Monday, May 19, 2008

CLASS WARS: Culturally-sanctioned Mockery

"Citizens joining together and taking action to address a need are the pulse of America ... But the real payoff is seeing our differences disappear as we find ourselves pursuing a common dream," wrote Tim Shriver on a WaPo blog today. The blog, named Religion from the Heart, delivered a sermon, exhibiting a sentiment which DD laughed at last week: The notion that we should all just come together around the campfire, do each other favors, sing songs and watch our differences be rinsed away in the pure milk of human kindness. It's crap, a myth not supported by anything DD has lived. See here.

Race, as well as major differences in beliefs, traditions, education, science, values and work now run deep through many American tribes. They've been built over decades. In DD's experience, there has never been a time where differences were eased or minimized, where everyone just got together and forgave the despised or scorned other in the row over.

The Obama-Clinton race has brought this out in the open. While Barack Obama's message is one of hope, of reaching out to others, it is a position he must espouse because it's the decent thing. But decency has no traction when the chips are down in this country. Opposition is the norm. There is plenty of bitterness and denunciation. These things have had many years to ferment. There's no sugar left, it's mostly vinegar.

We'll take you on a browse through recent vignettes of the irreversible class and culture wars, culled from the recent news.

First stop, Kathleen Parker (brought to notice by Glenn Greenwald), writing in two places, the Washington Post and the Jewish World Review.

For Jewish World, Barack Obama wasn't a pure American, according to Parker. See here.

Ordinary Americans, she wrote, "can spot a poser a mile off and they have a hound's nose for snootiness. They've got no truck with people who condescend nor tolerance for that down-the-nose glance from people who don't know the things they know."

"Some Americans do feel antipathy toward 'people who aren't like them,' but that antipathy isn't about racial or ethnic differences. It is not necessary to repair antipathy appropriately directed toward people who disregard the laws of the land and who dismiss the struggles that resulted in their creation ... Full-blooded Americans get this. Those who hope to lead the nation better get it soon."

Uppity. Conceited. Barack Obama and his followers equal not full-blooded Americans.

A few days later, in the Washington Post, Parker opined, "Well, at least [Obama and Edwards] didn't kiss."

"I was bracing myself for the lip lock." See here.

These oh-so-smart boys were sissies, too! And real Americans, like Parker, weren't going to have them or their ilk.

It took DD, and one imagines, many others right back to junior high when it was approved behavior for the regular good American kids to break my slide rule and glasses. The only thing that stops such behavior is when you administer a beating to someone in reprisal or put on so much muscle as a member of the wrestling team that others are terrified of you.

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Meghan Daum wrote a laughably handwringing piece about how the low prole class has been unfairly stigmatized in America.

"But in addition to their dwindling demographic presence and diminished status, these people constantly battle another headwind: culturally sanctioned mockery," Daum wrote. "Unprotected by the political correctness that makes deriding other minorities unacceptable or at least uncool, poor whites are often regarded not as people but as mullet-sporting, mobile-home dwelling members of kitsch."

See here.

Keep in mind, it's not obvious Daum has spent even a little time among the mullet-sporters, being ragged on and hazed for not being part of the tribe possessing the local majority.

In any case, by today the Los Angeles newspaper had produced just the opposite, a verdict in the entertainment section that while Archie Bunkers were no longer on network TV, the blue-collar undereducated man of with calluses on his hands, practicer of backbreaking labor and toil, was the new hero on cable.

"The real narrative is what people do to earn money -- fishing, trucking, lumber, waste management ..." wrote Mary McNamara, a reporter who DD is sure neither fishes, trucks, chops down trees or hauls garbage. Times reporters earn in the mid-to-high five figures to write articles such as this one, championing the real workers of the nation, those ditched by Hollywood high rollers but not by cable.

The shows in question are "Ax Men," about chopping down big wood, "Dirty Jobs," about working in excrement, and "Ice Road Truckers." Left out, but also germane: the show about Orange County motorcycle shop mechanics who make the same custom big bike over and over, the show about the bounty-hunter in Hawaii, and "Futureweapons," about those who pursue the factory livelihoods of making cluster-bombs, machine guns and artillery shells.

"...[T]hese are not the salaried employees, not over-educated quip-slinging professionals. They are members of the working and middle class and they have all been but abandoned by the rest of the entertainment industry."

"The folks are nearly all men," McNamara writes at one point, "all rugged, real and competent, proof that Americans are still capable of living by their wits and the strength in their strong calloused hands."

Not like those pansies, Shark and House.

A constant note in this is the idea that toil which makes one dirty and scuffed is the only appropriate work for real Americans. Physical labor is next to God, making one noble. One sees this tripe 24/7 in the make-believe land of country music videos. You can laugh at it as fairy tales for a demographic fond of rolling around in its own mythology. The only thing missing is the war veteran coming home from Iraq and immediately going away to toil in the mine or on the farm. It's difficult to include because the class of real blue-collar patriotic Americans hasn't really chosen to fight in the war anymore than the rest of us. Although the class is represented, it's still only a small portion of its own -- driven more by the winds of circumstance and having no get-out-of-town career option other than a soldier's life.

Daum had admonished readers a few days earlier that the class was now branded as the wrong kind of white people. They had the misfortune of being those who "failed to meet the rigorous standards of Stuff White People Like," the latter being a website DD has never visited. They weren't up to the hare-brained criteria of us uppity types.

Stuff White People Like was said to be the favorite spot of "the privileged" -- a term which is used twice. The privileged are known by their tastes: National Public Radio and "indie music," apparently.

"To a white person, being a fan of a band before they get popular is one of the most important things they [sic] can do with their life," Daum writes, the quote being taken from Stuff White People Like.

"Yes, this club is still called white. but as time goes on, that whiteness becomes more conceptual than literal ... You don't have to be white to be white. You just need enough disposable income and the desire to buy the lifestyle accessories and adopt the points of view..."

One theorizes Daum would call Toby Keith the type of pop star the Clinton voters would like.

In "Please Stop Belittling Toby Keith," friend and colleague Chuck Eddy writes that Village Voice readers, perhaps many of whom fall into the demographic defined by Stuff White People Like, regard the country singer as "that doofus who did that song after 9/11 about how putting boots in asses is the American way."

"[Toby's] image is clearly his own fault: When he made the Statue of Liberty shake her fist in 2002's outrageously rousing 'Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue' (awesome karaoke song, btw), [he] defined himself despite himself, and the self-proclaimed conservative Democrat has been trying to live it down ever since."

See here.

But the big news last week -- the California Supreme Court's approval of gay marriage -- immediately provided a much bigger opportunity for outrage among the warring classes, one that will certainly have some influence on voters in the November election.

The day of the event Fox News tribe leader Bill O'Reilly declared that judges who thought they were smarter than everyone else had overturned the will of the people in California.

This was not precisely true.

In recent polling, approval for the right of gay people to marry has risen to only slightly less than those who oppose it in the state. Worse for O'Reilly's tribe, GOP-voting, patriotic and religious white Americans, was that six of the seven judges were Republican, including the chief justice.

"I think there are times when doing the right thing means not playing it safe," chief justice Ronald George told the Los Angeles Times over the weekend.

In contrast, the Times went out to balance the jubilation of gays with the dismay of someone who believed the decree was "at odds with God's plan."

Cathi Unruh of El Segundo believed "homosexuality is akin to sins such as adultery and stealing."

According to the newspaper, Unruh apparently believes being gay is a lifestyle choice -- an attitude that was chased out a most newspapers many years ago. She was also a home-schooler, contrasting "intelligent design with evolution, to expose [her children] to different ideas they would encounter in the world."

Science and the courts have ruled that intelligent design is just another term for creationism, a subject which has no place in teaching biology.

Forty years ago, in the high school of Pine Grove Area School District in Pennsylvania, no one would have gotten away with teaching creationism in a school, particularly under the rationalization of exposing children to different ideas.

Pine Grove Area was not free of the urge to indoctrinate a preferred type of religious point-of-view.

Through grade school in the Sixties, the school district took one period per week in every grade to ship the Protestants off to a class on scripture held offsite. The Catholics, of which DD was one, were left in the class room and told to put their heads down or do homework. The school district attempted to balance this by allowing the Catholics to walk up the hill to a private home for something similar, once a week. However, the Catholics -- of which there were few -- did not get the benefit of class being suspended. Class went on for the Protestants. Anything that was missed had to be made up.

I suspect this was illegal, even by conservative standards in the mid-to-late Sixties. In any case, it appeared to die out in the school district as the Seventies arrived.

However, it was another real instance of the traditions and religious values of the majority in the community being imposed for the benefit of that majority.

And the natural result of years of being deemed part of another tribe, not the right tribe, is a shared antipathy between the two, one not simply mended by a blandishment to join together in common service, to quit insulting the white class of hard-working, patriotic, religious, blue-collar, undereducated Americans with calluses on their hands, disgruntled over events during which it's been shown to them that others haven't believed the hooey about their many virtues for quite some time -- that they can be brushed off, too.

The New York Times published a story on Sunday about population growth in the old cities of Pennsylvania, Scranton and Pittsburgh. It's downward and has been for the last decade.

What do young people do in Scranton when and if they can?


Obama Girl might visit but she no longer wishes to stay.

Is it wrong to engage in culturally sanctioned mockery against this guy? Not if you had to live alongside him for forty years.


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