A Bleak South

The American South is bleak.

Its natural beauty is interrupted: mountains are scarred by coal mining, fields are pocked with rural ruins, waterways are poisoned and marked off with caution signs. Self-inflicted fires, emboldened by drought, lay waste to swaths of forest. Roads are cracked by heat, humidity, and neglect. Poverty and addiction abound in Appalachian towns left anemic by the waning of the coal industry.

As capital fixes its Sauron-gaze on Dixie, sincerity is torn down and replaced with quirk and kitsch. The cities of the South are sites of struggle, battlefields between a creeping bourgeois gentrification and vibrant historic neighborhoods. In place of old houses and family-run shops, spring up craft breweries and trendy boutiques. We are happy to have the beer, but some part of us must also lament the loss of authenticity.

It is true that capital’s attention has brought with it well-paying jobs and booming economies, but the capitalism of our age is increasingly frenetic and its loyalty is contingent on profits. The new industry is precarious. Who knows what shifts could drive it elsewhere?

Anxiety runs deep in the South. We cling to our fried chicken.

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