“Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them. A lot of these people live in a world very different from the world lived in by the people proposing these things. I know because I come from this world,” said ClintonÂ about gun culture.
Urban liberals too often assume rural white gun owners are ignorant, racist, white trash who need to be educated by their betters, then wonder why those very same gun owners are so hostile to them. Maybe it’s because urban liberals don’t try to hide their class contempt and snobbery? This is precisely what Bill Clinton is talking about. I count among my friends gun-owning rednecks from when we lived in Utah. Here’s the deal. They generally are not ignorant, are no more racist than city dwellers, and often lean to the left politically. But don’t be messing with their guns.
Redneck leftie journalist Joe Bageant wrote about this and more, often focusing on how the Democratic Party has deliberately abandoned the white working class, which used to be their bedrock. The Republican Party has been happy to move into that void. As for guns (from a few years ago.)
With Michael Savage and Ann Coulter openly calling for liberals to be put in concentration camps, with the CIA now licensed to secretly detain American citizens indefinitely, and with the current administration effectively legalizing torture, the proper question to ask an NRA member may be, “What kind of assault rifle do you think I can get for three hundred bucks, and how many rounds of ammo does it take to stop a two-hundred-pound born-again Homeland Security zombie from putting me in a camp?” Which would you prefer, 40 million gun-owning Americans on your side or theirs?”
The United States has always maintained a white underclass — citizens whose role in the greater scheme of things has been to cushion national economic shocks through the disposability of their labor, with occasional time off to serve as bullet magnets in defense of the Empire.
Today, almost nobody in the social sciences seems willing to touch the subject of America’s large white underclass; or, being firmly placed in the true middle class themselves, can even agree that such a thing exists. Apparently, you can’t smell the rabble from the putting green.
Well, such social scientists and liberals generally are city dwellers and never see or have any actual contact with the primarily rural white underclass, except for maybe when they go on a wine-tasting vacation in the countryside, stay at a bed and breakfast, and have chance encounters with actual rednecks who own guns. Oh the horror.
Public discussion of this class remains off limits, deemed hyperbole and the stuff of dangerous radical leftists. And besides, as everyone agrees, white people cannot be an underclass. We’re the majority, dammit. You must be at least one shade darker than a paper bag to officially qualify as a member of any underclass.
The biggest lie told in America is that we don’t have social classes.
I don’t know where to start with Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir. It’s a book of two sides, two faces even. On the one hand there’s Joe’s evocative, heartfelt nostalgia for a life destroyed by corporate capital and on the other, his anger and frustrations, rants on occasion, as if analyzing sets off an uncontrollable chain reaction to how capitalism destroys human beings and all in the name of free choice! It’s a frustration many of us lefties feel, a sense of powerlessness made all the worse by the knowing.
What Joe called the white underclass, some forty-plus million Americans, who struggle to survive out of sight and out of mind of the urban middle class who not only manage capitalism but who also shape the kind of self-image people end up having of themselves. They are Marx’ surplus labor writ big, real big. They are the (former) heartland of the American Dream turned nightmare. A class turned in on itself and entirely ignored by mainstream everything.
Joe Bageant, a Polizeros hero, is perhaps best known for his book “Deer Hunting With Jesus,” which was about his return, as a leftie journalist in his 50’s, to the redneck Virginia town he grew up in.
He emailed me after I reviewed it saying I was one of the few who got what he meant. It wasn’t just about all the colorful people in his town (who he never condescends to because they are his people). Rather it was about how the rural white underclass used to be bedrock Democrats until they were abandoned by the Democratic Party starting a few decades ago. Republicans, who weren’t nearly so stupid, courted them with the predictable result that they now mostly vote Republican. None of this had to happen.
From the book, talking about misplaced urban liberal fear and loathing of the white underclass.
With Michael Savage and Ann Coulter openly calling for liberals to be put in concentration camps, with the CIA now licensed to secretly detain American citizens indefinitely, and with the current administration effectively legalizing torture, the proper question to ask an NRA member may be, “What kind of assault rifle do you think I can get for three hundred bucks, and how many rounds of ammo does it take to stop a two-hundred-pound born-again Homeland Security zombie from putting me in a camp?” Which would you prefer, 40 million gun-owning Americans on your side or theirs?
Joe Bageant’s new book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir, is finally available in the US. In his previous book, Deer Hunting With Jesus, he returned to the small redneck town he was raised in and described how the white underclass there and elsewhere has been abandoned by the Democratic Party and is now Republican. Rainbow Pie continues the theme, as it explores social class in the United States.
Bageant is now a leftie journalist in his 60’s. But he never condescends. These are his people, they are his tribe.
Set between 1950 and 1963, Rainbow Pie is a coming-of-age memoir discussing one of America’s most taboo subjects — social class. Combining recollection, accounts, and analysis, the book leans on Maw, Pap, Ony Mae, and other members of this rambunctious Scots-Irish Bageant family to chronicle the often-heartbreaking post-war journey of 22 million rural Americans into the cities, where they became the foundation of a permanent white underclass. Telling the stories of the gun-owning, uninsured, underemployed white tribes inhabiting America’s heartlands, Rainbow Pie offers an intimate look at what was lost in the orchestrated post-war shift from an agricultural to an urban consumer society.