You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.– Blazing Saddles
I said before that one of the reasons I wasn’t all that impressed with Joe Bageant was that he just struck me as a more affable James Howard Kunstler. Heywood crystallizes one of the other reasons for me: he also makes me picture a slightly more avuncular Dave “Mudcat” Saunders. Can you tell which one is which?
I have bitched and moaned for years about the lack of tolerance in the elitist wing of the Democratic Party, or what I refer to as the “Metropolitan Opera Wing”. These are the people who talk of tolerance but the only true tolerance they ever exhibit is for their own pseudo-intellectual arrogance.–snip–I am certain I will get personally attacked for this next statement, but in all honesty, I don’t care what the “Metropolitan Wing” of my party thinks. I don’t like them. The damage the pseudo-intellectuals have done to my party by abandoning tolerance, combined with their erroneous stereotyping of my people and culture, is something that brings out my incivility. In his column, Joe said, “…the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere.” Amen. I must add that this same intellectual arrogance and intolerance overtook the party years ago, and for that very reason, my people in rural America left the tent.So to those bloggers who believe in a straight-forward dialogue and exchange of ideas, God bless you and thank you. Together, you’re coming up with a lot of good stuff, and frankly, much of it has been helpful to me. At the same time, those Democratic bloggers, who have appointed themselves as intellectually superior and believe the only way to win an argument is to shot the loudest with personal attacks, you can go to Hell.
Most educated American liberals, however, believe simply being progressive makes them, by default, the nation’s saviors — morally and intellectually right in all things. As proof, they read more and, allegedly, are more open minded than most conservatives, except when it comes to their daughter dating a redneck named Ernest who lives in a trailer court behind the strip mall. They are certainly among the educated class in a country known for its lousy schools and a dull, sated and unquestioning public. Education and access to education are now our fundamental class delineators. Higher education is now for the privileged. And that privilege, almost regardless of profession or career, is a future that depends on government. Liberal or conservative, it matters little. In fact, this privileged class votes Democratic more predictably than the working class, Hispanics or Blacks.So when educated liberals look up from their copy of The Nation or the Jon Stewart show, they behold a chilling sight: Beefy mobs waving teabags and demanding tax cuts to help pay for new schools and bridges, Sarah Palin emerging from the ashes of the McCain campaign to become the high priestess of the uncurried tribes, with a Mormon named Glenn Beck exhorting millions of fundamentalists to seize the country. They feel that something has gone terribly wrong with America.Immediately they conclude that it is the American people’s fault through their backwardness, incomprehension and misdirected anger, and that maybe it serves them right for not rallying behind the flying progressive standard…”Ah yes,” they wailed, the people have let us down. They are absolutely disgusting!” liberals agreed. And they still agree. Read the comments on Huffington Post or Daily Kos.Or look at the arrogance of Barack Obama’s characterization of American heartlanders “clinging to God and guns.” Which we do. However, implicit in his statement was that both God and guns are indicators of an ignorant loser class. When opponents scalded him for his remarks, he justified them by pointing out he had said, “what everybody knows is true.” Meaning everybody in his class, the educated liberal class.
Fellows, err, excuse me, “fellers”, I’m a fairly ordinary guy myself. I generally wear t-shirts and ragged cargo shorts (or jeans in the cold months). I don’t even own a dress shirt, slacks or shoes, and I’m not sure where I last saw my one tie. Got me a scruffy beard and longish hair that only gets trimmed every several months. Never owned a new car in my life; my current ride has over 400K on the original engine. I’ve repeatedly chosen to do grunt work rather than take higher-paying office jobs. I may listen to opera and classical music, but I have Southern rock and old blues on my iPod too. I’ve lived in your home state of Virginia my whole life, and I currently live in a small redneck town that makes Mudcat’s hometown of Roanoke look cosmopolitan by comparison, so I’ll measure my gen-yew-wine Southern bona fides against y’alls any time you want, and I’m here to say: you’re both full of shit.
Where to even begin? Mudcat, ol’ buddy, it’s amusing to read this Foxworthy-in-a-foul-mood article from a couple years ago and see how ridiculously, stupidly wrong you were. Obama was going to lose Virginia for not pandering more to appeal to rural whites? Wrong. His efforts to get out the vote via the Internet were quixotic? Wrong again. And you get paid to be a political consultant?
Bonus fun: he apparently thinks Obama actually gave a shit, deep down in his heart of hearts, about “social justice and economic fairness”, and just failed to articulate that well enough. Yet another progressive who insists on projecting what they want to see onto the man, only to act shocked when he acts like the pro-corporate, bought-and-paid-for tool of Wall Street he’s always been. Then, this self-appointed Southern spokesman, with his battle-flag bedspread and one-piece jammies with the ass flap hanging open, acts like Democrats are the ones to blame for the “cultural wedge” between them and the Scots-Irish vote. Motherfucker, there’s no way you could possibly be that goddamned ignorant, so I’m forced to conclude you’re being disingenuous on purpose. Nixon correctly saw that idiots like the rural Saltine crackers you so desperately want to idealize would happily ignore their own financial well-being if they could at least feel superior to faggots, feminazis, furriners and niggers, that they would be so busy taking the crumbs from Republican hands to feed their insatiable, resentful, inferiority complex that they’d hardly notice their jobs all being shipped overseas by the same people who pat them on the head and praise them for being the moral backbone of society. Hell, it’s hard to begrudge the man for seeing a golden opportunity and grabbing it with both hands. And I’m still waiting to hear someone reconcile this fabled common-sense, no-bullshit, straight-shooting, deep-fried heartland wisdom that I’m supposed to genuflect before with the fact that these people have shelves sagging under the weight of countless bottles of snake oil, and pockets perpetually empty by means of every shell game, sleight of hand, cheap card trick and distracting shiny object that hucksters flash in front of their faces.
Joe, ol’ pal, if you honestly think the legions of imbeciles and Randroids at Glenn Beck’s bizarro-MLK rally in Washington today, these Rip Van Winkles who snoozed through eight years of the big-government, profligate-spending Bush administration, only to conveniently wake up in mid-January 2009 with some throbbing, fiscal-conservative morning wood, give a drizzling shit about tax cuts for schools and bridges rather than simply wanting to make sure that those you-know-whos don’t get their swarthy mitts on any government money, then I’m afraid you’ve spent too much time in the Central American sun without a floppy hat. Fucksakes, man, most of them think public schools are fascist-communist indoctrination camps where children are taught how to desecrate the Bible and have orgies with barnyard animals! And goddamnit, I’m really getting sick of having to defend Obama here, but it was clear at the time that his comment about “clinging to God and guns” referred to the same phenomenon we just addressed: people who spend their time in mortal fear of nonexistent federal stormtroopers coming to confiscate their Bibles and hunting rifles, never managing to notice that the people spreading these rumors are the same ones whose economic philosophy is responsible for there being no more decent manufacturing jobs available for them. But oh, yes, by all means, don’t say anything that might suggest that you think people could stand to rethink some convictions or change anything about themselves, you fancy-pants, big-city, add-your-preferred-gay-baiting-epithet-here liberal. Don’t challenge the gospel of Southern exceptionalism, nawsir. I swear by the treasonous bones of Bobby Lee, I wish someone would show me the uptight P.C. liberal who is anywhere near as insecure and hypersensitive as your typical “Southern by the grace of God” yahoos.
And can we finally dispense with the idea that education is something to act ashamed of? Well, first, actually, let’s define our terms more clearly. Most of what passes for “higher education”, that is, most of what people go to college in order to achieve, is a meaningless diploma that will allow them access to a world of pointless office work and imaginary numbers where they can earn enough of a paycheck to start paying down the massive debt accrued in the process of earning that meaningless diploma in the first place. Okay, perhaps there is a reason to be a bit ashamed at having bought into this scam in the first place.
But I never went to a four-year college. I took classes for fun at community college for a few years, for a grand total of less than a thousand dollars altogether. But aside from the enjoyment I got out of philosophy class, I don’t consider that time to be all that important. Most of my education, such as it is, has been self-directed. Yes, it’s true, I sit at home on weekends and read books that no one else within a few neighboring counties would be interested in rather than hanging out at the general store shooting the shit about guns, NASCAR and Jeebus. I don’t make an issue of it, but if that ruffles your feathers, if that somehow offends you and makes you want to spit in the dirt at my feet, squint and grumble, “Boy, yew think yer better’n me?”, well, fuck the hell out of you, Festus. I don’t have time or patience to worry about validating your delicate self-esteem. I accept, like Socrates, that the only thing I really know is how little I actually know (gosh, should I apologize for referencing some faggoty-ass Greek philosopher instead of Lynyrd Skynyrd?) But I do my best to try to know what I’m talking about on any topic I want to bring up, and I’m always aware that I could be wrong.
Simple, right? Aren’t all adults like this? But as Heywood says so well, the problem with the “uneducated” folk isn’t that they don’t hold an advanced degree, or that they don’t read obscure political or philosophical tracts, it’s that they have a narcissistic, childish mindset that insists on reality reshaping itself in accordance with their inchoate wishes. Higher education isn’t necessary to live a good life or be an intelligent person, but pulling your head out of your ass most certainly is. And therein lies the rub: they really do believe, contra the received wisdom, that they are entitled to their own facts, not just their own opinions. They act like brainwashed cult members, only seeing and hearing what they want to see and hear, deriding anything that tells them differently, however gently, as enemy-liberal-queer propaganda by definition, proudly asserting that they knew all that’s worth knowing by third grade, and to top it all off, they demand to be respected and approved of for being fatuous, cement-headed morons. It’s not enough to let them be themselves and do their own thing. You have to constantly agree that yes, your knee-jerk prejudices and half-baked opinions are far superior to anything I’ve read in a book or thought up myself. You’re right, I’m some kind of pathetic city-slicker because I’m not interested in car engines or chewing tobacco. Lincoln’s bewildered complaint from a century and a half ago about slavery still rings true:
Even though the Southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if, in our deliberate view of our duty, we possibly can. Judging by all they say and do, and by the subject and nature of their controversy with us, let us determine, if we can, what will satisfy them?Will they be satisfied if the Territories be unconditionally surrendered to them? We know they will not. In all their present complaints against us, the Territories are scarcely mentioned. Invasions and insurrections are the rage now. Will it satisfy them if, in the future, we have nothing to do with invasions and insurrections? We know it will not. We so know because we know we never had anything to do with invasions and insurrections; and yet this total abstaining does not exempt us from the charge and the denunciation.The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: we must not only let them alone, but we must, somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. [Applause.] This, we know by experience is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches, we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.These natural and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only; cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly — done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated — we must place ourselves avowedly with them.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.
I once briefly worked with a pair of rednecks, Alan and Phil, the middle and youngest, respectively, of three brothers. One day, they came in to work positively jubilant, bragging about something they’d accomplished. It seems they’d pulled off a scheme to frame their eldest brother for something so that Phil could steal his girlfriend while he was in jail. But wait! There’s more! The reason they were so gleeful about it was that they had peddled their story to Jerry Springer’s people and had been contacted about appearing on the show (I don’t know if that ever panned out for them). This was their dream, to throw chairs and punches at each other on national TV in front of a crowd of howling fucktards. But I’m supposed to act embarrassed over knowing how to read and think beyond the confines of clannish identity politics. Right.
To further flesh out the character of these fine, upstanding salt-of-the-earth Myrrhkins, let me add that I once had the dubious pleasure of hearing Alan pontificate one day, shortly before the 2000 election, about how Ronald Reagan was the greatest president we’d ever had. I wonder if Bageant or Mudcat would care to take a stab at guessing what this inbred cretin could have possibly found appealing about a president who did absolutely nothing to benefit him or his kinfolk? I’m sure it had nothing whatsoever to do with race, I can tell you that.
I could have easily enough been like that. Like I said, I live right in the epicenter of it. My immediate family, while not ignorant rednecks, are the most rabid, insane teabaggers you could ever hope to avoid. Don’t even fucking try to tell me about arrogance and intolerance. No amount of joking about cousins marrying or trailer parks comes close to being as stifling and oppressive as living among these people while daring to be different.