Culture Clash

“Do you really want to hurt me?”

Get your own club, ya fruit

Get your own club, ya fruit

That depends. What culture do you belong to, and what do you think of mine?

C. P. Snow said the “Two Cultures” reflected the split between between the sciences and the humanities, though some scholars say the schism between the two is not so broad today. Not as broad, anyway, as the one separating the two cultures here in the good o’l USA.

Don’t let Obama’s election fool you: We have one culture that is basically rational, liberal in the classical sense, and primarily centered along the two coasts, the Upper Midwest and the major metro areas. With some exceptions, the Union states and territories of the Civil War. Then we have the other culture: religiously fundamental, a little (ahem) more closed minded, and primarily located in the South and parts of the Great Plains. Not a direct correlation to the Confederacy, but close. Of course there are exceptions in both those regions – I knew plenty of rednecks in “liberal” Connecticut and I know there are progressives in Oklahoma. Right?

Notice of this divide is not new. But it does explain the vitriol that emerged during this and other recent campaigns, and that keeps certain radio talk-show hosts smoking big, fat cigars between elections. Now, I have railed against members of that other culture, the slightly more close-minded one,  the past few months. I don’t apologize; I am trying to be provocative, and I’m using this as an outlet for the genuine frustration and anger – small-minded as it can be, I know – I sometimes feel. But in the afterglow of the election, when most Americans seem willing to give Obama a chance, I’ve been struck already by the fear and, yes, ignorance, that motivates so many people who belong to the culture that is not mine. And I just don’t get.

Check out these recent tidbits: As the Chicago Tribune reports (with a large photo of man holding –  no, it must be called what it is: fondling – a large gun with a scope and stand), gun aficionados are scrambling in a wild frenzy to buy up all the guns and ammo they can. “People are terrified of losing their right to defend themselves,” one gun dealer says. And of course, with the economy slowing, “They are scared about civil unrest.”

Now, we could look at this rationally. Even if Obama wanted to ban all guns (and he says he doesn’t), he couldn’t. There is still a Second Amendment, which would take a whole heap o’ arguin’ and electioneerin’ to get overturned, and plenty of lawmakers, even Democrats, don’t want to alienate hunters and others who like guns.  But something (was it, perhaps, the NRA? Extreme conservative types?) stoked their fear.  And civil unrest? When was the last time we had wild rioting over the economy? Wars, social injustice, sports championships, yes; but not the economy. Besides, the members of this culture should take solace: Most of the civil unrest will be in those cities you so abhor.

The same day this article appeared, the New York Times talked about the South’s waning hold on national politics. So the other culture is not to be feared? Not exactly. It’s not going anywhere. And some of its members have attitudes that just blow my mind. You want to talk about progress? Check this out, from some of the fine folks down in Mississippi:

“Don Dollar, the administrative assistant at City Hall, said bitterly that anyone not upset with Mr. Obama’s victory should seek religious forgiveness. ‘This is a community that’s supposed to be filled with a bunch of Christian folks,’ he said. ‘If they’re not disappointed, they need to be at the altar.'”

And this: “One white woman said she feared that blacks would now become more ‘aggressive,’ while another volunteered that she was bothered by the idea of a black man ‘over me’ in the White House.”

Did that first woman have to think twice before she slipped in “aggressive”  rather than “uppity”? And let’s not forget that he has a Muslim name and so certainly Muslim leanings. How can we stand for that?

Maybe not the kind of attention Bobby wants for Louisiana...

Maybe not the kind of attention Bobby wants for Louisiana...

Some of the Republican governors who serve in the regions of the other culture are holding their annual meeting this week.  Some actually sound like they might be part of my tribe; they just happen to live where they live and that’s where they entered politics. There was Bobby Jindal on Louisiana, attacking Republican corruption, and Dave Heineman of Nebraska joined him. Meanwhile, pollster Frank Luntz reminded everyone that their man in this election didn’t know how to use a Blackberry.

Then the name of (ah, I said I wasn’t going to do it, but she’s out there, she won’t go away, and she’s such an easy target) Sarah Palin came up, and no one really wanted to say anthing bad about her. After all, she “energized the base,”  the heart of that other culture so foreign to me. But guys, isn’t the problem that your base is just too small and too out of touch with the other culture to really matter? Or is that just wishful thinking on my part? No, some of the governors get it, pointing out that geographical chasm I noted above. The blue states are more populous and, overall,  moderate. The road to future Republican success is not through Mississippi with its denizens worried about those aggressive African-American people.

I’d like to think it also does not traverse the wilds of Alaska, either, but Ms. Palin will certainly try.  She is the other culture in microcosm, just with sleeker glasses and better teeth.  I hope she will have even less allure when people learn who she really is. We got the Wheaties version this time around, the product quickly packaged and marketed on the basis of rah-rah Americanism. As one Internet comment I saw today put it so well, she might have four years to bone up, but that just means she’ll be ignorant on more topics.

The Founding Fathers didn’t like political parties; you’ll notice there’s no mention of them in the Constitution. They worried about factions splitting the country apart. But people gravitate towards like people – in attitudes, ideas, values. So we have our two cultures, two dominant political views. I hope, in the next few years, to have a little more tolerance for those not like me, or understanding. But I know they will still piss me off at times. And my views will scare them. And I don’t know how we ever bridge that gap.

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~ by mburgan on November 13, 2008.

4 Responses to “Culture Clash”

  1. yeah me again…one thing that struck me when I started venturing into the online world is that many things that I took for granted about life were not true everywhere, there are many women (i use them since I am one) are not all exposed to the life I am, my education, work, clothing, etc and politics.There are still men in the world who believe they “own” their women and these men still view whites as the superior race. anyway, as long as there was a “good ole boy” in the whitehouse, life was good for that other culture. My favorite line from Bob is “the times they are a changin” and hopefully this time for the better…
    hope some of this makes some sense…

  2. It makes perfect sense. I think people in the Northeast in particular, who are professional, educated, don’t realize what a lot of the country is like, in attitudes, values, out in the hinterlands. And yeah, Bush certainly validated a certain neanderthal mentality.

  3. In the good ole days, the silent majority was silent. Then they became the ‘moral majority’ and were alot less silent of course! But I think we are starting to see in the recent election a change in landscape due to demographics – both age and ethnicity. The “values” platform is not going to have enough market share unless they pull in moderates. It will be interesting to see how well conservatives fair in the next 2 and 4 year elections…

  4. All true. Except, the moral majority was only a majority in their own minds. And they weren’t always so moral either.

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