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Creek Running North

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November 05, 2004

The fluffy bunny stuff will resume soon, I promise

I'm getting really goddamned tired of people making assumptions about me based on what they think they see.

For one thing, people on the left, or in the environmental movement, or in the nascent "liberal revolution," see that I have certain opinions, and that I sometimes speak in words of more than three syllables, and they make certain assumptions about my upbringing, my education, the advantages to which I had access as a child.

It's rare that they make the correct assumptions.

The last three days, I've been seeing a lot of so-called "progressives" saying incredibly insulting things about people in the "red states"... people who live in states that went to Bush in the Electoral College. I've seen calls for secession, calls for cutting off federal funding to those states, calls for letting the people there drift into theocratic fascism on their own without the benefit of the enlightened folks on the Upper West Side or the Berkeley Hills or the Gold Coast. "They hate smart people," I'm told. "They're all evangelistic cult members. Klan members. Screw 'em."

You know what, my liberal friends? Odds are, I'm to the left of you, and odds are I've spent a longer time doing left activism than you, and odds are I spend more time per day doing left activism than you. But if you're gonna cop that attitude about people who live in red states, count me among the red staters. That's not just an abstract, Niemollerian stance: I have more in common with them than I do with most of you.

The whole "red" or "blue state" thing is ridiculous, of course, an artifact of the Electoral College. It shows nothing of any importance, lumping liberal enclaves in with depopulated deserts in with reactionary luxury suburbs. It's somewhat more instructive to look county by county. [Link added shortly after original posting]

There's still lots of room for error. Contra Costa County, where I live, includes El Cerrito (Kerry-Naderland) and Knightsen (where Bush is considered slightly liberal) and Blackhawk, where the people delegate the actual holding of messy political opinions to their domestic help. But still, there's greater granularity available when looking at counties, and there is much to be learned.

Let's look at, say, Washington County, Utah, probably one of the most homogenous counties in one of the strongest Bush states. It's in the extreme southwestern corner of the state. Its main settlement is St. George. It's populated by Mormons and retirees – both groups that trend conservative – and a few people living on the Shivwits Paiute reservation. Bush got 82 percent of the vote in Washington County. Kerry got 16 percent.

Bad news, right? Look at it this way: In one of the most conservative counties in what is likely the most uniformly conservative state in the US, 6,371 people voted for a Massachusetts senator who had been repeatedly called "the most liberal person in the US Senate." I'm betting not a one of them got a visit from a MoveOn volunteer or a Kerry for President staffer. It's not like Utah was ever considered to be in play. And 16 percent of Washington County residents voted for Kerry anyway.
I was born in a "blue state," but New York was blue primarily due to New York City and a couple other smaller cities with strong union representation, like Buffalo. Yates County, where I was born, went for Bush by 59 percent. Seneca County, where I started school, was 52 percent Bush. Both counties have significant liberal, environmentalist, free-thinking and humane populations. They're just outnumbered.

I have no idea whether I would have wound up a Bush voter had we stayed in the Finger Lakes. Perhaps not: my grandmother, who lived in New York's "red" counties for eight decades and change, and who was an irascible old bat given to ridiculous and shifting prejudices, spent much of our last phone call this year, a week before she died, excoriating Bush and thanking me for working to expose his lies. But not all of her descendants share her views.

My family was by no means poverty stricken, but neither were we lavished with privilege. My grandfathers, my uncles worked as farmers, truck drivers, air conditioning salesmen, television repairmen, cops, career military. The women in the family did all that and the housework besides. My dad's mother worked in a stinking cannery until she was in her mid eighties. There were no trust funds, no retirement plans. They worked until they dropped dead.

I remember when the Left treated people like my family as people to look up to.

Incidentally, I have never hard any of my relatives criticize someone for being educated. The whole reason I left the Finger Lakes at age six was to go to a school that would challenge me. My dad went off to college, and my mom was encouraged to do so. My aunts and uncles are proud to bursting of my college-educated (or college-bound) cousins.

That doesn't mean that all us grandkids GOT college educations. I managed two years that I largely paid for myself via a scholarship. Some of us got none. Some of us deferred college to the next generation.

By no means all, but most of the people I work with, day to day, have college educations that their parents paid for out of a relatively comfortable pile of money. I spend a fair amount of my average workweek training such people, answering questions on everything from tech support to US history to the proper use of the subjunctive in modern American English. Most of my colleagues are perfectly nice in return. But others... one such, in a conversation with me a couple years ago, disparagingly referred to someone as "just having a bachelor's degree" – meaning something akin to "clueless." That was merely the most blatant of hundreds of such comments I've heard in the last dozen years, from good committed progressive enviros fresh out of their idealistic graduate schools, where they seem to learn that everyone has access to the luxuries they've had handed to them, and that they are prerequisites for intelligence. And oh, the horrible embarrassment of having your parents give you an unstylish car at age 16!

And there are the trailer park jokes... which are always fun for me when I quietly mention that my very own mother lives in one. She's a lifelong Republican. She voted Kerry this week. She is mortified at Bush's win.

You know something, my liberal pals? When the red-staters talk about the elitism of people in the cities and on the coasts, at least SOME of them aren't using the word "elitism" as a cryptic Christian code-word for "smart." Somewhere between a third and half of the people in those red states voted with you in this last election. You're not going to win without them, ever. Getting the GOP out of power will require that you lower yourselves and talk to some of us... and I don't mean "hi, I'm Geoffrey, and I've come to Ohio from Ann Arbor to tell you how to vote next week." We know how to vote. What we'd like is to be taken seriously as allies.

Posted by Chris Clarke at November 5, 2004 05:26 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:
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Comments

Chris, You've said clearly what I've been trying to put into words and failing to.

Posted by: susan at November 5, 2004 05:45 PM
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I thought this WAS the fluffy bunny stuff! Thanks for the link to the "counties" map. Nice to know I'm not a lone blue dot in a sea of red even though I feels like it quite often. Very well written post Chris, and right on point.

Posted by: OGeorge at November 5, 2004 10:52 PM
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Terrific, Chris. Folks at Slate need to be reading this.

Cheers, Jarrett

Posted by: Jarrett at November 6, 2004 12:13 AM
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Greetings from the reddest of red states.

I think what this is getting at is the question of when generalizations are legitimate and fair. Yes, county-by-county analysis is better than state-by-state. And neighborhood-by-neighborhood would be better still. Then house-by-house, all the way down to the ideal of person-by-person, at which point it's no longer a jumping off point to a generalization.

The step from statistically accurate fact to generalized assumption is the one where the fairness question arises. Do you know anything about me because I live in a red state? Nope. I could easily be one of the 40% of people here who voted for Kerry. If the Kerry total here were 2%, your guess about me as a red-stater would statistically be more likely to be accurate.

All this adds up to this: The numbers are too close to be able to draw any reliable conclusions about me, or my neighbors. The smart elitists who don't get that maybe aren't so smart after all.

Posted by: Trey at November 6, 2004 05:33 AM
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Amen to that.

Thank you, Chris.

Posted by: Siona at November 6, 2004 05:59 AM
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Oh, sigh. You know I'm with you on this one, Chris, being from one of THOSE counties. I have no hopes for the Democratic party right now, though, because they don't get this at all. The polarization is based on mutual lack of respect, and it goes to a profound and fundamental insecurity about "self" that seems intrinsic to American social life, and perhaps bred by capitalism. upon meeting, we compare ourselves so quickly to one another on so many different levels, using a million cues we've learned from grade school. Then we find our little points of leverage and use them to divide, subdivide, divide ourselves again. I remember a football game at Cornell my first year. We were playing Harvard. The Harvard cheerleaders led a chant that was basically "back to the greenhouses", with a cow-doll they tauntingly waved - a reference to the "aggies" (agriculture) and vet students. The Cornell cheerleaders then lisped a chant spelling out "HAHVARD", and took out white pocket handkerchiefs at the end, adding, in perfect British prep school accent "Fight fiercely, fellows". Everybody felt great then, right? And this was in the Ivy League. Give me a break.

Posted by: beth at November 6, 2004 06:56 AM
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THANKS CHRIS:

What you're saying goes equally for environmentalism, doesn't it? Same problem: urban recreational enviro's who sneer at guys in pickups.

And then we wonder why we can't convince them to listen to us!!

On Air America last week, i heard one caller invite Alabama to leave the nation. Ed Schultz (who is overall much better on this populism thing) did nothing to deter or challenge this caller. Last night Al Franken opined to Dave Letterman that "we" didn't really need the South for much anyway....!

Dolts. What kind of democrat party is it that doesn't have workers as its core??? Or that thinks the solution to its failure to connect with ordinary folks is....to secede??

Yours for Environmental Populism
david oates

Posted by: David Oates at November 6, 2004 01:03 PM
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I would say that the American propensity to play follow-the-leader cuts neatly across boundaries of class.

Incidentally, have you noticed how "the working class" has essentially ceased to exist, except perhaps for left-wing intellectuals? I haven't heard a U.S. politician or think tanker refer to this beast in ten years. There's just the middle class - and lazy people who live in trailors.

Liberal elitism drives me nuts, but I've never managed to change anyone's mind on this. Appeals to conscience, comparisons with racism - nothing seems to work. There's little mystery to me why the Republican Pary has been so successful in playing on the politics of resentment over the last two decades. Of course, it probably goes without saying that the masterminds of this bait-and-switch strategy have as much or more contempt for the white working class as any liberal ever had. The self-conscious and unapologetic elitism of the neoconservatives strikes me as the most cynical and sinister of all. But then, many leading neocons started out as leftists.

Posted by: Dave at November 6, 2004 05:08 PM
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My Blue (how disconnect is that?) friends seem to be divided between those who think The Fix Was In and those who dream If Only We Could Get The Message Out To The Masses. Neither of them seem to be capable of contemplating the thought that about half the people in this country think completely differently from them. And the Red people (again, cognitive dissonance here) are not buried under rocks, nor are they stupid, nor necessarily ill-informed. They can tune into NPR or Air America. They choose to watch Fox News. There is a deep and profound divide in this country and has been for as long as I can remember. (And I'm older than Chris, and would be happy to stack up organizing creds, too.) True, the better informed we are, the more likely we are to dismiss the Saddan = 9/11 equation, but the social issues come from a deeper place than that. It is troubling but necessary to contemplate the fact that intelligent, thoughtful people may hold values and opinions that are diametrically opposed to ours. Believing that we could convert them if we just had a chance to explain is an insult to them, really. I say we concentrate on the 40% who don't even bother to vote, ever.

Posted by: Maggie at November 7, 2004 04:10 AM
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AMEN!

Posted by: Anne at November 8, 2004 08:26 AM
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Chris, there is a fundamental (pardon the expression) difference between the disrespect and condescension of liberal "elites" toward Bush voters and the heated, eliminationist rhetoric that increasingly informs the far-right, evangelical activists. If there is a growing edge and nastiness to liberal rhetoric, it is a response to calls by Limbaugh, Savage, Coulter, and Dominionists of all stripes to destroy liberals. What's worse--to be called "ignorant" or to be called "traitor"?

I and the rest of the blue county types hold no sway with the rural, evangelical crowd. If there are numbers of people like your mother who are appalled at the drive toward an American theocratic empire--an American Taliban--then they must speak up louder and seize control of the political landscape in their red counties and states before there our current cold Civil War turns hot.

Posted by: SG at November 8, 2004 09:46 AM
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and the rest of the blue county types hold no sway with the rural, evangelical crowd.

You're conflating "rural," "evangelical," and "conservative." Which illustrates my point rather nicely.

If there are numbers of people like your mother who are appalled at the drive toward an American theocratic empire--an American Taliban--then they must speak up louder and seize control of the political landscape in their red counties and states before there our current cold Civil War turns hot.

My mother lives in a blue neighborhood in a blue county in a blue state. (Amazing as it may seem, even liberal enclaves have trailer parks!)

Posted by: Chris Clarke at November 8, 2004 09:59 AM
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I'm with you. If I hear one more blue person (many of whom are dear friends with whom I agree on many subjects) say in a wounded voice, "How could this have happened? Don't they know we are right? I mean, we don't actually have to explain our self-obvious positions on issues, do we?"...well, I just won't be responsible. Some mauve or purple blood may get shed.

Posted by: Karen at November 9, 2004 08:05 PM
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Yup, it ain't any black and white, not any more (if it ever was). Maybe we're just starting to understand that the middle is MUCH larger than we ever imagined, and that most of us belong to it, however little we may resemble each other from the outside.

Posted by: Doc Rock at November 9, 2004 11:13 PM
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The most poisonous element in political talk right now, I think -- and I see it equally on the Left and the Right -- is the conviction that only stupid or hoodwinked or mentally disturbed people could possibly disagree with us. I don't think democracy can survive that conviction if it becomes general.

Of course, there are plenty of stupid and hoodwinked and mentally disturbed people around, but they seem to me to be pretty well distributed across the various poltical and geographical spectra. (Is "spectra" the plural of "spectrum?")

Posted by: dale at November 11, 2004 04:45 AM
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Took a look at your writing after a quote from David Niewert at Orcinus today. Glad I discovered you. It's always good to find intelligent, humane stuff like this. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Lynne at November 15, 2004 02:33 PM
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On the other hand, this pandering to the "Heartland" about how only red staters are "Real Americans" makes me want to throw up. No, it makes me want to hit Sean Hannity in the face with a shovel. A lot of the elitism -- if that's what you call laughing at drooling gomers who want Evil-lution thrown out of the public schools -- is in reaction to the GOP base assuming the mantle of Real America and talking like they want to reenact the Chinese Cultural Revolution, only with Jesus. You know how there's this meme on the right about terrorism being a Muslim problem, and that Muslims should self-police? Well, if there are so many good and reasonable people in Bush Country, the rest of us would appreciate it if they could rein in the Snopeses before President Moron succeeds in destroying the Republic. Thanks in advance for that.

Posted by: CS Lewis Jr. at July 18, 2005 04:59 PM
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It's always fun when someone comes along and proves my point for me.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 18, 2005 05:01 PM
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It sounds to me like you're just uncomfortable with the fact that the most hardcore theo-fascists out there happen to be rural whites very much like your family and friends.

If I were a rural white person, this would really disturb me, too.

I might even be lad into in denial about the real sickness in the "heartland", outside your particular liberalish enclave or circle of activists.

I've witnessed enough of that sickness in three years of living in S. Carolina. Believe me, they're doing all they can down here to live up to the worst stereotypes in the minds of bourgeois coastal urbanites.

I've experienced some extremely disturbing bigotry (esp. anti-Semitism) in my decade of living poor in Eastern Iowa. Supposedly an almost-blue state.

I get crap in this super-red state every day because because I'm not -- nor can I ever be -- white enough, butch enough, Christian enough, folksy enough -- to suit people around here.

So you'll forgive me if I'm less than concerned with your tender feelings about what some dumb spoiled rich jerks in Berkeley or Manhattan might assume about you.

Meanwhile, you can explain to me why criminal or threatening characters in TV commercials always have NY accents? Why you're supposed to be less than a man if you don't drive a truck, hang out in your garage, and worship power tools? Why an episode the Simpsons, even in jest, is about "The Rapture"? (Though I'll grudgingly concede your point when it comes to the character of "Cletus.")
Why NASCAR (and why is what goes on the stands such that they won't show close-ups on TV)?

The chip on your shoulder looks way too big, from where I sit.


Posted by: scrutator at July 18, 2005 06:56 PM
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Anyone else remember when the phrase "read for comprehension" was considered redundant?

Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 18, 2005 07:09 PM
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Folks, where does Ann Coulter live? Sean Hannity? Rush Limbaugh? Michael Savage comes from Marin County.

NOWHERE in this post is there a claim that people in the "heartland" are immune from racism or antisemitism. Those sicknesses run throughout the whole country. I have racist neighbors here in the San Francisco Bay area. There are cross-burnings here. The only reason urbanites can delude themselves that they live somewhere different is simply because there are more people of all kinds in the cities. Racism is every bit as virulent among college-educated, urban whites as it is among farmers or textile workers.

The rest is class prejudice, pure and simple.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 18, 2005 07:16 PM
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This is reminiscent of the Flyover Myth, the idea popular among coastal libs that liberals are liberals because of a reasoned consideration of the facts while people in "flyover country" are conservatives because they've been duped by Secret Masters, and if they thought for themselves, they'd vote liberal too.

Both that and the designation of people as "red staters" are about as useful as strategies for winning votes as "terrorists are evil, end of story" is for fighting terrorism.

Posted by: Charles A. L. at July 19, 2005 05:30 AM
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Ignorance, superstition and stupidity are the bane of society. Recognizing these things for what they are is the first step in dealing with them. If you live in a bright red county, you are surrounded by either (a) ignorant, superstitious yahoos and/or tribal-supremacist gun nuts or (b) rich white people. They may be your neighbors, friends and family, but that doesn't make them well-informed, rational and intelligent. They may be hardworking, honest, the salt of the fucking Earth. Doesn't help. At this late date there is simply no valid excuse for voting Republican. HL Mencken may have been an unpleasant little man, but the current state of our politics shows that the scourge he identified as Boobus Americanus is alive well and running the country.

Or is there a rational explanation for why the non-wealthy majority of Bush voters support the Worst President Ever? Cause I'd love to hear it.

Posted by: CS Lewis Jr at July 19, 2005 09:08 AM
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And while it's certainly true that idiots are everywhere, I've been to Mississippi and when I got back to California I knelt and kissed the ground. Bartcop says Oklahoma is a redneck shithole and y'know, I believe him. Texas may have Austin, but even a staunch statriot like Molly Ivins acknowledges those shitheels can't even govern themselves. If it wasn't for fucking Schwarzenegger I'd be feeling pretty cozy on this side of the Culture Gap.

Posted by: CS Lewis Jr. at July 19, 2005 09:12 AM
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Don't forget the non-voters, CS. And did you miss the part where I mentioned the 16 percent of Washington County voters who voted Kerry? And that was one of the highest-percentage county wins for Bush. There are millions of liberals and progressives out there in the "bright red counties." Are you just going to write them off? Because, you know, that worked so well last time.

Thanks, by the way, for your civil tone, and I apologize for being snarky to you above. And I do have a question: did you kiss the ground immediately on hitting the California state line, or did you wait until you got to the coast? Because California's really only blue in a thin, thin slice along the Pacific, and the rest is a strange amalgam of Arizona and Idaho.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 19, 2005 09:23 AM
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You're right. There are progressives and liberals in conservative demographics and paleoconservatives in liberal demos. (And Kully-fornyah has our share of all kinds, although the population tends to cluster along the coast.) It is counterproductive and wrong to identify all residents of a state with the most vocal or attention-getting elements in that state.

That said, I think it is indisputable that states and counties have their own characters and characteristics, and that when you are deep in Bush Country you know it.

Snark all you want, CC, it's your page and I totally had that coming. The Red State Stupidity meme is a button-pusher for me. I know stuff like this -- http://www.fuckthesouth.com/ -- is not going to help win any elections. I try to remember Purple America. But sometimes I just want to scream, "WTF is wrong with you people?!?"

You have jogged my memory, though, and I recall now that when I was knocking on doors for Greenpeace in the Santa Cruz area -- one of the bluest counties in America -- I was invited into the home of a sweet elderly couple who gave me tea and cookies while they explained, after the conversation had turned to liberal issues, how homosexuals should be exterminated. So, point taken.

Posted by: CS Lewis Jr. at July 19, 2005 10:14 AM
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"By no means all, but most of the people I work with, day to day, have college educations that their parents paid for out of a relatively comfortable pile of money."

I'm curious, do you really know this for a fact--do you actually ask your co-workers about the details of the financing of their educations--or is it just an assumption, however well informed?

"...good committed progressive enviros fresh out of their idealistic graduate schools, where they seem to learn that everyone has access to the luxuries they've had handed to them..."

The flipside of the "classist" assumptions you describe, of course, is the assumption that those who are successful have had it "handed to them." This assumption and its natural corollary--that those who are successful in the white collar world don't know the meaning of an honest day's work--form the foundation of a reverse classism every bit the equal of the class prejudice you describe.

I obviously don't know just how much you actually know about the particular people you describe, but whether or not their parents handed them their educations from a big comfortable pile of money would seem to be beside the point. Aren't their assumptions about you wrong however they paid for college?

As others have said, it's a problem across the board in every direction. I don't know the solution, but this ain't it.

Posted by: Matt at July 20, 2005 05:54 AM
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The flipside of the "classist" assumptions you describe, of course, is the assumption that those who are successful have had it "handed to them."

Oh goodness gracious me, can we please not play disingenuous? There is an enormous disconnect between saying that a rural or poor Republican deserves to be ejected from the country because they are stupid and saying that an 18-year-old kid who just stepped out of their BMW has had it handed to them. I say this to you as a student at a college where I daresay the majority of those attending have had a ridiculous amount of privilege: maybe their parents worked for it, but they sure didn't.

Does this mean that all highly-educated college and/or graduate students are spoiled? Of course it doesn't, as denoted by the phrase by no means all, but most in the original post. But pointing out obvious truths (ie. "that kid is younger than me and has a nicer car than my dad, therefore he probably didn't work to earn it") is different from advocating the ejection from the gene pool of an entire socioeconomic group.

This assumption and its natural corollary--that those who are successful in the white collar world don't know the meaning of an honest day's work--form the foundation of a reverse classism every bit the equal of the class prejudice you describe.

While I hate to show my own flagrant prejudices here, as long as white-collar criminals get away with embezzling billions of dollars for a couple decades' jail time - the billions of dollars that should have been invested in the savngs or retirement funds of the working-class people who frequently form the base of such companies - maybe "reverse classists" aren't too far off the mark, there.

Posted by: Allison Clarke at July 25, 2005 12:22 PM
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Nicely put, Allison, he said from his completely objective point of view.

I especially like the notion that the working class and the ruling class somehow inhabit a level playing field. Isn't it a shame that poor people can be so rude to the rich when they get pissed off?

This assumption and its natural corollary--that those who are successful in the white collar world don't know the meaning of an honest day's work--form the foundation of a reverse classism every bit the equal of the class prejudice you describe.

Having done both white collar and blue collar work - with a bit of pink collar thrown in for good measure - I can tell you unequivocally that desk work is easier. To say otherwise is to spread misinformation.

And it's pathetic that one even has to say so, given the notable lack of attorneys trying to better themselves by becoming car mechanics.

That's not to say that white collar work can't be arduous - I know it is - or that there aren't rewards to physical labor that are lacking in sedentary work. And I work in a region where there are plenty of people who abandon the white-collar world to become carpenters or gardeners or, for that matter, car mechanics.

But those people, if you ask them, will likely explain their decision using phrases like "I wanted to do real work."

Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 25, 2005 12:34 PM
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Hmm... I don't comment much anyplace, and when I do, I usually get smacked around pretty good. What with being a monkey and all. What everything boils down to isn't class or lack of it, but rather extremism. Red-staters don't hate blue-staters for the most part, and vice versa. The problem is with the extremes, the leaders. This isn't true only in the US, it's true in Israel and the West Bank, China and Taiwan, and so on. If you cut through the rhetoric (and that includes bashing classes as well), most people just want to be left alone. They want to get on with their daily life doing whatever they want to do. They don't want someone telling them that they need to get a real job, or that they're a lazy bum with a second rate education married to his sister. It's absolutely insane. If you don't like people who didn't "work" to get where they were, don't deal with them. If you have to deal with them, don't make it an issue. They're probably well aware, and you pointing it out to them is only going to make them defensively self-conscious. The same goes with the guy who has worked hard all his life to be the bagger at the supermarket. Don't treat him like shit because his station in life appears to be lower than yours. Don't be a dick because he voted for Bush. He doesn't have to believe the same thing you do. If you care passionately about it, maybe you can have a nice conversation about it, and you'll actually learn something about people. People are entitled to their opinions. Deal with it. Yes, it may affect you on a national scale, and yes it may have dire consequences, but that's life. It isn't fair, the playing field is never level, you just deal. Stop whining about how the upper class has it easy, the lower class has it hard, republicans are assholes, liberals are assholes, we should all have real jobs. If you want to do something about it, do something about it that works to help people. Remember that not everyone feels the way you do. Not everyone thinks that "real work" is "real work" or that "fake work" is any different than "real work". And I know I'll get smacked around by probably ever commenter here, as I've had diarrhea of the brain and crapped all over this comment. Sorry.

Posted by: tweedledopey at July 25, 2005 02:00 PM
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"There is an enormous disconnect between saying that a rural or poor Republican deserves to be ejected from the country because they are stupid and saying that an 18-year-old kid who just stepped out of their BMW has had it handed to them."

Did someone say "disingenuous"? I thought the original point was about "good committed progressive enviros fresh out of their idealistic graduate schools" having things handed to them? Now we're talking about 18-year-olds who drive BMWs? Can we establish exactly who it is we're villifying here before we go any further?

"While I hate to show my own flagrant prejudices here, as long as white-collar criminals get away with embezzling billions of dollars for a couple decades' jail time - the billions of dollars that should have been invested in the savngs or retirement funds of the working-class people who frequently form the base of such companies - maybe 'reverse classists' aren't too far off the mark, there."

I love it when people label their own posts for everyone to see right off the bat. Again, disingenuous.

Chris's original point was that he hates when assumptions are made about him based on some stereotype of red states, and you defend that complaint. But then you state that you feel reverse classism may be justified due to the actions of a very few white collar criminals?

Goodness gracious me, I can't think of anything more disingenuous.

Chris:

"Having done both white collar and blue collar work - with a bit of pink collar thrown in for good measure - I can tell you unequivocally that desk work is easier. To say otherwise is to spread misinformation."

Having done both myself, as well, I can tell you my white collar work has been exponentially more grueling than my blue collar work. Crazy idea here: I think it depends on the particular job. Both can be hard, both can be easy. To make a blanket statement one way or the other is to spread misinformation.

"And it's pathetic that one even has to say so, given the notable lack of attorneys trying to better themselves by becoming car mechanics."

I'm gonna guess this has more to do with the size of the paycheck rather than which work is "harder."

"But those people, if you ask them, will likely explain their decision using phrases like 'I wanted to do real work.'"

So because some people buy into prejudices and stereotypes from both directions, this proves their truth? I think we've strayed from disingenuous to just plain silly.

Posted by: Matt at July 28, 2005 07:29 AM
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One more additional note:

"I especially like the notion that the working class and the ruling class somehow inhabit a level playing field. Isn't it a shame that poor people can be so rude to the rich when they get pissed off?"

What does this have to do with anything? Wasn't the original post about assumptions? Wasn't it about reaching out and working together rather than dismissiveness and insularity? What does the levelness of the playing field have to do with that? Don't the insults the poor lob at the rich feed the monster you decried in your original post all the same? Who cares who has more money? Wrong is wrong.

But you are doing a beautiful job of proving my point that the problem exists on all sides and in all directions. Until people stop feeling these kinds of assumptions and insults are okay or at least excusable from one side because the playing field isn't level, we're never going to get anywhere. Welcome to the problem. Let me know when you'd like to join the solution.

Posted by: Matt at July 28, 2005 09:01 AM
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Until people stop feeling these kinds of assumptions and insults are okay or at least excusable from one side because the playing field isn't level, we're never going to get anywhere. Welcome to the problem. Let me know when you'd like to join the solution.

What a bunch of sanctimonious bullshit.

Tell me what you're doing to be "the solution," Matt. Responding to blog posts? Do you walk into black neighborhoods and tell the people there that they're part of the problem if they resent white folks? Do you go to battered women's shelters and tell the residents they need to stop blaming men?

This was one post out of almost a thousand on this blog, Matt, and throughout I make a point of trying to empathize with people no matter what their circumstances are. Your response to this one post tellls me that is it still forbidden, in this society, to insinuate that the people on the top half of the economic ladder are there at someone's expense. You're whining like someone whose ox has been gored.

Show me one example of your telling privileged folks that they ought not stereotype people with less money, and I'll decide not to write you off as a defensive little twit.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 28, 2005 09:29 AM
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Wow, so very defensive. And still not a single response to my original query, which was merely what basis you had for the generalizations you made in your initial post. My only point to my first response was that the type of assumptions you complained about happen the other way, as well. And neither is good for the greater whole.

I also find it astonishing that you've taken the conversation from my point that blue collar workers make unfair assumptions about white collar workers, too, all the way to equating white collar workers with wife-beaters. Good Lord. Is there any better sign you're not interested in discussion but only in leak-proofing that original post of yours?

What I've done has nothing to do with the fact that your original point, and much moreso your subsequent defenses, contribute to the very problem you described. I have done plenty, believe it or not, but I'm not quite so fond of comparing resumes as this entire site attests you are.

So I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions about me from my blog comments alone. It doesn't matter to me at all what you come away from this discussion thinking of me as a person when I'm away from my keyboard. But I will take the fact that your post about ideas has been reduced to demands to know what I do in the real world and childish ad hominems about my being a twit to be a testament to the strength of my ideas. Otherwise, I imagine you'd respond to them.

If you'd like to attempt to re-establish some civility and do so now, like I said, I'm curious about the assertions you made in the original post. Beyond that, I'd also like to know what you think about my response to your lawyer/mechanic argument and my overall point that, whatever reasons and excuses people have for the assumptions they make and insults they hurl, none of it does any good.

Posted by: Matt at July 28, 2005 09:52 AM
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I have done plenty, believe it or not, but I'm not quite so fond of comparing resumes as this entire site attests you are.

Yeah, thought so.

Come back when you have something to say, Matt.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 28, 2005 10:14 AM
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Something to say? You mean I haven't given you a single thing to respond to here? There are no ideas worth discussing? You must hear my accomplishments and associations before anything I've said is worth responding to?

Wow. You are so not the person you pretend to be in your posts.

I'm sorry I got caught up in your snideness and tacked that meaningless little addendum to my post. Not only was it unnecessarily snarky, but I'm genuinely curious what you'd say without that convenient little out to cease all discussion entirely.

Shoot me an email when you're interested in further discussing the things you've posted, rather than just defending them tooth and nail.

Posted by: Matt at July 28, 2005 10:20 AM
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You must hear my accomplishments and associations before anything I've said is worth responding to?

When someone says something like "Welcome to the problem. Let me know when you'd like to join the solution," I think asking what they've done to become a "solution" to that alleged "problem" is exactly apropos. And when that person says it's none of my business, then I feel entirely within my rights to dismiss the rest of what that person says.

However:

I'm sorry I got caught up in your snideness and tacked that meaningless little addendum to my post. Not only was it unnecessarily snarky, but I'm genuinely curious what you'd say without that convenient little out to cease all discussion entirely.

I will take this at face value. Here's what I have to say: There is no problem here. Disregard for people on the lower rungs of the ladder is standard operating procedure, accepted for the most part even by those on the lower rungs of the ladder.

I wish there was a problem. I wish people who benefit from cheap labor, inexpensive consumer goods, and the benefits of an expensive education had to spend part of each day worrying about resentment from the poor. I think this world would be a whole lot better if the poor were a force to be reckoned with.

But it isn't a problem, to the point where people can get all bent out of shape when I make a statement objecting to stereotyping of the poor, or of people who are assumed to be poor (or undereducated or whatever) based on where they live, what they do for a living, what accent they have.

To the point where you can walk in with a bunch of what seemed to me to be insulting assumptions about my original post - that I'm making it all up, that I couldn't possibly know about the backgrounds of my co-workers, that I must be exaggerating, and that even if I'm right I'm missing the point - and then get further bent out of shape when I don't cloak my response in fake civility.

To answer your original question: I didn't have to ask them about their backgrounds: they told me. And this post was written almost a year ago, and my workplace has changed somewhat: some of the people who were most offensive in this regard have left.

You do have a point about the lawyer-mechanic thing, in that lawyers tend to make more money than mechanics, which would explain some of why people flock to law school rather than DeVry. But they make more because society values their work more.

As for this:

Wow. You are so not the person you pretend to be in your posts.

That's kind of funny. (You're making this determination based on information you've obtained where?)

If you look through my responses to other posts on this blog, Matt, you'll see that I do not defend things I've said "tooth and nail." In fact, in a more recent discusion very much like this one, I largely conceded the points made in a rather pointed criticism - which was not entirely dissimilar to yours.

But that criticism wasn't based on argument from incredulity ("I can't imagine you've actually know yoour co-workers' backgrounds"), a straw man argument about the regrettable degree to which the poor offend the affluent, or an apparent reluctance to read my subsequent responses carefully.

We got off to a bad start, Matt, and you're welcome to stick around. I'm sorry for the dismissive tone of my last comment. I'm just feeling frustrated that I've felt like I've answered your questions and your reply has been to rephrase your questions. Whether that's an accurate assessment is of course for others to decide.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 28, 2005 11:35 AM
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I apologize for the brevity of this response given the length of yours, but I'm due to leave town in a few hours.

What I think you miss is that a lot of the things you complained about in your initial post--calls for secession or cutting off funding to red states--are most certainly a direct response to red state claims to the one true "American-ness" and patriotism. Of course, by no means does this describe all who would be affected by secession, but I think these numbers and the numbers of blue staters calling for secession can fairly be called a wash.

And this is what I've meant by the problem being on both sides, white collar/blue collar being just one variation of it.

There is a problem, and you don't explain it out of existence merely by couching it in rich vs. poor. The problem is also red vs. blue, among many others, and these different permutations bleed into and affect one another. Not to mention that white collar does not equal rich, and blue collar does not equal poor.

You're right that the insulting of the rich by the poor doesn't amount to much given the rich's power over the poor, but it was just one illustration of us vs. them, which is what I was attempting to highlight and all of which together cause exactly that problem that your initial post was about.

As for this:

"But that criticism wasn't based on...an apparent reluctance to read my subsequent responses carefully."

Really? Where did you respond to my questions and points before this post? I've read carefully; it's not there. Just some nibbling at the edges.

Posted by: Matt at July 28, 2005 12:09 PM
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Look what happens when I step away from the appropriate section of the internets for a while.

Can we establish exactly who it is we're villifying here before we go any further?

Vilifying is spelled with one "l". And if you can't draw a parallel between "overprivileged undergraduate" and "overprivileged graduate student-cum-white collar employee", you need to work on your imaginative capabilities.

I love it when people label their own posts for everyone to see right off the bat. Again, disingenuous.

Not my post. Check the link. You can find my opinions by clicking on my name below this comment box; I don't hide them or gussie them up to pretend they're fact.

But then you state that you feel reverse classism may be justified due to the actions of a very few white collar criminals?

I apologize, as it seems I was unclear on this point. Classism of any sort and in any direction is wrong. However, to refer back to the level playing field line of reasoning, it is disingenuous to believe that there is any kind of equity of justice between white collar criminals - who suffer little punishment for crimes that can shake the very foundations of the national economy - and lower-class criminals, who are frequently subjected to mandatory minimums for drug crimes and other relatively minor offenses. Given these circumstances, how can we be surprised that there is interclass resentment? How can we blithely stumble around believing such resentment is not justified? Of course classism of any stripe, including "reverse", is wrong, but it's not like there's no explanation for it.

Posted by: Allison at July 28, 2005 06:15 PM
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Wow, spelling corrections. How irrelevantly petty.

In that case, though, i.e. has two periods. See? We can all play this silly little game.

"And if you can't draw a parallel between 'overprivileged undergraduate' and 'overprivileged graduate student-cum-white collar employee,' you need to work on your imaginative capabilities."

And there's that disingenuousness again. Suddenly "overprivileged" applies equally to an 18-year-old who drives a BMW and someone who has just graduated from grad school? That's odd, because I know bunches of people who have gone to grad school, and can only think of two who were driving a BMW or its equivalent at eighteen. My imaginative capabilities are just fine, thank you. It's my tolerance for straw men that needs some work.

Regardless, seeing as you continue to defend and excuse prejudice, just because it's directed at a group that you feel somewhat deserves it, conversation with you is next to pointless. I think I'm done with it.

Anyway, Chris, after thinking about this a bit on my trip, I realized the connection I'm not making clearly enough. I'm talking about the conversation, and it's in this respect that I say the problem exists everywhere. Let's pretend:

Imagine you're a hard-working white collar guy. You put everything you've got into your work. Ten- or twelve-hour days are not uncommon. You're usually in the office six days a week. You're responsible for a lot of people and their livelihoods, or maybe you're a lawyer and you're responsible for their very lives or their life savings, and you take it very seriously. The responsibility is crushing. Sure, you don't come home with callouses on your hands, but you have an ulcer and your blood pressure is way too high. You've never committed a crime in the course of your work, in fact you take every pain to ensure you don't, and it disappoints you that a few bad apples can give a lot of good people a bad name. You care about your job and the people it affects, and you try to do it as well as possible.

Now imagine for whatever reason you get into it with some blue collar guy, let's say he drives a forklift, at a bar. He tells you that you don't know the meaning of an honest day's work. He tells you you're a crook--all your kind are. He tells you you have no idea what it's like to put your back into your work, and so you don't know what it means to work hard. He tells you you don't know the pride of a hard job done well, and you know nothing of doing a good job for its own sake--you're all about the money.

Now, whether this affects your day-to-day life one iota, whether it impacts your ability to do what you want and need to do at all, is irrelevant. The only question is, do you think this conversation might cause you to think this guy has no idea what he's talking about? Do you think, hearing him say these things with such conviction, when you know them to be wrong, you might look at him as some kind of uninformed, uneducated rube? Do you think it just might have some effect on the way you feel about him and those like him, just like the actions of a few white collar criminals have informed the way he feels about you and those like you, only because you bear a resemblance to them? Do you think that's possible?

I'm not saying it's right. Again, I'm just saying the problem you're talking about is contributed to from all sides (and, incidentally, all sides are equally in the wrong). And I don't think it helps when supposedly intelligent, informed bloggers excuse the one while railing against the other. They're both wrong, they both contribute to the problem, and they both need to stop.

Posted by: Matt at August 1, 2005 06:44 AM
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