(I’ll get to Roy Moore shortly.)
The Mason-Dixon Line of Elitism
Who knew that Queens was just a half mile east of Dayton, Tennessee?
Christopher Hitchens (RIP) once said that the English wear their class on the tips of their tongues. That is also true about Americans, only, more generally our tongues revealed where we were from.
It was elitism that stigmatized American regionalism. At least that’s what justified Bob Beckel, formerly of Fox News, to leap directly to the notion that racism was a uniquely southern sin, and there was no easier way to identify a southern racist than to listen to him talk. Bob Beckel was wrong, but hey, he was just a kid when Dr King was murdered, and never bothered to listen to Dick Gregory, who died only recently, as he tried to paint elitist northerners Yankees with the same racist brush as southerners, while Dr King was still alive:
(Don’t care how close you get so long as you don’t get too big, versus, Don’t care how big you get so long as you don’t get too close—Can you tell which is which in the regional world of racism? And which survives?)
I thought that stigma had been dead and buried by the mid-1970s – when Jimmy Carter was elected president, and Boss Hogg had become a comedic buffoon icon, much like Senator Claghorn had been in the 1940s.
Seems I may have been a bit premature.
I’m a little more sensitive about that tip of the tongue matter than most, for I grew up in Appalachia, a peoples who carried a twang around that separated us from mere “Ya’ll” southerners. “Appalatchy”- from West Virginia down to the Smoky Mountains, stood out alone.
Those of us who left home to seek educations and above-ground work outside the mountains were acutely aware of this infirmity…for within a week of taking a part-time job in a college bookstore I already had picked up a nickname.
A world traveler by the 80s, I still had words I knew were dead giveaways of my origins, so sequestered them in safe places, never to use except among folks back in the hills. My most damning giveaway was “far”, only not taken from Dickens’ “a far, far better thing I do”, but “far truck”. I nearly cleared a conference room in Cincinnati once in 1992 with that unscripted, open mic outburst, the audience likely wondering how I’d gotten across the Ohio River without having my visa stamped.
The Mason-Dixon Line of American culture has existed since the very beginning and it largely ran only one way.
There was Yankee culture and there was Southern culture and that divide wasn’t rent solely by the racial divide defined, well into my high school years by separate facilities, “separate but equal” school segregation, the KKK and a general sort of racism about where people were allowed to sit in a diner, and words (names) people could call other people out loud without getting their blocks knocked off.
I was lucky though, for I only saw those things on television. I recall my mother knitting as troops escorted James Meredith through a gauntlet of angry white, clean cut college boys, in madras shirts like the Kingston Trio, shaking their fists and yelling curses at this black man trying to enter the University of Mississippi. Mom shook her head and asked what those boys’ mothers must think of them putting on such a show in front of television cameras. (Actually, a lot of those Christian mothers did rebel, as Dr King knew they would. After all, he had God on his side. Only Bob Beckel would never bother to find that out.)
Although in common usage in small groups, I never heard my father say the “n” word even once, even though he was born in that same town. And I would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap if it was reported I had used it (by some secret mom’s network and cipher I hated all my years there, for I knew there were spies everywhere, which was important intelligence gathering if you ever planned to sneak and smoke cigarettes, which had become my primary adventure before I got my drivers license). That occurred exactly one time, when I was about 7 (and is why I know a mouthful of Ivory Soap is everything it was advertised to be. Still highly recommended if you can find a way to hold an AntiFa rioter down for thirty seconds.)
Depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you lived on, you saw Yankee puritanism as either smug, self-righteous and condescending or sophisticated and hard-working and southerners either as having Ashley Wilkes charm about them, or were slack-jawed, stump-trained, barefoot farm boys. My university in Kentucky was a mecca for northeastern students because of tuition rates a third of what a state university cost in New England. And a Pennsylvania kid actually told me that he never knew Kentuckians wore shoes until he came there to college. No really, which causes one to wonder just what kids in the north were taught about us’all in the South in the first place.
Of course, Northerners never found it difficult to assimilate in the laid back culture of the South, not to mention its congenial weather. We were so hospitable they generally own our political establishments now. I can’t remember when Virginia sent off a native Virginian to the Senate, or to the Governor’s mansion. On the other hand Southerners have found it more difficult to be socially received by society in New York, Boston, even New Haven and Wilmington. This may explain why the world’s richest small businessman, an Ivy Leaguer who made a wrong turn somewhere and went into the “trades” instead of more respectable professions of the American version of the gentle class, could never quite fit in Manhattan, just a few miles through the Midtown Tunnel, from Queens. It’s amazing the number of mid six-figure writers and television personalities, bottom feeders of that gentler Yankee class who look upon him as if he were Freddie Laker, a ne’er do well rube who got lucky…only worse, as representing all the other rubes in America, who sneakily realized they still outnumbered their purported betters in the voting booth.
Funny how we forget the simplest of math, which was sneakily insinuated into the Constitutional blueprint in 1787. But by definition, C-students outnumber A-students by a margin of roughly 4:1. That’s a mathematical law. So, again sneakily buried in the Constitution is that notion that A-students can only attain power over C-students by vying with one another for the honor to representing all those C-students, beginning by obtaining their trust. Yes, I know that’s a quaint notion, but that’s how it was drawn up. And that’s the real politik we’re supposed to be engaged in now, especially since almost half of the electorate are either held in bondage by the monstrous way our elected betters abandoned Dr King’s ideal of equality, plus their keepers, and assorted bureaucracies, and a political class that already realizes there is no constitutional way for them ever to regain power again. They must have a Plan B somewhere. C-students now understand this while it’s our A-students who are a little slow on the uptake.
The rube half of America saw Donald Trump as an existential choice. Life or death, a last chance. There is nothing political about survival.
I’m getting very close to questioning the very parentage of modern elitism in America, at least among conservatives, but this article is really about how it plays out in Alabama in the matter of Judge Roy Moore.
Today, the American South is the picture of racial comity, for reasons outlined by Dick Gregory (above), while much of the better-run parts of the country sit on a powder keg. But the social stigmata remains, especially because it plays so well in New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, etc, where those fuses are already lit.
That’s how the Left rolls.
Only how is it that a band of #NeverTrump conservatives, urban, mostly young (always pay attention to generational differences when dealing with modern elitism) have allowed them to set aside centuries-old cultural practices all because a southern judge stepped out of a “Field and Streams” cover, appearing to be everything they had been taught since children to look down upon as hick.
I can’t believe to know peoples’ hearts here, I’m only speculating, but it is curious to me why some people of letters and law are so anxious to find bad hearts and wrong behavior simply because of where they are from. Unless of course, they were raised to believe those things in the first place? Only those are bourgeois failings we’re supposed to find only in the lower rural classes. Are the sonnenkinder of modern conservatism just like their stump-trained cousins from “Bammy” and “Gawja” after all.
It seems the Mason-Dixon cultural divide still exists in the minds of our best and brightest.
It was a practice, up until as recently as last week, for rural land -owners (farmers) and professional people to not even seek a wife until in their 30s, their positions established in the community. Eldest sons of local land-holders had to wait even longer before they came into possession of their inheritance. This is a practice that dates back to the earliest colonial days in America, and is still commonly practiced all over New England and Midwest farm regions, besides the rural South, men getting married in their mid-30s.
And the girls they pursued were largely teen-agers, and likely virgins, which is still a sought-after commodity for men who want to start a family. As one fellow said, he only wanted to marry a virgin because “he couldn’t stand criticism.”
Check rural county marriage records the past 50 years and tell me this isn’t so.
But even in rural towns such as where my sons went to school in the 80s, you can see how hipper cliques could build a whisper campaign on those sorts of “so yesterday” beliefs. Chaste, Christian kids had it particularly tough.
From the beginning I knew the nature of the charges made against Roy Moore were not geared to turning Alabama public opinion, unless dreamed up by people totally unaware of social customs there.
It was almost as if the Washington Post were trying to enrage the rest of America, compelling them to then ostracize Alabama into state-wide embarrassment. With fewer than 20% of Alabamans ever giving a damn what Yankees thought about them, I found this a curious tact. No Alabaman is ashamed of simply being an Alabaman.
More likely the target was the GOP establishment and associated #NeverTrumpers, who are much more easily cowed into shivers of fear lest they be judged by the company they are known to keep. Far more easily picked out of line-up than the average suhthener, men like Mitch McConnell, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake all carry the unmistakable look of fear called the “who farted?” look.
You’ll find this interesting, but I’m not the biggest fan of Roy Moore. Never was, as I never cared for his theater either. There is a Foghorn-Leghorn aspect to him that was a little comical to me, the archetypal southern loudmouth. (That Looney Tunes cartoon rooster itself was a caricature of “Senator Beauregard Claghorn” a character from the Fred Allen Radio Show in the 1940s, and yep, I’m old enough to remember both. It pays to know, I say, it pays to know the important cultural stuff, Boys. Both of these are funny and instructive.)
What is it about Roy Moore in particular? His home? (Alabama). His manner of speaking? (Suthen). His bellicosity? (Pulpit pounding.) His religious faith defiantly hanging from his sleeve (Ten Commandments), where no decent American political candidate had ever worn his religion since William Jennings Bryan at the Scopes Trial (not to be confused with Bear Bryant, with a “t”. That’s a “t”, I said. Pay attention when I’m talkin’ to you, Boy.)
And what is it about religious faith that makes him the primest of candidates to be a molester of little girls? Why do irreligious Yankees want to believe that first? What core bigotry do they carry around that will cause them to jettison even basic principles of fairness and evidence on the say-so of a beacon of truth like WAPO, as in this communication from a noted conservative “the initial Washington Post story was extremely thorough and persuasive…” attests.
The people of Alabama are savvy enough so see this as just more sturm und drang as seen in the Georgia House race between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff. The only real risk was that many Alabaman might stay home, a cowardly choice which not that long ago handed the entire House to the Dems, thus giving us a Barack Obama. And yes, there was something biblical in the way we were punished for that vote.
To the point of hinting a godless left-winger might be preferable to Roy Moore…especially since we’re non-voting kibitzers here, without overwhelming proof, (a stained blue dress might have worked), what is our purpose in even commenting on these uncorroborated charges, except to validate the notion going around that a woman, on her say-so alone, can convict a man in the eyes of the political world, even about an alleged event 40 years ago?
Vanity seems to explain why these younger #NeverTrumpers jump into a fray, to loudly protest and proclaim that their hands are still clean of the sin of commingling with rural folk from the South. How sad.
I do an annual paean to those folks every year, at UnifiedPatriots, to remind GenX’er and Millennial conservatives about the shoulders they stand on and how those shoulders shaped (shape) the nation they purport to protect. (My 48-year old son sends it around at least once a year.) My problem is in convincing the more vain of that lot that it’s even important to know those things. So, while very smart, they are also getting egg on their faces regularly, only don’t know it, just like this bar of Ivory Soap I’m trying to deliver today.
It’s the know-it-all vanity that scares me most for it more aptly suits for Amherst freshmen class. The knowledge that this crop of conservative intellectual thinkers hold themselves out as the legatees of William Buckley’s conservatism, at the same time belittling those same rube “first 300 names in the Boston Telephone Directory” Buckley said he’d prefer over the faculty at Harvard is a blasphemy.
Case in point, Due process, “innocent until proven guilty”, “jury of peers”, etc, all have cultural roots that go well back before the codification of law. They shaped community opinion long before they were written law. The English Common Law dates back to Magna Carta times, and is one of the reasons England was always about two centuries ahead of the rest of the Continent in cultural and philosophical matter, and probably why the English probably got here first. And as we know religion had a lot to do with those earliest settlements. And for those practicing Jews, the Levitical Code extends due process back another 2000 years.
Yet we are told by these conservatives that due process has no bearing in politics. Evidence is what people are more likely to believe, but in or out of court, certain rules of believability apply, for very good cultural survival reasons. Citizens cannot believe two-, three-time proven liars, without placing themselves at risk, yet here is a campaign against Moore led by the Washington Post. People do not wait for their favorite commentator to tell them that “It’s OK. WAPO did not likely lie this week.” And who among the general citizenry believes any woman escorted by Gloria Allred?
There is genuine agreement that many of these finer minds want Roy Moore to be guilty and will move heaven and hell to convince themselves it is so. To what end other than vanity?
I would be in my 40s before I recognized a strong Puritan strain in Modern Liberalism (which it was called after 1976). I considered Yankee liberalism to be little more then Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritan, arrogant, self-righteous and exclusivist that would make even a Cartersville Baptist uneasy, just without God, which, if you’ll note the postwar demographics of New York City, most churches there, to stay relevant, had to marginalize. By 2000, He’d been largely jettisoned, just as He had in the now-moribund Church of England…at least those that still affiliate with Canterbuy.
Still I knew enough passionate Christians and tons of practicing Jews, not to mention the finest assemblage of ideological conservatives at 150 East 35th St, in New York, to not feel any great concern that New England had lost its moral way from the path forged by the Founders. America has always managed in this regard.
But now I worry. Buckley has passed, and so it seems, will his National Review. Bob Beckel’s booshway about the South and bigotry, and modern educational trend to teach children not to think, still holds sway all above the Mason-Dixon Line. Maybe I’ll have to dig out my Diogenees lamp, and ply that darkness once more, looking for an honest man.
Young-gun conservative views on Roy Moore are based on a bias, teetering on bigotry, supported by little more than a childish want-to not to be like that kind of person, and a vanity that won’t allow them to keep their trap, and keyboard, shut, when they actually have nothing useful to say. All that drives them is “Dig me.”
I really miss Bill Buckley right now. And Dick Gregory.
At least I know why there will never be a modern-day Tom Jones to sing Weehawken Waltz in New Jersey
Publications: Famous Common People I Have Known and Other Essays
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