Kathleen Parker

CAMDEN, S.C. - Tidings of new growth coming one's way invariably are presented as good news. Just as invariably, I sink into immediate despair.

I know I'm supposed to be happy as politicians reiterate the positives: the boost to local economies, an expanding tax base, jobs. But as a native Floridian, I've traveled this freshly paved path before and know where it leads. Put it this way: Where once there were oceans of orange groves stretching to the horizons, today there are salt flats of trailer parks and RV "resorts."

Now I read the terrific news that the South's population is about to explode.

"Look out, ya'll!" begins a Cox News story. In 25 years, nearly four in 10 Americans will live in the South. That's 40 percent, folks, or nearly half of all Americans coming to a cul-de-sac near you.

These projections come from a new Census Bureau report that predicts the South's population will reach about 143 million by 2030, compared with just 92 million for the West, 70 million for the Midwest and 58 million for the Northeast.

(The South is defined as Georgia, Florida, Texas, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia.)

This population-shift projection has spawned a cottage industry of other prognostications - what it means for the culture, for politics, for literature. For the SEC?

We hear, for example, that such growth will be good for the Republican Party, which these days has a lock on the South. With more people come more congressional seats and presidential electoral votes, concentrating the red states and diffusing the blue.

For Democrats, that will mean embracing all that's Southern if they've any hope of capturing national office. Watch for an explosion of Faux Bubbas, as cartoonist Doug Marlette long ago named the trend - a new generation of politicos who just love NASCAR, pickup trucks and banjos. (Note to wannabes: Confederate flags are so last century, and "ya'll" is used only when addressing more than one person.)

The new growth also is predicted to create a new Southern literature. What, no more abused children of raging Irish alcoholics sorting through the emotional detritus of lost causes and Southern guilt? Apparently, O'Connor, Conroy and Percy soon will be yielding to a new generation of literary immigrants with names like Wong, Cao and Perez.

Finally, more of the world will learn to love grits, sweet tea, collard greens, crawfish, boiled peanuts, mustard-based BBQ and cornbread. Whereupon real Southerners roll their eyes and throw another pine nut-encrusted grouper in the saute pan.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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