In his essay "The End of the Long Hot Summer: The Air Conditioner and Southern Culture," historian Raymond Arsenault wrote that air conditioning made factory work tolerable in the South, reduced infant mortality, eliminated malaria and allowed developers to build skyscrapers and apartment blocks. Air conditioning industrialized and urbanized Dixie, lifting it out of its post-Civil War funk. No longer a poor, defeated colony, devoted to government aid and hating on Abe Lincoln, the South could fully indulge its conservative leanings.(Via Hot Air.) You've got at least one of your facts all wrong, Mr. Yankee know-it-all: Malaria was eliminated as a major illness in the South long before we had air conditioning. Window screens, DDT and swamp drainage.
But as to the larger point, indeed, the combination of air-conditioning and interstate highways ruined the South. Cobb County, Ga., nowadays is full of people who don't even realize they're no longer in Cleveland or Pittsburgh. The virus of Atlantaism has spread in about a 50-mile radius, roughly a circle from Cartersville to Buford to Covington to Griffin to Newnan to Bremen and back up to Cartersville. And they keep paving evetything in sight until, eventually, it's all going to be one gigantic slab of asphalt, except for little clumps of shrubbery in front of those damned townhouse complexes they're building everywhere.
My hometown of Lithia Springs long ago ceased to resemble itself -- the old Umphrey farm where the Boy Scouts camped in my boyhood is now an industrial park/shopping center/hotel development. The Purdy family property, another Boy Scout campsite, is now a housing development with a golf course. What used to be a two-lane dirt roads are now, in many cases. five lanes.
But one thing that hasn't changed about the South: Yankees still look down their noses at us. They can never imagine what thorough contempt a Southerner has for a Yankee's opinion.