It was over a lunch of Confederate fried steak in Columbia, S.C., that I realized something crucial about North and South. A passport ought to be required to travel from one to the other. Despite decades of economic and cultural homogenization, the regions remain as different as basketball and NASCAR. That thought occurred when my lunch partner, a man named Chris Sullivan, told me this: “To say the War Between the States was about slavery is like saying the Revolutionary War was about tea.” And he meant it, sure as the pear trees bloom in sun-washed Columbia, the South is rising once again. Sullivan isn’t exactly representative of mainstream Southern thought; he’s the editor of Southern Partisan magazine, which celebrates the Confederate cause and employs writers allied with self-styled “white-rights” groups. The magazine was publicly flogged last winter during the nomination hearings for John Ashcroft as Attorney General, when Northern Senators demanded to know why Ashcroft had granted it an interview. Sullivan, who denies his publication is racist, says the North just can’t understand some Southerners. “There’s an old joke about a Yankee who comes down South and drops into a country store,” he says. “Something comes up about the Civil War, and he says, ‘When is the South going to get over that?’ The guy tells him, ‘When it’s over.’ So the Yank says, ‘What would you call what happened at Appomattox Court House? And the Southerner says, ‘Longest cease-fire in history.'” For some, the war is still raging. Migration, immigration and technology kill off a little more of Dixie every day. Southerners are more likely to live in integrated neighborhoods than people in other parts of the country, and racial attitudes are changing for the better. In 1970, according to a survey by the National Opinion Research Center, 55% of white Southerners agreed strongly that blacks shouldn’t push for inclusion where they are not wanted; 26.5% agreed slightly. Last year 19% agreed strongly, and 30% slightly. Most of the progress, social scientists say, has come in metropolitan areas; in the rural South, old ideas die hard. And progress has made loyalists more militant about holding onto their idea of Dixie: its history and heritage, its family and sovereignty, its thumb in the eye of Northern culture and, for some, its codes of racial superiority and subjugation. The culture of rebel remembrance was captured in Confederates in the Attic, a 1998 best seller by journalist Tony Horwitz that chronicled the fanatical popularity of battlefield re-enactments and the marketing of the war to tourists and hobbyists. But since his book appeared, the arguments about the Confederacy and its symbols have only got louder. The rebels are alive and kicking. Last week Mississippians voted 2 to 1 to retain a state flag dominated by the rebel emblem–the last one in the South, since Georgia redesigned its flag Jan. 30. A coalition of business and civil rights leaders spent close to $700,000 arguing that the old flag insults African Americans and repels investment, but only 18 of Mississippi’s 82 counties voted to change it. The reformers concluded that people just need more time to get where they’re going.