Ladies and gentlemen, newsflash from this here rare bird who is just as comfortable living in the South as the North: Having a Southern accent does not mean you're stupid. I don't know why it's necessary for Southerners, and friends of Southerners, to have to explain this all the time, but it's very painful. I lived in South Carolina during my formative years, age six to 12, during the 1960s. I went to college and began my career as a newspaper reporter in Florida, covering alligator festivals and the like, and learning that Florida is almost as "rebby" as South Carolina. A pivotal moment for me, however, was earlier, when I was 12 and my family moved back north from South Carolina. I lost my accent (learned to hide it) by lunchtime on the first day of school. Ridicule doesn't even come close to describing the way Northern students (and teachers) treated me. Ironically, I started out in the North, having been born in Pittsfield, Mass.! To this day, it rankles me when I hear Northerners put down Southerners. And it goes on all the time. Last August, a Northern colleague dismissed my new novel without reading it, saying that she doesn't read "that Southern crap." Wow! That is beyond rude. I didn't realize how much my colleague's comment hurt until I noticed ever since that on Facebook and elsewhere, this same woman is a champion of tolerance who relentlessly declares her love for all of humankind (except, evidently, Southerners). My Northern relatives and friends can't understand why there's no progress or compromise on issues such as gun control, but is it any wonder? My fellow Northerners, listen to the way many of you talk to and about our Southern neighbors. If you belittle people, they're going to put their backs to the wall.