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Marion On January - 4 - 2011

Just who are “the American People?”

I want to know.

I hear that phrase bandied about by all and sundry and so much at the moment, but I’m damned if I can figure out who, exactly, “the American People” are. Depending on who uses the phrase and for what purpose, “the American People” seem to want and demand a lot of things, many of which are at cross purposes with each other.

For example, according to some, “the American People” want small government. They don’t want Washington looking over their shoulders and in their garbage cans. “The American People” are rugged individualists, who answer to no one but their wallet and their God, in that order. “The American People” are not socialists.

On the other hand, “the American People” want their Social Security payments made on time, and they want the assurance that Medicare will be part and parcel of their personal care package when the time arrives in their lives to take advantage of this program, to which they are entitled. And never mind that both those programs are based on a socialist premise, “the American People” don’t want government interfering with either one or both.

“The American people”, according to some, are ignorant. Worse than ignorant, they’re stupid. Those who hold this opinion usually are inclined to view those “rugged individualists” as rubes (if the individualist happens to hail from the Midwest) or inbred, unreconstructed Confederate shitkickers, if such an individualist happens to be from any point South of the Mason-Dixon Line. These “American People” always vote against their own interests – which means, they always vote Republican; and no matter how hard the “American People” who know better – usually those found on the West (or Left, as they prefer) Coast or in the cosmopolitan urban areas of the Northeast – send all these bright-eyed, idealistic, eager-beaver, young unpaid college volunteers to live amongst the hoi-polloi every four years, when the election of a Democratic President becomes imperative, these poor kids just can’t seem to dent the iron mask of stupidity worn by the local yokels.

Last November, I was told by victorious Republican candidates that “the American People” had spoken. That they had repudiated, even refudiated, the President’s political agenda by re-electing the selfsame bunch of corporate, Rightwing business lackies sporting Bibles in one hand and pitchforks in the other, who’d rammed the ship of state against the rocks two years previously.

How’s that for a dose of masochism?

Based on that result, it appears that “the American People” like knowing their place. They like the idea of being peones, peasants, working poor. Now, all of a sudden, some part of “the American People,” some Democrats awakening from a slumber that just might rival Rip Van Winkel’s, have realised that “the American People” aren’t all a Middle Class dream turned nightmare. Now, we’re hearing references to “the working class” again and even “the working poor.”

We heard the President reference “the working class” when he explained his reason for making a compromise with Republican Party leaders (or “caving” to them as some interpreters of information imparted to “the American People” have said) on extending the Bush Tax Cuts for the rich. We heard Kathleen Kennedy Townsend reference “the working poor” when speaking of a demographic to whom the Democrats need, desperately, to speak and to deliver a message.

The President gets it. So does Townsend, who would remember lessons learned from her father, Robert Kennedy, along these lines. Senator James Webb, of Virginia, gets it too. More Democrats need to heed this too.

A great deal of “the American People” can be found amongst the working class or the working poor. I don’t mean the recently down-sized and down-shifted professional Middle Class, I mean the people who were born working and who’ll work all their lives and be lucky they’ll have enough to cover funeral expenses when they die. I mean the ones who live in cheap modular homes or shanty rentals on the other side of whatever railroad track or gullet runs through the town where they live. The people who operate forklifts, dig ditches, work in fastfood restaurants and shop at WalMart.

Believe it or not, most of these people’s daddies and grandaddies were probably New Deal Democrats. Many of them probably voted for Kennedy. And somewhere during the past forty years, they found themselves abandoned by the Democratic Party which we know today, only to be discovered and nurtured like a hot house flower by the Republicans wanting to rule today.

They quoted Bible scripture to them, just so these poor folk would feel at home, and told them stories about how the Democrats wanted to kill unborn babies. They filled them with a perverted myth of American exceptionalism. They taught them that America was a Christian nation and that Americans, by virtue of that selfsame exceptionalism, were better than any breed of people in the world and, therefore, entitled to do as they damned well pleased.

They turned them into cannon fodder and Barbie dolls looking like Lynddie England.

And when the good folk of certain tranches of the Democratic Party speak of “the American People,” they don’t mean “the working poor”. Somewhere along the line, as well – probably during the Reagan regime – someone filled these poor folks’ pockets with plastic buying power and convinced them that they were “middle class.” The working class connotation only reinforced the caul of shame which had enveloped them since birth. And in return for that plastic prosperity, they gave the Republican party their vote.

No, indeed, some well-meaning Democrats, speaking collectively of the “middle class” don’t include the working poor who’ve spent the last 30 years believing themselves part of that dream. They talk about Ward and June Cleaver, with their social consciences and their lattes and Chablis, planning for the Ivy Leagued college funds of Wally and the Beaver.

To the well-meaning Democrats of the Left Coast persuasion, who call themselves populists, yet who travel in private Lear jets, the working poor have cooties. They watch Fox News and fry everything from meat to chocolate candy.they’re fat.  They hunt animals and sometimes people. They run meth labs. They’re racist. Worse than racist, they like Sarah Palin.

In short, they’re not worth the dirt in which they wallow. Leave them to their religion and their rusticity. Leave them in the bowels of Beck.

Sitting where I’m sat across the wide expanse of the pond known as the Atlantic Ocean at the beginning of the year which marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of a family feud called the Civil War, I’m amazed at how “the American People” are being collectively screwed by those whom they’d probably deem their betters.

The Republicans have done a fine job (speaking sarcastically) in keeping them dumb and under their thumb. Take racism, for example. Racism, especially in the South, was a bad habit taught by trickledown. It behooves the Democrats of the Left Coast-cum-Progressive variety to believe that it’s the shitkicking rednecked poor whites (never one and the same, I can assure you) who populated the white-sheet-and-pillowcase-variety of the Ku Klux Klan. Not true.

The Klan, and its offshoot, Hayley Barbour’s Citizens’ Councils, were part and parcel of the upper echelon of Southern society. Poll taxes and literacy tests affected illiterate whites who didn’t own a pot to piss in justa as much as it did the black sharecropper. Their “betters” sought to keep both tranches as dirt cheap labour by pitting one against the other, in racial terms as well as working terms. On the rare occasion when both white and black have-nots realised they were being royally screwed by those who had the power, it was a revolutionary sight to behold.

But the Northern brethren were no better. The sharp-suited industrialists who populated FDR’s fabled cocktail parties of his last two administrations and their robber baron predecessors kept their labour costs at a minimum by pitting their lowly-paid immigrant Irish and Italian labour against the even cheaper influx of African Americans migrating Northwards. That goes a long way to explaining why Chris Matthews marvels that he forgets the President is black or that Bill Maher is amazed that Obama doesn’t act the way he thinks a black man should. That’s not Chris or Bill talking; those are the voices of their Irish immigrant great-grandaddies, and their unacknowledged racism is inherited and inherent.

North and South, the Republicans buy these peoples’ votes and the Democrats turn their refined noses away from them.

They’re nobody’s people, “the American people,” and worse, if they’re Southern, they’re descendents of traitors and traitors, themselves.

The latest Civil War anniversary seems to have brought to the fore a lot of simmering hatred still left over in this nation. Were I not living in the UK, that might surprise me; but since I live amongst people who have been inculcated with hatred of the French by successive generations starting with those who fought in the Hundred Years’ Wars in the Middle Ages and since I’ve watched professional soccer matches turn into bloodbaths as a carry-over of the religious wars of the Renaissance, the revival of North-South bickering doesn’t surprise me in the least.

What does surprise me is the invective and the vitriol coming from Northerners, who assume that everyone born and bred South of the Potomac is attending Secessionist balls and standing in line to join either the United Daughters of the Confederacy or the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

I can assure you, we’re not.

And even more pathetic than shocking are the calls from various Northern voices amongst the so-called liberal Democrats, for the South to secede. I’m wondering if some people in the Democratic party have a problem with the fact that three of the last four Democratic Presidents have been from the Deep South. I don’t seem to remember a George McGovern, a Walter Mondale or a Mike Dukakis getting anything but slaughtered at the pollls.

I guess, just like “the American people” spoke up to elect our first African American President, they also spoke up for the men from Texas, Georgia and Arkansas; and as a Virginian, I hope in 2016, “the American people” hand the Mother of Presidents her ninth favourite son – as long as that potential President’s surname be Webb, Kaine or Warner and not Cantor. (Forget McDonnell and Cuccinelli. They’re gifts from our friends in the North).

Categories: Featured, News & Politics

56 Responses so far.

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  1. AdLib says:

    As some have mentioned, it’s not the most effective argument to indict generalizing about a category of people by generalizing about another category of people.

    That said, with the Repubs taking control of the House, I do think it is a poignant and timely to question who “we” are as Americans, as a whole.

    I think we can all agree that stereotypes do nothing but validate one’s own feelings though it would not be constructive or honest to be “politically correct” and dismiss out of hand traits and characteristics of a group of people purely because they are unflattering or parallel stereotypical perceptions.

    It is true that many rural, lesser educated people vote against their own interests because they don’t have enough knowledge or information about the big picture of what they’re voting for.

    For example, did all those Republicans who are unemployed and in difficult financial straits really vote for killing extensions of their own Unemployment Insurance payments?

    I would once again suggest a consideration of the Republican Southern Strategy, begun under Nixon and in response to the South’s rejection of the Dems for Johnson passing the Civil Rights Act.

    The GOP (not west coast or east coast Dems) forged a strategy based on a view that the less educated, racially prejudiced and very religious populations in the South could be co-opted through patronizing on social issues, to give the GOP a solid national base.

    This is a strategy that has played out in every national election since Nixon. Whether it’s social issues of gay marriage/equal rights/DADT, abortion or racial issues about Willie Horton, illegal immigrants, Muslims, etc., the GOP playbook is based upon the premise that the lesser informed, racially prejudiced and very religious in The South can be manipulated to focus on narrow and divisive issues and be distracted from the documented fact that the majority of what the GOP ever accomplishes when in power is to give more wealth and power to the top 1% of this nation.

    Simply put, in poorer rural areas, as in all areas, local taxes are used to fund education. It is not a stereotype or elitist to state that poor communities have less resources to educate their community than wealthier communities. So, there are more poorly educated people in poorer, rural areas. The South is not alone in having poor communities but to dismiss this reality because it is similar to a stereotype would be blinding oneself to facts just because they aren’t satisfying.

    Critical thinking, researching information and seeing the big picture are all processes that are greatly aided by strong educations. Ignorance is very much a cancer in our Democracy, the easier it is to deceive people, the less power people have to truly decide their own leadership and fate.

    Whoever we are as Americans, the apathy towards education is possibly the biggest danger to our future. If we have a more aware, informed and reasoned population, a more sustainable government, Planet and future can be created.

    “Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear.”

    Mohandas Gandhi

    • Chernynkaya says:

      AdLib, what you said here got me thinking--

      For example, did all those Republicans who are unemployed and in difficult financial straits really vote for killing extensions of their own Unemployment Insurance payments?

      Apparently, yes they did, and of course that’s irrational. But irrational only from an economic standpoint.

      I totally agree with you about the role education plays in voter decisions, yet you also touched upon something that I think helps explain those decisions: Social issues--the culture war. Values--especially religious values-- trump even economic self-interests for many people. And the GOP knows this well. Ralph Reed’s Christian Coalition helped them learn this empirically, even if they knew it intuitively.

      To some (and not just in the South), racism is conflated with Christianity, for example. There is zero biblical justification for that, but that doesn’t stop it. Where there arguably could be justification of other Right-wing authoritarian ideas is the cherry-picking of text for confirmation bias.

      So, when I see people voting against their (seemingly) self-interests, I have to ask if there isn’t another factor that makes them do so--aside from the very real issue of a poor education. I think it is their version of religion/morality. Obama nailed it in his “clinging to guns and religion” statement.

      • AdLib says:

        Agreed. If we zoom out and look at both of these factors, poor education and religious justification of unjust social views, there does seem to be a compatibility and nexus.

        There are absolutely brilliant people who are religious so of course, religion and ignorance are not connected.

        However, if one happens to be poorly educated AND very religious, they are more prone to accepting conclusions about society in the same manner they accept conclusions about religion. That is, accepting and adopting in absolute faith the conclusions provided to them by authority figures they respect.

        So, when it is stated by a GOP pol, Glenn Beck, etc. that voting against Dems is voting against evil and for freedom, America and apple pie, they simply accept it as a fact, as they would a religious tenet.

        Such people are less skilled in critical thinking, they don’t question authority so they will accept at face value that they need to vote Repub this year because the Dems are trying to destroy our country and turn it into Russia.

        They don’t consider facts not provided by “their” politicians or news channels so the concept that voting for Repubs could end up killing the UI payments they rely on for survival or the SS and Medicare benefits they depend on (Remember the Teabagger complaint, “Keep your government hands off of my Medicare!”?) isn’t part of their thought process.

        Put simply, manipulating people by pandering to their strongest emotions such as fear and hatred, works.

        Emotion will always steamroll over reason and contemplation. This is a central tenet of the GOP strategy, each election is a challenge to instill as high a level of intense emotion, fear and hatred, in their base so they’ll respond in a knee jerk way and vote emotionally without engaging their reason.

        And when in power, the GOP consistently works to drain money from government and social infrastructure to corporations, accomplishing a secondary goal of decreasing funds for, among other things, education and benefiting politically from a growing population of less educated people who will be more easy to manipulate come election time.

        Which brings me back to education. The smarter people are, the more they know how to assess situations fully, the more they know how to use critical thinking, the more confident they are in coming to their own conclusions independently, the harder it is for the GOP and others to manipulate them into voting against their own interests.

    • Marion says:

      The Southern Strategy might have been vocalised by Nixon, but look at the election of 1964. GOLDWATER carried the Deep South. Because GOLDWATER was one of the few Republicans, being virtually a Libertarian, to vote against the Civil Rights amendment. Once the Civil Rights Amendment was enacted, the period between 1964 and 1966 saw some of the biggest “white backlash” riots against the act and against Johnson … in the NORTH. Newark, Philly, South Boston, Detroit and the Watts area of LA resounded in racial rioting, especially about enforced busing.

      Look up Philly Mayor Rizzo, a Democrat and a Northerner, who was as racist as any public official in Alabama and a strong supporter of, first, George Wallace, and later Richard Nixon.

      In 1972, the Democratic candidate Nixon feared most was George Wallace, who came back to the party after 1968. Wallace was garnering crowds of upwards of 60,000 for rallies … in the NORTH.

      When the Democratic party reformed in 1970 and virtually turned its back on the Unions and their old politicos (and by extension the working class and working poor), this demographic felt disenfranchised. Most DIDN’T vote in 1972 at all, but their non-voting gave Republicans looking for new voter territory a leg in the door to start swaying the South, the rural Midwest and the Rust Belt over to their “values” way of thinking. It took 30 years and using operatives who sound like the people they’re targeting, but it worked; and that’s what the Democratic party is going to have to do today. And be patient about it.

      I suggest you read “Deer Hunting with Jesus” by Joe Bageant. Don’t worry, he’s a liberal Democrat. It’s a real eye-opener about how both the Democratic Party AND the Republican Party are pissing on the working poor, both in attitude and practice.

      • AdLib says:

        Though there were indeed tensions and conflicts nationally in the era surrounding the Civil Rights Act, these were far more prevalent in The South.

        You proposed:

        Once the Civil Rights Amendment was enacted, the period between 1964 and 1966 saw some of the biggest “white backlash” riots against the act and against Johnson … in the NORTH. Newark, Philly, South Boston, Detroit and the Watts area of LA resounded in racial rioting, especially about enforced busing.

        With respect, your assertions above are factually mistaken. These riots were due to underlying social inequity but sparked by police brutality in all but one riot you mention, that being South Boston which was the only one over busing but did not occur in the civil rights era of 1964-1966, actually occurring a decade later in 1974.

        Here’s some info:

        THE NEWARK RIOTS -- 1967
        This unrest came to a head when two white Newark policemen, John DeSimone and Vito Pontrelli, arrested a black cabdriver, John W. Smith, for improperly passing them on 15th Avenue.[4] Smith was taken to the 4th Police Precinct, which was across the street from Hayes Homes, a large public housing project. Residents of Hayes Homes saw an incapacitated Smith being dragged into the precinct, and a rumor was started that he had been killed while in police custody. Smith had been moved to a local hospital.

        This set off six days of riots, looting, violence, and destruction — ultimately leaving 26 people dead, 725 people injured, and close to 1,500 arrested. Property damage exceeded $10 million.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1967_Newark_riots

        THE PHILADELPHIA RIOT -- 1964
        The Philadelphia race riot took place in the predominantly black neighborhoods of North Philadelphia from August 28 to August 30, 1964. Tensions between black residents of the city and police had been escalating for several months over several well-publicized allegations of police brutality.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_Philadelphia_race_riot

        THE DETROIT RIOT -- 1967
        The 12th Street riot was a civil disturbance in Detroit, that began in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 23, 1967. The precipitating event was a police raid of an unlicensed, after-hours bar then known as a blind pig, on the corner of 12th and Clairmount streets on the city’s Near West Side. Police confrontations with patrons and observers on the street evolved into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in American history, lasting five days and surpassing the violence and property destruction of Detroit’s 1943 race riot, which occurred 24 years earlier.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1967_Detroit_riot

        THE WATTS RIOT -- 1965
        The riots began on August 11, 1965, in Watts, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, when Lee Minikus, a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer, pulled over Marquette Frye, who Minikus believed was intoxicated because of his observed erratic driving. Frye failed to pass sobriety tests, including walking in a straight line and touching his nose, and was arrested soon after. Minikus refused to let Frye’s brother, Ronald, drive the car home, and radioed for it to be impounded. As events escalated, a crowd of onlookers steadily grew from dozens to hundreds. The mob became violent, throwing rocks and other objects while shouting at the police officers. A struggle ensued shortly resulting in the arrest of Marquette and Ronald Frye, as well as their mother.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watts_Riots

        As you say, the passage of the Civil Rights Act in July of 1964, pressed the 5 states in the south that voted for Goldwater to do so (he only won 6 states, those and AZ). So I think we’re in agreement then, the Deep South voted for Goldwater primarily because of their majority’s racism (his opposition to the Civil Rights Act).

        As for The Southern Strategy, this was indeed an actual, created and calculated strategy by Nixon and his GOP in light of this recognition, which was no secret (LBJ openly expressed upon passage that it meant Dems would likely lose the South for at least a generation). Here is some background:

        Richard Nixon implemented his ‘Southern Strategy’ to win votes during his 1968 election campaign, and during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement.

        The ‘Southern Strategy’ is a term used to describe the Republican’s method of winning previously unattainable votes of white Americans in the formerly Democrat South, during the early 20th century. The term is attributed (although he really just popularized it) to Kevin Phillips, a former Richard Nixon campaign adviser. Phillips stated to the Republican Party that there was an opportunity to polarize the Southern voting, after seeing the Democrat Party fill with black votes. By standing for the idea of ‘state-rights,’ without being totally against integration, Phillips hoped to attract anti-black whites to vote Republican.

        During a 1970 New York Times interview, Phillips said: “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are”.

        http://www.suite101.com/content/the-southern-strategy-and-richard-nixon-a269466#ixzz1ABcVoxoh

        As this overview demonstrates, it was indeed racism that GOP research and strategy determined would bring Southern states to their side and what has transpired since then continues to unfortunately validate this cynical strategy.

        This is not to say that there weren’t internal divisions in the Democratic Party along the way but in terms of what was the central reason for the South turning so quickly from longtime Dems to Repubs, I don’t think the inner machinations of the Dem Party were a more powerful issue in the day-to-day lives of Southerners than the issue of race.

        • Khirad says:

          No offense to the author, -- okay there’s no way for this not to come off as offensive -- when I read that I can’t help but have thought of the common deflections used by Neo-Confederates about Ulysses Grant and all the Northern slaveholders and racists to minimize and whitewash the South’s history.

          Do I believe this was the intent? am I calling Marion a racist and Neo-Confederate? In no uncertain terms: of course not. I’m just being honest about my initial reaction to that; unfair and out of context as it may be.

          • AdLib says:

            Same here, I see Marion’s post as a sincere exploration into our perceptions of ourselves as Americans.

            I would agree with you though that the pursuit of trying to spread racism equally around the nation instead of acceding to where it has been historically concentrated, has been and continues to be used by some to rewrite history and absolve the South of its support of slavery and racism.

            This is not a generalization though about all in the South, there are many there who supported civil rights and equality during those most difficult years and many who are fighting the good fight today.

            However, as the last two years of ugly, racist rhetoric towards Obama has affirmed, The South does unfortunately have a meaningful number of white people who continue to be uncomfortable with the races and religions of others who are not like them.

            • AdLib says:

              Khirad, I have family in The South, in Texas…and I still love your Steinbeck quote.

              Certainly neither you nor I nor any rational person who isn’t prejudiced, believe that all Southerners are one thing or another. We know from personal experience that such generalizations would be false in any case.

              It is important for Progressive folk to keep in mind that there are many Progs throughout the South and in every red state. So, as much as we’d like the racists in the South and elsewhere to secede, we don’t want the good folk in those states to go with them.

              As you say though, no amount of argument can change the South’s unique history of slavery and the generational sensibilities that it shaped.

              This year we just saw the Gov of VA announce, “Confederate History Month” with praise for the Confederacy and no mention of slavery. That kind of thing happens too often in The South and just doesn’t in the North.

              Yet, there are many Dems and Progs in VA who were outraged by that and soon McDonnell scampered to hide his racism behind renaming it “Civil War in VA Month”. And can I just say that I don’t believe that any decent person would celebrate or salute the most tragic war in our history, the largest and most senseless waste of American lives mainly due to wanting the right to enslave other human beings.

              It seems to be provincialism and guilt that causes some in the South to have the need to assuage the sins of their state’s past through whitewashing their history. Yet all it does is revive and continue the sins, not purge them. That takes acceptance and genuine regret.

            • Khirad says:

              My sentiments exactly -- that’s a lot of what I thought about adding so my point might not be taken too personally, as I would probably take it if someone said something similar to me about what I wrote. It was an equally sincere gut reaction to that particular portion given that I’ve been through quite a bit of YouTube comments and Confederate apologist sites -- that colored my perception.

              I don’t think any thinking person believes all the South is populated by racist Neo-Confederates, or that the North had no problems.

              But, it is what it is, and while Indiana may have been teeming with Clansman, and Idaho may have Hayden Lake, and sundown towns may have existed throughout the country, the depth of it is nowhere near what the legacy of slavery and institutional racism is to the South.

              I’m not in contact with them, never met them (nor do I wish to), but I know I have some unambiguously racist relatives in the South. They may not be representative of the South as a whole, but it’s also a kind of racism unique to the South, however latent, often coupled with still lingering resentment about Reconstruction. Is the whole South like them? Probably not. Especially not in the cities and around college campuses. But it still exists.

              Maybe my Savannah born Segregationist dad has been too hard on the South ever since he renounced those attitudes. I loved going to Virginia, because it was the first time I set foot on Southern soil, and I want to go to where that part of the family hails from further down South. I take pride in being part Southern. It’s not about hating the South, as I’d be hating part of my roots (though I do hate the slaveholding ones).

              But my dad and I always end up sardonically laughing knowingly whenever we hear some new story out of the South and some of its politicians’ antics, whether it be Republican candidates for Governor in Georgia hinting at secession, or Hayley Barbour getting amnesia, getting sneaky about Confederate flags, etc.

              The South has a past which just can’t be compared to the rest of the country, endemic as racism was and is to the whole of the country.

              When I joke about letting the South secede, it’s a dry, sarcastic humor I’m using -- and is not directed at all Southerners -- it would be lazy to assume that. And if I’m gonna be criticized for that, than so should Steinbeck be too.

              Texas is the only state that came into the Union by treaty. It retains the right to secede at will. We have heard them threaten to secede so often that I formed an enthusiastic organization—The American Friends for Texas Secession. This stops the subject cold. They want to be able to secede but they don’t want anyone to want them to. -- Travels with Charley

              I won’t apologize for thinking that that’s friggin’ hilarious.

              I know what it feels like. A lot of people have suggested Arizona should secede. Quite frankly, I think the Republicans in the State Legislature aren’t far from that kind of nullifying thinking. I see the point of those bashing Arizona, and man do I join in. But if anyone does think simplistically, they should know that there are those of us in Arizona, the South and red states throughout the Union that are fighting the good fight. I have nothing but the greatest admiration and sympathy for liberal HP posters deep in Mississippi and Kentucky, for example.

              I think those that are that simple-minded about the denizens south of the Mason-Dixon Line are a minority though, and think some of the rest of Marion’s article is predicated upon a straw man.

        • bito says:

          Was it not Edmund Muskie he feared the most, he did lead in all polls showing he would beat Nixon, resulting in the “letter” about his wife, a Nixon campaign “dirty trick.”

          • AdLib says:

            That’s how I recall it. I don’t see how Wallace would have been a threat to Nixon. He might have taken away some of the Deep South but strangely, Nixon would have seemed the better of two evils to most Dems elsewhere.

            No way that the youth vote, liberals and blacks would have voted for Wallace so Nixon had two ways to win including Dems just not voting.

      • kesmarn says:

        Marion, I must say that it’s news to me that the riots in Detroit, Watts and other U.S. cities in the 1960’s were riots by whites who were protesting busing. I’ve been searching online and am having a hard time finding documentation for that.

  2. javaz says:

    American People are US.

    You’ve lost your American, Marion.

    I do understand that, having lived in France for 2 years, because I was also under the illusion that everything American wasn’t quite as good as being European.

    Let me remind you what being an American means.

    It means the belief, right or wrong, that we can survive and accomplish anything that we aspire.

    And we do aspire.

    I mean no offense, but you’ve forgotten what it means to be an American.

    There are so many Americans working to make America great -- http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/08/eplace-styrofoam-musrooms/ -- and we Americans do not even realize or acknowledge the younger people striving to help the world.

    It’s an easy thing to put down your country for politics, or religion, but there are thousands of younger people who have the vision to make it all better.

    I get that you are an ex-pat, and understand your beliefs now, but caution you to never forget Americans.

    We are not going away, and regardless of the belief that Americans are fat and stupid -- we are here to stay.

    • Marion says:

      You do offend me with that remark, because there’s nothing that makes an American more American than living abroad and defending what it means to be just that.

      I am sorry, but that does offend me, immensely. I suggest you read this again. It’s not I who say Americans are fat and stupid. It’s many on the LEFT.

      • boomer1949 says:

        …there’s nothing that makes an American more American than living abroad and defending what it means to be just that….

        With all due respect Marion,

        This country is not the same country you left, 20, 25, 30 years ago and neither are its people.

        One of the most important aspects of being an American, is to actually live, eat, sleep, breathe, and experience what one could call This American Life.

        Please explain how one can legitimately defend what one no longer lives?

  3. Chernynkaya says:

    America’s culture of no (by Chrystia Freeland)
    http://blogs.reuters.com/chrystia-freeland/2010/11/26/americas-culture-of-no/

    Saying ‘yes’ is one of the dominant tropes of American life. America’s favorite politicians are the sunny optimists: think Ronald Reagan and “Morning in America.” You might even say — and some historians have — that Americans themselves have been pre-selected for their optimism: you or your ancestors had to have a powerful faith in the New World and the opportunities here to make the trek over in the first place.

    That’s why when I interviewed Nikesh Arora, Google’s head of sales, operations and business development at a media conference last week, one of his comments had particular resonance. Google, Arora said, works hard to create “a culture of yes.”

    According to Arora, As he put it: “the more times you say yes, the more you create a culture of yes, the more likely you’re going to have people innovating and coming up with great ideas. The more you say no, people will absorb that, anticipate that and say, ‘What’s the point of me trying to innovate, management is going to say no anyway’.”

    Google’s chiefs are striving to build a culture of yes, but most of America is living in a culture of no: banks aren’t lending, businesses aren’t hiring and consumers aren’t spending. That’s true of much of Europe, too: the latest act in the sovereign debt crisis has pushed the continent deeper into its new age of austerity.

    That contrast points to one of the deeper consequences of the recession and slow-motion recovery: after two generations of plenty, the developed world has abruptly shifted to a culture of no. That includes even the homeland of the optimists, America. The culture of no is already being reflected in American politics, where the Republican legislative strategy of just saying no has proven spectacularly successful politically.

    The two exceptions are the emerging markets — already re-branded fast-developing economies by some of their fans — and the technology sector. These countries, and this industry, remain cultures of an emphatic, even accelerating — remember that 10 per cent pay raise — yes. And even in nations that have been pushed into the no camp, anyone smart and lucky enough to surf the waves of the technology revolution and the rise of the emerging markets is still living in the land of yes. That’s why the New York Times this week announced the return of conspicuous consumption on Wall Street, even as Main Street is experiencing, at best, a prolonged period of slow growth.
    We are living in at time of unprecedented international interconnection and access to information. But it is also a moment when different parts of the world, and different groups within societies, are moving at very different speeds. A good way to understand the divide is between the cultures of yes and the cultures of no.

    One reason this recession is so tough on the American middle class is that by habit and by inclination, it belongs to the culture of yes. But high unemployment, a stalled housing market and less access to consumer credit has trapped the middle class in the culture of no. That is turning out to be a social and political problem as much as an economic one.

    IMO, This culture of No is not only about the economy--it’s about cultural issues as well. Change is scary to many. And saying NO to government-- a government that can innovate and bring about changes we need that effect our lives-- is exactly what the nihilistic GOP wants.

    • Questinia says:

      The culture of “yes” is what got us into this financial mess. People who saw the potential for disaster and who recommended saying “no” were either not listened to or fired.

      • Chernynkaya says:

        Q, I can see that POV, but I think Freeland wasn’t thinking of that aspect of the Culture of Yes-- nor was I. I think of the Yes as the antidote to political nihilism-- the belief that we can make positive changes. I do think we as a country need a dose of anhedonia, or maybe I should say less anhedonia to stop us from trying so frantically to counter it.

      • Marion says:

        You are right.

        A culture of “Yes” initiated instant gratification mentality. People turned off to Carter because he was perceived to lecture them negatively, when he was telling the truth. People much preferred the smiling Gipper and Morning in America, and we’re still paying the price, even though many want to have the optimism of that era.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      I think there needs to be a happy middle ground between the culture of yes and the culture of no. The article points to the success of the high tech industry. But that’s just more gadgets. New ones come out, the old ones get ditched, and the planet fills up with toxic, microwave emitting dumps for “outdated” gadgetry that still works. There’s no REAL “yes” in that.

      So, to paraphrase Rumi, “Out beyond ideas of yes and no, there is a field. It’s called SUSTAINABILITY. I’ll meet you there.”

      • Khirad says:

        Hah, that was a nice paraphrasing job!

      • bito says:

        Goodness, WTS, someone has to mine tie coal and iron to make the axe to cut down the trees to build the log cabin. Yes, we can all be less wasteful than we are, both in time and resources, but…..

        • whatsthatsound says:

          yes, hence the “middle ground” I mentioned above. 😉

          • bito says:

            WTS, if you have the time, take a look at this, TED
            http://www.ted.com/

            • whatsthatsound says:

              23 talks on “sustainability” alone! Bito, you, you, Time Bandit!

            • whatsthatsound says:

              Sometimes, youtube doesn’t take me directly to the video someone posted, but just a wide array, so I don’t know which one. And this is because I am in Japan, apparently. So I thought the same thing was happening here with TED.

              That’s what I meant by “it’s a country thing”.
              Hey Bito, do you say “oh my goodness” and “goodness” in real life too? Must be kinda cute.
              :)

            • bito says:

              WTS, I worked as a Union carp for many years, no, “goodness” was/is not part of my vocabulary. :lol::lol:

            • whatsthatsound says:

              bito, I think it’s a country thing, but when I click a whole slew of TED options come up. Which talk are you referring to? I’ll watch!

            • bito says:

              Oh my goodness, WTS, just about click about any category in the left hand side and you may find some fascinating thoughts and innovations that address the balances of technology and sustainability. Hard to choose, but as they advertise “Ideas, all under six minutes”

              ( I don’t understand what you mean by “it’s a country thing”)

  4. AdLib says:

    Of course, any opinion of others is subjective but as you note, there are concrete and historical attributes which do help to lay an objective outline of the character of the American People.

    Starting with facts that are indisputable, we can extrapolate out a lot though one thing that’s clear as one drills down is that there is not an “American People” but groups of American people that sometimes come together and other times pull apart.

    Some of the facts that we know about Americans:

    1. The average U.S. household income is about $50,000 for an average family size of 2.5 people.

    2. 99% of Americans are not wealthy nor millionaires.

    3. The educational rating of American students has been on a steady decline. The U.S. has fallen to 14th out of 34 countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics.

    4. Americans have become more buried in debt than at any time in the nation’s history.

    5. Unemployment and underemployment affects approximately 22% of the American workforce.

    6. 100 million votes were cast in 2009’s American Idol finals. In the November 2010 midterms, 75 million votes were cast.

    7. Banks, oil companies, insurance companies and other corporations have directly caused the destruction of the U.S. economy, jobs and the standard of living but a majority of Americans did not march in protest and instead blamed the Democrats for this, electing a record number of Republicans this November…who were supported by and represent these corporate entities.

    8. Only 39 percent of Americans believe in the Theory of Evolution, 21 percent of Americans believe there are real witches, sorcerers, warlocks, etc., 20 percent of Americans were still sure in 1999 that the sun revolved around the Earth, 63 percent of young Americans can’t find Iraq on a map, 9 out of 10 can’t find Afghanistan even on a map limited to Asia and more than 33 percent of all Americans can’t identify the continent that’s home to the Amazon River.

    9. Over 54% of Americans 18 to 29 believe they will get rich though only 1% of Americans are actually millionaires.

    10. Fox News is watched most by Americans and a recent study found that Fox News viewers are much more likely than others to believe false information.

    Though these are select facts, they do portray something that is unmistakable. There needs to be an awakening of many Americans to the reality of the society and situation they are actually in even though it may be undesirable to accept.

    Commitment, principles, prioritizing, involvement and a healthy skepticism of corporate-provided news and information is required for Americans to reverse all of the regrettable facts listed above.

    We have to do our part to get others to do their part and spread it to more Americans.

    • Khirad says:

      Somehow I don’t think the witches they believe in are the witches I believe in.

      That’s friggin’ scary. Where have we failed when 60% believe in some Creationist/ID crap?

      I mean, seriously? What’s happening. It’s gotten better, but stalled there.

      • Marion says:

        Republican power is what happened. Starting with Ronald Reagan seriously downscaling the Department of Education and seriously plugging federal subsidies for higher education.

        Now they want to give religious schools state funding. Not on. Just not on.

  5. Chernynkaya says:

    Marion, this baffles me:

    To the well-meaning Democrats of the Left Coast persuasion, who call themselves populists, yet who travel in private Lear jets, the working poor have cooties. They watch Fox News and fry everything from meat to chocolate candy.they’re fat. They hunt animals and sometimes people. They run meth labs. They’re racist. Worse than racist, they like Sarah Palin.

    But then you write:

    The Republicans have done a fine job (speaking sarcastically) in keeping them dumb and under their thumb. Take racism, for example. .

    ..all these bright-eyed, idealistic, eager-beaver, young unpaid college volunteers to live amongst the hoi-polloi every four years… .

    They talk about Ward and June Cleaver, with their social consciences and their lattes and Chablis, planning for the Ivy Leagued college funds of Wally and the Beaver. .

    It seems as though there is plenty of class prejudice to go around. Or am I misreading this, and it’s more about North v South?

    • boomer1949 says:

      But, but I got my “Jr. June Cleaver” badge back in the day…I do have a conscience, might not be all that social, but at least I have one…I have never had a latte, can not stand Chablis(too sweet — does Merlot count?), and the closest we ever came to an uppity college was one of the daughters was wait listed at Boston College. Oops, it is not considered Ivy League is it?

      Sorry, it was the darn reference to June Cleaver that pushed me over the edge! 😉


    • Khirad says:

      I was wondering if I was misreading some stuff too. On the whole strong, but there were a few contradictory elements, it seemed, even if mostly rhetorical in design.

  6. bito says:

    Waaaaaaaay too many stereotypes.

  7. choicelady says:

    Marion- I’m not sure I can add much to this comprehensive assessment of who we are. I do know we’ve been this divided before (remember “hard hats” v. “hippies”? Pro-segregationists v. civil rights proponents?) On the other hand, I don’t remember that we were this stupid before. Even people with principles I detested were better informed than they are now. Could it be -- conspiracy theory here -- that the dumbing of America was deliberate? Reading Jeff Sharlet’s book, “The Family”, I was utterly horrified by the chapter on the desired take over of US history by the Religious Right -- only to see it come to pass in Texas. Dumb people are easily led. Smart people are a pain in the butt.

    I’ve lived all over the country and count people of widely divergent backgrounds as good friends and acquaintances. This Jan. 12 marks the death of my “best friend I met only once”, someone SO different from me that I treasure his presence in my life. A cop, a Catholic, from a blue collar family -- the only thing we ostensibly had in common was that we both hailed from the greater Chicago area. But we shared real values of care for those in need, a loathing of hate crimes and what lies behind them, a wacky sense of humor, compassion, and love of honorable actions toward others. I won’t go into the details, but he changed my life partly from posting the funniest revue of a Y2K “Survivalist” expo that I needed to read, that caused me to laugh until the tears ran down my face, at precisely the darkest hour of my life. We became firm friends until his untimely death which still lingers heavy in my heart.

    I’ve known farmers, the homeless, steelworkers and autoworkers, cleaning women, people from all points north-south-east-west. They are part of who I am. I discount nothing about them, or any of them, save for the few who are unwilling to listen to the others at all.

    What characterizes solid Americans, no matter who they are, is a willingness to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I find most people, even when angry, WILL listen if we begin where they are then ask -- what would YOU do about whatever issue is on the table. It often pulls them up short to consider how few options most people have. That is where the Rugged Individualist meets reality. There are NOT a lot of options, never have been. When we take away entry level jobs (claiming blue collar, especially union, people are making “too much money”)or cut hours and ship jobs overseas, when we value farm property as if it were a shopping mall and drive families out of agriculture, when we shove tax burdens DOWN as they do in the South -- then yeah, there are not a lot of options. But those with stability DO need that mile long walk to understand the “no options” state of American life. It’s not Beaver Cleaver land any more.

    Those who condemn others and say, “Well I would never do” fill in the blank or “they could have done SOMETHING” to improve fill in the blank -- but then have NO suggestions yet have no compassion either -- those are the people who fail the test of being an American. Increasingly they are our leaders. Sarah and Michelle, Glenn and Rush. No compassion, no understanding.

    Too many people -- is it growing? -- follow the Reagan lead: just so I got mine. That is un-American. It was the Robber Baron attitude we, as a people, worked against through the New Deal. What I don’t get is how we lost that sense of we, the people, vs. the rich and powerful. But maybe that’s back to the dumbing of America?

    Our notions of American strength are based on 19th Victorian justifications for that thievery by the rich -- American Exceptionalism is a product of land grabs from First Nations people, of justifying imperialism, slavery, inequities that were once almost non-existent. We do NOT teach the truth of our founding roots based as much in economic equity as in our quest for autonomy over our beliefs. We add to that 19th Century justification a dimension of folklore rooted in Hollywood -- the John Wayne mentality about the frontier being conquered by a lone man with a six shooter. Bah, humbug -- it was massive cooperation. The Grange represents America, not the lone cowboy. Settlements had to be cooperative for people to survive. How could they NOT be? The Great Plains is an unforgiving place to live and farm. Settlers came in groups, not individuals. How can we see “Wagon Train” and not KNOW that?

    After WW II, instead of moving in families and community groups, we moved as nuclear families, put up individual houses with fences around them, and turned out back on our communities. We always knew “it takes a village” but have repudiated -- refudiated? -- that entire principle.

    And yet there are many who still understand, who still come together for a reason, who value community and understanding ‘the other’ among us, to welcome them in as the neighbors and support network we need to have. That remains the ‘real’ America, and it can and does exist everywhere. But you wouldn’t know it from our voices of hyper individualism who are asking us to do the impossible -- live as if we and only we matter. We are strongest when we work together because it’s not north-south-east-west-rural-urban that divides us. It’s isolation. It’s utter self interest. It’s loneliness and the fear that produces.

    The real America values other Americans, no matter who we are, and we need to get that back NOW.

    • Khirad says:

      I’d like to add that this “West Coast elite” is descended from people who came out from the Dust Bowl, who came working railroads and coal mines, who worked lumber mills and found new lives in towns founded by those who came out on the Oregon Trail, having lost many along the way including children, but made it together as a community.

      In fact it is those on the West who have the most common with the poor IMO. Those on the East could often stay because there was something there for them. Those who came West were some of the most destitute, desperate, and poorest of the poor. Nothing elite about that.

      Otherwise, I concur, I have little to add. Just thought with all the defense of the South, I’d add some for my own upbringing on the West Coast. Not that I take great offense to the stereotype. It has it’s truth. Just as Southern stereotypes have theirs. And Irish theirs, etc.

      I would like us to focus a little less on regions than on urban vs. rural though. It’s not even about North and South, East and West. The disconnect is with the way Democrats communicate and the way those in rural districts, outside of the city and suburbs do. In my mind, it is the suburbs that should be the only Republican strongholds, including affluent areas of cities. This was where Clinton was a real asset to our Party, no matter how much he is derided as a god-awful centrist (though yes, there was NAFTA and the like, I’m not trying to whitewash anything, just say we could use a little perspective on the rest of the country).

    • kesmarn says:

      c’lady, even considering your history of wonderfully eloquent, compassionate comments, this was your finest ever.

      If I could give it more than five stars, I would.

      As long as we can be kept distracted with re-fighting the Civil War, the Unions vs management battles, the Civil Rights movement, the Hippies vs Establishment, even the center-left vs farther left battles ad infinitum, we’ll never be able to focus on coming together to do battle against the forces that really do want to harm and enslave us.


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