, which somehow looks–even in its third decade, in the twenty-first century–as if very advanced high school students had just stapled it together and put it on your doorstep (that’s a compliment…The Nation strives for that effect, too), is still doing a fine job on its old beat: investigating the strange mix of culture and corporatism that has made the South what it is today. By extension, every issue poses the same basic question: What exactly is America? In looking at the South in great detail over many decades, Southern Exposure has begun to propose, although not explicitly, some answers.
First, America is a place that advocates equality but thrives on inequality. In the 2002 Spring and Summer issue, which is subtitled “The South at War,” James Maycock has published a piece on the black American soldier’s experience in Vietnam–especially for people who did not live through the civil rights movement and that terrible Southeast Asian conflict, this piece will be riveting. “I’m not a draft evader,” declares one African-American draftee on reaching Canada. “I’m a runaway slave.”
America is also a place where the Marlboro Man has not abdicated, as Stan Goff shows in his gonzo essay on Vietnam and American masculinity (in fact, it has crossed my mind that all those ads may have been psy-ops prep for George W. Bush’s ascendancy). And last, America is a place that loves the Army. In its useful and unassailable roundup on the Southern states and the war industry, Southern Exposure comes up with important facts. The dollar amount of military contracts to Florida companies alone last year amounted to $15.2 billion. The military, of course, is a good place to have your money right now. For example, Florida’s education budget was slashed by 4.2 percent last year while the stock of Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, two of the largest companies with investments in Florida, were up 25 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Nutshell portraits of thirteen states provide a real sense of the give and take between politicians, the military and the job market, and population in places where the military chooses to spend.
Note also: Of the top twenty-one cities involved in military production in 2001, excepting Hartford, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Seattle, every city on the list is in the South or in California. According to Southern Exposure, 66 percent of the weapons sold to Israel under the Foreign Military Sales program were produced in the South. The South has helped situate America in the world today; that puts it in a unique moral position. But after reading this issue of Southern Exposure, one really wonders: Do most Southerners care?