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).

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AdLib
Admin

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

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Chernynkaya
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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.

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AdLib
Admin

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.

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javaz
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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.

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Chernynkaya
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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.

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Questinia
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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.

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Chernynkaya
Member

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.

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whatsthatsound
Member

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.”

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Khirad
Member

Hah, that was a nice paraphrasing job!

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whatsthatsound
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bito
Member

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…..

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whatsthatsound
Member

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

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bito
Member

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

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whatsthatsound
Member

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

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whatsthatsound
Member

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.
🙂

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bito
Member

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

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whatsthatsound
Member

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!

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bito
Member

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”)

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AdLib
Admin

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.

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Khirad
Member

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.

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Chernynkaya
Member

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?

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boomer1949
Member

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! 😉

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Khirad
Member

Well I can’t with anything approaching a straight face say I’ve never had a lattè. As far as stereotypes go, guilty. Then again, we had Starbucks way before the rest of the country.

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Chernynkaya
Member

June was multidimensional!

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bito
Member

I’m still disappointed in my mother, not once did she make me breakfast wearing pearls!

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boomer1949
Member

😆 Although, neither did mine…I was the one making breakfast and too young for pearls!

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Chernynkaya
Member

Don’t mess with June! 😉

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boomer1949
Member

…or stir her pot…!

More could be said, but “Jr. June” does not want to be sent to “time out.”

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Khirad
Member

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.

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Chernynkaya
Member

But isn’t she railing AGAINST that sort of rhetoric?

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whatsthatsound
Member

the same authoress once made the claim in a post that Arianna is probably racist because she’s Greek, so there you go.

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bito
Member

HMMM, is a Greek a WASP?

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whatsthatsound
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Khirad
Member

I’m being charitable and giving the benefit of the doubt.

For me it is the great offense taken towards jokes at the South, and then using the same kind of thinking towards the Left Coast, as it were.

Mind you, brash generalizations made in jest don’t bother me one bit, but it did sort of seem like she was applying the same broad brush there. Was it meant to be purposefully ironic, or was it a sort of blind spot? I don’t know.

Like I said, I’m being generous.

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bito
Member

If it was meant to be ironic,(?), it was lost on me.

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bito
Member

Waaaaaaaay too many stereotypes.

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Khirad
Member

I couldn’t help but notice what seemed on the surface like some double standards there.

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choicelady
Member

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.

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Khirad
Member

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).

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boomer1949
Member

Khirad,

There is a serious disconnect between “the American People” and “the Armchair American People.”

[img]http://soundbiteblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/armchair-quarterback.jpg[/img]

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kesmarn
Admin

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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