Sunday, November 13, 2011

We have met the enemy and he is us

There's still some places in the South, tucked away in little out of the way towns off the beaten path where it seems that not much has changed since the days of segregation. These are small towns that used to be on the major highways before the interstates of the great expansion cut swaths down from the North in their march to the sea. The little mom and pop stores are gone now, boarded up and overrun by kudzu vines that swallowed the rusty '57 Ford left behind decades ago.

There's a shop, still desperately clinging on, where an old man with a non-ironic trucker's cap still rolls his own cigarettes by hand. You can get pickled quail's eggs and a six-pack of PBR with the gas that is 20 cents more expensive than the Walmart down the road but if you ask him why his friends are no longer in business, chances are he won't blame Walmart. Instead it will be the government, "liberals", blacks, Mexicans or whomever else he was told was responsible for his predicament. Easy answers, like the easy moral choices faced in the tattered and yellowing John Wayne movie poster that still hangs by the old icebox in the back room.

There's a hunting and fishing store down by the lake with a gray-haired woman and an old hound dog that will always perk up his ears whenever you stop in to buy that last moment bag of ice before you head out to catch a cooler full of catfish. There's one pack of plastic worms and box of 12 gauge shells still on the shelf that were the hot items from 10 years ago, before the new Walmart super center paved over farmland 4 miles away. She will also probably blame the government, gun control, regulations and everyone else except who the real culprits are.

So it goes, through the country where we're fighting and blaming the wrong people. Last night, I was at a small town festival in a town that lost their Fruit of the Loom factory 20 years. There's no real economy left in that town and poverty is rampant. Some kids still fight the racial battles of their grandfathers as if it is still the most important issue of their time, all while both sides share the same poverty in addition to everything else, including the multiple variations of their skin colors.

They say "the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing us he didn't exist" but I believe the greatest trick he ever pulled was convincing us that our neighbor was our enemy and the source of our problems. Why spend valuable time and resources fighting a war at home when you can just brainwash every ethnicity, social class and every subdivision of those groups into believing that their potential greatest ally and friend is really to blame for their troubles?

Now that, that is the real class warfare.

24 comments:

  1. Great Post. Perfectly said. I think this type of class warfare saturates the south, and it's something that all of us southerners are all too familiar with.
    When I go back to my hometown, it really does feel like I'm stepping into a scene from 60 years ago. It is very sad, and locals always have someone else to blame rather than looking at the real mega-corporate culprits.
    Wal-mart has even taken over large cities now. Small towns are just an easier task. It's so bad (even in cities) that everyone is forced to shop at Wal-mart, because there is no where else to go after they take control over these fragile enough local economies.
    And as far as the race issue, I can't believe we've come so far (in time), but are still okay with the blatant segregation that still exists.
    Where I'm from in southern Oklahoma they have towns that are "black" towns. Five minutes to the north and you wont see any of these folks shopping in the "white" town. People can blame the political system, but I think It's obvious that the media/TV is responsible for how we feel towards our neighbors. I'm 27 & that's why have never owned a television. I don't wish to be brainwashed by advertising, meaningless reality show's or corporate media spewing out lies and telling me that they have "my" best interests in mind.

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    1. You can fight back. Refuse to shop at Walmart. Buy everything you need on the Internet, just takes planning. Most small towns now have internet access.

      Right Winger who hates Walmart. (real hate)

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    2. Wow, what a lame-brained response, Dave -- buying everything on the Internet is going to help local stores ? So you have some *other* reason for 'hating' Walmart, LOL. Popular with the chicks ? Makes a good bar story ? .... Loser ...

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    3. D906, notice he said "In small towns". It has gotten to the point in many small towns where the option is The internet or Walmart period. The only stores opened in town are resale shops, auto garages, cafe's. The local stores have been gone for years. If you want toilet paper it's either your local Walmart or the Walmart 10 miles away.

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  2. It's not "The Media Brainwashing" that is to blame for how you feel about your neighbors.

    Xenophobia is innate in the species.

    Left to their own devices, black kids hang with black kids and white kids hang with white kids.

    There are of course exceptions.

    My Mexican wife's brother would not be welcome in the little Kentucky town where I grew up.

    She's okay, since she's married to a local.

    That said, I believe this piece was originally written by Taibbi, wasn't it? Good writing - any of us from small-town America could swear it's about where we grew up.

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    1. If there was a dislike or thumbs down option available, I'd be clicking both right now Wheels Go Round. You lost me with your stereotypes. The media brainwashing is alive and well...just tune into the mainstream anti-liberal media noise that perpetuates exactly what the article describes.

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  3. This not originally by Taibbi. This is an original piece, by me. However, I am flattered by the comparison.

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  4. Well, so many Southern boys got killed fighting for their betters' "right" to hold slaves, didn't they?

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    1. Really or did they fight for the Jeffersonian ideal of States Rights? Just asking.
      In any case that was about 150 years ago and has little to do with what is happening today. Which is the elite turning us against each other to maintain their wealth and power. For all the Democrats flaws the people mentioned in this piece will get a better deal from them than the GOP

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    2. Ridgestrider: They got the same brainwashing crap then that they are getting now. The Civil War was about an economic choice to keep slavery, the largest source of wealth, intact for as long as possible. The common man bought into it because they were drafted and given an ostensible reason to battle for their supposed rights, much like we were given reasons to fight in Vietnam.

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  5. This is awesome. And I will share. I'm an expat Southerner for a good reason

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  6. And it's not only southern towns...or people. The south(and west) does more of the bidness bidding, but there's enough of us in blue country that can't understand that mallwart is NOT a dream, Apple DOES underpay the employees(but not their bigwhigs), that people that look differently or sound or think differently than you are still people.
    Nope, its just all over...we may have less because the north has a "better" education rate, in general(higher grades/higher completion of HS, college), but we still have enough to be ashamed.

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  7. Well it's certainly great fun to castigate Southerners for being ignorant and backwards and racist and mired in traditions that were best abandoned decades ago, but while we are finding fault with the 'red necks' for stereotyping minorities we would do well to realize that we ourselves are stereotyping the Southerners. Certainly everyone who has commented here has done so...even those who claim to be from the South.

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    1. Thank you....my words exactly! I find that those "rednecks," stereotypers, racists and ignorant Americans actually exists throughout the entire country...I am a Southerner and proud of it...I'm certainly not ignorant (I do have a college education as both of my sisters and children do),no one in my family is racist, we are not "red necks," we do not fly the Rebel flag and there are some Southern traditions that are just that..."Southern" (white & black) and outsiders would not understand. Also, most black folks are more racist in the South than the white folks. But, you would have to live here to KNOW that, and most folks who have never been to Birmingham, AL (or in the South)think that we all are still living in the Confederate Days and we're all lieing on porches passin the moonshine jug while we whistle "Dixie." What I would like to know is...why is it "great fun to castigate Southerners for being ignorant and backwards?" We have our percentage of uneducated people just like any of the states. I suppose it is just as much fun to imagine that everyone is educated with high incomes and there are no drugs, rapes, racisim, killings, etc., etc., in New York City either or anywhere else in the "Nawth." :D Talk about ignorant....that's what stereotypying is...especially for those who have never set foot in the South. And for those Southerners who are having "fun" commenting about your fellow Southerners.....I'll bet you have some of those less fortunate ones without educations somewhere...lurking out of the "backward" racist,closet of your lineage. And for those "Nawthanas," a friend of mine in Connecticut made the statement on Facebook this week that someone needs to "take out" Pres. Obama and continued to make very ugly and desrespectful, racist comments with name calling (I was appalled, to say the least). And he is a...OMG...not really??? A Yankee?? Sayin ignorant, backward, racial stuff like that...and about our president? You don't mean it! OMG..YALL! What is this world a comin' too? :D

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    2. Thank you so much Jonah and Deb! I, could not have said it better! I, like Deb, am a Southerner, college educated as is my sisters and daughters....we are not "rednecks" nor are we racist. Your stereotyping is just as ignorant to me as a racist. I for one cannot stand the the shallow mindedness of your comments...they are up there with these Republicans that I have to live with and around in *conservative Hell.* I live in Birmingham, AL and for your information, Jefferson County and many more in AL were just as blue as some of the Northern states in the past election. Surprise! Oh and by the way...I hardly ever see a Rebel flag, but when I do, I know that it is only a part of history...just as at one time Northern states also had slavery and when it was abolished, they still operated off of slavery in their textile industries. The North is NOT spotless when it comes to history and rednecks are alive and well all over this country. Indiana, by the way, is just the Northern Mississippi.

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    3. Thank you. As a Southner from a State that people only call Southern when they like to make fun of it,many kudos.

      I've heard of large populations of 'rednecks' in the derogratory sense, living all the way up in Michigan. I've even seen pictutres of the confederate flag far up in those spots.

      I do get the point the author of the piece was trying to make, though. I think he could apply it to many small towns across the Union, where their businesses that gave a small town breath and life have died. And how many people blame not the actual problem but percieved problems for their troubles. I don't think he was trying to belittle Southerners per sey, I think that may be where he happens to reside. I could be wrong there but that's how i read it. he may have said the said if he was in an old factory town in Pennsyvania or Ohio.

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  8. Nice whiskies btw. Too bad the working class prolly can't afford the more stellar beverages of the drinking class.

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  9. Great article (and whiskeys) and I think the worst of the "divide and conquer" is done without recourse to racism. You can pit the fundamentalist religious against the less religious, left against right, poor employed against poor on benefits, or any groups you like.

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  10. Well said. I grew up in a small town about 30 miles from Chicago that had one of those fragile economies. We were a farm community that was saved, once large corporate entities came in, only by proximity to a large city. There was quite the divide in my town until we became integrated enough that we (or at least the kids I knew??) realized that we were all the same and needed to judge people on their merits, not what had always been preached.
    Some of the towns that were cut off are only now catching up and you can see they are having some of the same growing pains.

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  11. It's not just the south that has the same attitude. I live in rural, isolated Maine, and it is the same thing here. The race issue isn't big, because there are only a few minorities, but the loss of industry, and livelihood are very noticeable. Mom and pop stores still exist here, and the Walmart mentality is still not completely embraced.

    The cold hard economic facts are that people here have little money, and have to spend it as wisely as possible. Therefore Walmart is the logical choice. Period.

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  12. I live in middle Georgia. I'm an 11th generation Southerner of European Descent. Some of these good ol' country stores are run by folks that don't hesitate to say the N word, they maintain a hostile attitude and environment in their businesses, and I am frankly more uncomfortable shopping with them than going into town and going to a place where anyone's money and browsing is welcome.

    I hate that the Waltons have morphed into the family they are now. Wisely, though, they hired people just like me, struggling, glad to have a job, who are working in the aisles and at the registers. I feel more comfortable giving my sweet kind decent neighbor my money, than that old man who's full of hate and racism.

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  13. I was born in a very rural small town in the Mojave Desert near Edwards Air Force Base in California in the mid 1970s. My Mom and my Dad both grew up there (and I did not, thankfully). Dad used to throw around the N word on the regular...until his twin granddaughters came into the world...bi-racial twin daughters. He's lived in CO since 1978 and has never set foot in the South. He fits every stereotype that there is out there for the typical Redneck EXCEPT the Confederate flag. He bitches and whines about Obama, but he has never voted a single election.

    My point: Bigots are everywhere, including California and Colorado and us Yankees shouldn't be ragging on Southerners. I lived in Texas for 6 years and hated it...for a multitude of reasons but I grew to love a lot about some of the Southern traditions. INCLUDING many of the traditions of the Black community...I feel that my life has been enriched by spending time down there and learning about people and places I knew nothing about!

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  14. I'm guessing it has gone right past some of you folks that this is about people, not about "rednecks" or other stereotyped groups? Maybe you ought to spend as much time wondering if you're part of the problem as you do getting offended at imaginary generalizations. The story's set in the south because guess what? Whiskey's in the south. Derp.

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