I Want the Best Parts of the Rural Right and Urban Left, Without the Worst
City + Education without Correctness; Land + Work without Parochialism
Why must we choose the worst tendencies of each vs. the best each has to offer?
I come from a mixed (blue-collar / white-collar) background. Fathers side: educators & engineering. Mother’s side: military & farmers. I speak both languages. The most disappointing social outcome is that I’m generally expected to choose the worst (rather than best) tendencies of each.
I’ve done road work, construction work, and automotive work. I’ve jumped off country bridges to float down the river in an inner tube, fished country streams full of poisonous snakes, slept outside on a wrap-around porch, and on a tarp in the mountains under the stars.
From manual labor and rural life, I’ve gained:
- An ethos predicated on exchanging value for value, honesty, duty, self-reliance, and commitment to one’s word.
- An understanding of how immigrants, minorities, and the poor built our nation, and still build it, laying marble, picking oranges, and taking care of kids — every damned day.
- A deep appreciation for peace and calm in a turbulent world.
- Respect for the grandeur, not just the ecological operation, of nature.
- An enjoyment of order, even routine, and its power for achieving results by relentless, continual pressure.
But I never agreed to:
- Reject intellect, logic, and learning as unmanly.
- Limit my art interests to action movies and church plays, John Philip Sousa and Hank Williams Junior, Norman Rockwell and blacklight posters.
- Protect and defend corporate interests who keep ‘stables’ of human cattle in underpaid, low benefit jobs in depressed economies.
- Spend my mental energy figuring out who’s doing something wrong somewhere, and rail at them.
- Maintain a Walmart aesthetic and Applebee's palate, when well-tailored clothes and world-class food are available.
- Worship an authoritarian personality and excuse abominable character, because he holds the “right” ideology.
- Maintain a “clean, white culture” against immigrants and minorities.
- Take an interest in bleach-bottle trophy women who spend more time on their nails and hair extensions than literacy and character.
- Despise the world outside as essentially inferior or there to serve me and prop up my way of life as the standard.
- Bully anyone who doesn’t fit a narrow mold of homogenous types in a parochial setting.
I’ve traveled the world, actually lived overseas, moved to New York City alone and chose to live here on purpose, make and consume art and literature, studied philosophy and logic, got three degrees, and still further my education continually.
From education, world travel, and the cities, I’ve acquired:
- Awareness of the sheer scope and breadth of our world and the degree of uniqueness in the value we each bring to it.
- Acquaintance with the immensity of the creative and intellectual capacity of man, and the hope it inspires.
- The opportunity to pursue answers to ultimate and existential questions alongside titans in their fields, amid energy and drive that continually invents, courageously adapts, and ingeniously overcomes obstacles.
- A sense of the challenges and problems we face as being systemic and intertwined, and the solutions needing to be as well.
- The option to pursue nearly any aspiration with the advantages I have.
But I never agreed to:
- Scoff at the working class, while dressing up in fine-pressed versions of their clothes. (“Do these Carhartt jeans come in ‘skinny’?”)
- Surround myself with kitch from other times and ways of life to be ‘ironic’, while not putting anything of my real self out there, which might *actually* individualize me to the point of offending someone.
- Boil everything, including art and comedy, down to an ideological ‘message’ that’s correct or incorrect, sensitive or ‘mean’. (“What message does the new Disney movie send?!?!”)
- Pretend to welcome and “love” everyone, regardless of how different from me they are, while living in a safely ‘diverse’ neighborhood I am turning into nothing but boutiques and ‘cute’ cafes that serve avocado toast.
- Turn my sexuality, sense of humor, and intellect generally, into an ideological “safe zone” with infinite patience for whining, preaching, and sensitivity sessions.
- Adopt forms of communication so indirect and “empathetic” as to be abstruse bordering on meaningless.
- Buffer every encounter with fluff (“Like… I was like…”), apologies (“I’m soooo sorry, I didn’t see you getting off the elevator.”), and corporeal shame (“I need to piss, I mean go to the men’s room, I mean bathroom, sorry I mean wash room, er… WC.”).
- Continually check Twitter for what behaviors I am permitted to exhibit and things I am allowed to say about gender, race, and sexual orientation that are sufficiently ‘woke’. (“We’re using a new pronoun now. That was last week’s pronoun. We’ve added a new letter to the acronym.”)
- Cautiously monitor and censor every word I use or comment I make, in case there’s any conceivable way, through some gymnastics contrary to my own authority as to my meaning and thinking, it might offend someone.
- Neuter my sexuality, apologize for my race, denigrate my gender, disavow my heritage, denounce my literature, reinterpret my culture, and deconstruct my history. (“Well, Christmas has to be looked at through the lens of class differences and the oppression of women…”)
At what point did each of these two tendencies: the blue-collar and white-collar, decide that one must choose the worst expressions of one or the other, to be alternately welcomed or ridiculed, approved of or shunned?
By what rule of logic has each ‘party’ within the culture chosen to become a cliche? It reduces the value proffered by each camp and elevates each’s most dysfunctional examples. In short, I did *not* agree to those conditions; I do not. I want the BEST of both directions, not the worst of either. I refuse to surrender any of what I’ve gained from one in order to “belong” in the other.
The small-minded, be they the professed open-minded hipster in Brooklyn who’s quick to insist we alter our vocabulary or the proudly close-minded redneck in Indiana who has opinions about cities he’s never visited, are *not* my models for adulthood, manhood, or citizenship. Roll up Bill Burr and Whoopi Goldberg with Barack Obama and Johnny Cash, Fulton Sheen and Frank Sinatra, and you’ve got more character than I see exhibited by a good chunk of the electorate on BOTH sides of the recent election. I want the best of all of it, not a caricature of its worst.
I’m not accepting the bargain. I do not wish to trade my roots in manual labor and the earth for the wide world and books, or vice versa. I want all those things. I think there are a LOT of us out there that feel this way. But if not, and it costs me some social relationships, so be it.