Wednesday, August 12, 2009

THE APOPLECTIC COOT


GOPman, mad as hell and not going to take it

Congrats to DD's home state of Pennsyltucky for providing the image of the beyond enraged old white coot, his voice quivering and full of anger, shaking a wad of papers in Specter's face. The man is certainly one accurate picture of the US, perhaps even deserving of having his face put on a stamp, or a T-shirt, rendering obsolete the bald eagle. (Here's another interview with the man, Craig Miller. Hat tip to RN in Pennsy.)

"What I think is going on here, at least partly, is that the peddlers of anti-progressive lies are managing to convince a certain kind of American — white, socially conservative, etc. — that the hate-mongers are people like them; and, even more important, that progressives are Those People, people not like them," reasons Krugman in his blog today.

"[Anti-intellectualism] is also part of it ... In any case, it’s scary: you’ve got a good segment of the American population that is completely impervious to any kind of evidence, any rational argument."

Depressingly, DD grew up with old white coot. And discussed him at length in the run-up to election last year.

Watch the video and wait for the fellow who asks Specter if he has read the Koran. That's a Pennsylvania Dutch accent, in case you were wondering. Straight from deep inna heart of Lebanon and Schuylkill counties.

But as I vas sayink, here's a rehash of the pertinent bits from an essay last year:
Today the New York Times went back to Pennysltucky to cover what DD knows as the bitter white codger demographic. Those are the people who may have voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary, alleged salt-of-the-earth folk, located between Philly and inner Pittsburgh (but not from Steelton-Highspire in Dauphin County, or State College) who don't dig Barack Obama. The Washington Post covered the same demographic last week. The Times went to the western part of the state. The Post went to York and Lancaster.

The bitter codgers confuse the mainstream media because it's difficult to come out and call them precisely what they are: closet racists who are old, white, poorly educated, and deeply suspicious of people not like them.

This was a great way to be if you lived in Pennsy in the Seventies and even during much of the time of Ronald Reagan. You weren't yet old or middle-aged and things, in general, seemed very good.

In the steel-manufacturing hot spots of Bethlehem, western Pennsy and a couple of other locales, one could go from high school right into the mills and earn $20/hour. This afforded a good living, more than enough to raise a family and, in many places, just about enough to get you into the upper middle class. In Schuylkill County, where DD was born, ALCOA had the biggest aluminum extrusion plant in the world. In Bethlehem, where your host earned his doctorate, Bethlehem Steel furnished the economic drive.

But in reality, things were slowly starting to go to hell by the mid-Eighties. And ALCOA had been an early warning, closing its Cressona facility by the mid-Seventies.

As for Bethlehem Steel in the Lehigh Valley, it is now long gone.

The New York Times, for its part, travelled to the absurdly named Raccoon Township. (The Resident Evil movies, tales in which all are turned into the walking dead by a virus escaped from a giant corporate arms developer, now come to mind when seeing any use of the word "raccoon" as a proper name. Resident Evil's Raccoon City might as well be a metaphor for Pennsyltucky.)

"Many voters talk of reading a stream of false and shadowy rumors purveyed by e-mail: Mr. Obama does not put his hand on his heart during the national anthem, he is a Muslim, he did not say hello to enlisted men in Afghanistan," reports the Times, re-circulating the same old crap from a few months back. "Some disregard these rumors; some do not."

Mr. Obama is an Ivy League-educated lawyer campaigning in towns where an eighth-grade education and a sturdy back once purchased a good life. And he talks of soaring hope to people mistrustful of the same."

And here's where much of Pennsyltucky goes south.

In Schuylkill County, you were deeply distrusted, even despised, if you had more than a high school education. Learning of any kind was seen as an indication of many bad things: One, you were lazy, because you didn't go out and get a job right after school. Two, you were rich and lazy, because you went to college. And three, because you had the temerity to go college when everyone else had their nose to the grindstone, you thought you were better than everyone else.

There was no reasoning with these attitudes.

Hand-in-hand with such beliefs was the drinking in of one's own bathwater mythology, that one was part of the hard-working, God-fearing bedrock of the nation.

However, America hasn't been good to the white trash of Pennsyltucky ... and they're pissed off about it. The disgruntled codgers, soon-to-be-codgers and middle-aged-who-might-as-well-be-codgers think they're entitled to something. They reckon they've been cheated out of dreams that were their birthright. And in some ways, they have been robbed.

But they also must carry some of blame for their predicament.

In other words, they sent more and more votes to the people most likely to screw them over worse. And, as it turned out, who did.

There was no reasoning with the uneducated tribe of white coot growing up. They were in control and things were great. They weren't negotiators or generous in spirit. It was always their way or the highway.

There was no reasoning with them before the November election. There is no reasoning with them now. And there won't be any in the future.

The divide is too great, the walls of hatred and paranoia over perceived social difference too high. One can only get out more of one's own troops and hope for the best.

"The Democrats still believe in Enlightenment reason: If you just tell people the truth, they will come to right conclusion," said a scholar from UC Berkeley to the LA Times.

While slightly imperfect, this is much better in terms of using enlightening [lower case 'e'] reason to explain the dilemma.

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