Are any of the depictions of Southerners by Mencken in "Sahara of the Bozart" actually true?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Mencken is writing his article within the vein of satire.  I don't think he is intending for individuals to take what he is saying with the understanding that it is scientific proof of total and absolute validity.  I think that he is trying to make an overall point that Southern culture and its construction is fundamentally different than that of other regions in the United States.  I think that there is probably much today to contradict Mencken's assertions.  The idea that the South is a culture that "lacks a civilized culture" and is rooted in a mire of ignorance is probably not as valid today with what it is there.  The South is home to some of the nation's finest institutions of higher learning.  Duke University, Emory University, University of Texas at Austin, and Rice University stand as some of the nation's finest universities and represent only a few of the quality schools that are located in the South.  Atlanta, Austin, San Antonio, as well as other parts of the South represent culture and are home to some wonderful examples of artistic display.  The idea that the South lacks theatre flies in the face of artists like Tennessee Williams who were able to place Southern theatre on the map of dramatic consciousness.  In term of Southern Literature, would one ever doubt the power and capcity of William Faulkner and Kate Chopin as representatives of a Southern literary tradition?  Certainly, these artists would represent culture and civilization in the highest of forms.  Finally, I would suggest that Mencken's claims of how Southerners are confused and obsessed with the issue of race is valid in so far as the same could be said about anyone in America.  While Mencken does not address it in depth for it is not his primary focus, I would venture to say that Northern America featured just as much a problem with racial identity than the South.  Both portions of America in the 20th Century and still today are fundamentally challenged with race.  It is not accurate to depict the South as the home of racism and racially confused understanding and claim the North is some type of sanctuary.  In this implication, I would say that Mencken is mistaken.

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