant criticism. A few Gantryesque specimens, however, make it all too easy for critics of the breed to score. Consider, for example, the allegedly Reverend Jim Whittington of Greenville, North Carolina. Mrs. Mozelle Ussery of LaGrange, Georgia, sick with leukemia, wrote him some time ago, after watching his syndicated television program. According to the AP, he subsequently sent her roughly 30 computer-generated letters. One letter said, “The Lord spoke to me to have you prove yourself by sending an offering of $15 (Malachi 3:10),” and the last one read: “My dear friend Mozelle, you can get in trouble with God and miss your blessing by not being obedient. . . . I don’t want your blood on my hands at the Judgement, Mozelle.”

Mrs. Ussery was unresponsive because she had died seven months before. Her husband was sufficiently annoyed by the last letter to send copies to several newspapers. Preacher Whittington commented: “I only asked the man for $15, and he’s giving me thousands in free advertising.”

Far be it from me to urge Federal regulation. Instead, let us pray—for whatever may be appropriate.

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(I promise that the next few paragraphs will be my last comment on the detestable enormities of the U.S. Department of Transportation.)

As I keep reminding you (and myself), resistance to Federal tyranny is not a Southern monopoly. Out in John Wayne country, some state politicos have been aiding and abetting their constituents’ contumacy. Last I heard, for instance, legislation was pending in Wyoming, Nevada, and Montana to reduce the fine for speeding (up to 75 mph) to $1.00, thus technically complying with the Federales’ silly 55 mph speed limit while ensuring that no one will be inconvenienced by it.

Unfortunately, it probably won’t work. The Feds are making it plain that they intend to cut off highway funds to states that post limits and ignore them. Florida recently got threatened with some proviso about the percentage of drivers who must comply, and the Sunshine State meekly started arresting folks.

To me, this bespeaks a serious failure of the imagination. Regular readers will know that I’m not hog-wild about highways in the first place, but even if we accept the need for them, there are alternatives to the Federal dole (better: make that Dole, after the ex-Tar Heel now in charge of DOT). Back in the bad old days of regional antagonism (about 1968), for instance, Floridians’ neighbors in Georgia outlawed studded snow tires. The penalty for this insult to Georgia highways was a $1,000 fine. Most miscreants paid readily enough, since the alternative was a year spent at repairing the damage and at other forms of roadwork under armed supervision.

Of course, the law was just an exaggeration of Georgia’s ancient speedtrap tradition, directed at New Yorkers passing through en route to Florida; few Georgians felt the need for snow tires, studded or otherwise. I think the last Yankee who’d made it through Georgia without being stopped was General Sherman; for decades after that, Georgians took care that it didn’t happen again.

But the law not only pandered to unworthy xenophobic impulses, it was also a potentially nice little moneymaker. I never did hear how much it raised in fines and unreimbursed services, but Florida might want to consider something similar, if the Department of Transportation wants to get nasty about it.

The problem with this approach, of course, is that the quarrel isn’t with hapless Northern tourists. For starters, there’d have to be a blanket pardon for Midwestern farmers: those hay shipments during the drought were downright neighborly. But I have an alternative to suggest.

Ask yourself How do the Federal boys determine how fast Florida drivers are going? Of course. Floridians ought to think about making it illegal for anyone but the state police to operate radar equipment. A few DOT highway engineers on Florida chain gangs would be an edifying spectacle. Even if their fines didn’t make up for the Federal money cut off, it might be worth it. Sic semper tyrannis.