Sunday, April 20, 2008

So Who’s Bitter?

The rural/working class population of the United States is hardly homogeneous. To a considerable degree, what we're really talking about here is the culture and politics of one big slice of the pie: Southern whites, whether in the South or in their diaspora. For them, as it was for Jackson, Polk, or Jefferson Davis, freedom just is the right of white men to do what they want, no matter the foreseeable consequences to other people or the health of the planet. Minorities and women can go hang or be hanged, as the case may be; and aggressive military adventures are automatically justified and enthusiastically promoted because they enlarge the domain of the real America. This group tends to gestures of adolescent rebellion combined with de facto cringing subservience to their betters, heroic levels of substance abuse, and an absurd glorification of noise, ignorance, and violence. The sentimental or hysterical worship of an idol named Jesus doesn't do much to moderate this bad behavior. Indeed, the Fundamentalist strain of Protestantism actually excuses pathological folkways by blaming avoidable failings on original sin. The continuing problem of American history is how to civilize this bunch or, failing that, how to limit the damage they do to themselves and the rest of us. For more than 200 years, the South has punched above its weight in American politics. To Hell with their purported bitterness and the cynical interests that incite and exploit it

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