Mayberry and White America II
The discussion in reaction to yesterday morning’s post “Mayberry and White America” was mostly thoughtful, highlighting in a way most of the day-to-day political discussions seldom do the diversity in life experience among the OTB community.
Longtime OTB commenter Jay L Gischer described his own experiences growing up in a town not all that dissimilar to the fictional Mayberry while the show was on the air:
The way things were” is quite possibly something that many of these people remember about how their lives were. I grew up in a small town, and I watched the show when it came out, and in early syndication. I can even name the County Sherriff’s Deputy that we might consider as an analogue to Andy. We knew him by name. I’m pretty sure I recall another peace officer being referred to as “Barney Fife”, or just “Barney” as a sign of disrespect.
I can still talk to the other kids I grew up with, regardless of social class or standing. We had a connection. Yes, racial issues did not touch us much (though there were some issues with Native Americans, and exactly one Japanese-American family in town. I’m sure they can say things about the racism they experienced). The Vietnam War claimed the lives of a few young men, but not a lot of them. (It was less of a killer than covid is).
One of the things they might be complaining about is atomization and alienation. I sort of walked away from that millieu on my own, but to some it was more or less taken from them in a process that isn’t all that different from gentrification. Growth is desirable, and also a giant pain in the butt.
The way many, many people lived in the 60’s is not possible any more, both for better and for worse. That is a loss to some. They have scapegoated liberals, atheists, and the “woke” for this, and that’s a mistake. It’s just a consequence of growth. Things change in a way that nobody can stop.
Another regular, EddieInCA, expressed his frustration with nostalgia over the show and what it represented:
I was born in Los Angeles. At the age of six months I moved to NYC, where my grandmas house was directly under the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens – stop before Shea Stadium. I grew up in an area of bodegas, traveling by train and bus almost exclusively, multi-ethnic food everywhere, multiple languages spoken on my block and all over the city.
A place like Mayberry is fvcking alien to me. I, rightly, feel like a complete outsider when I visit places like El Reno, Oklahoma, or Waco, Texas, or Shreveport, Louisiana. The idea that “real America” is rural and white is antithetical to my understanding on the ideals on which this country was founded.
I have no sympathy for people who want to go back to a time where blacks were lynched and Japanese citizens were held in relocation camps; their possessions and land stolen.
I don’t want to see blacks lynched. I don’t want to see Japanese held in camps. AND, there were other things going on in that time, things that weren’t so terrible. Things that I can see someone being nostalgic for. I’ve experienced that. There are few people in that group who want to go back because there is lynching, because the Japanese are held in camps. They are acting out of fear and loss and humiliation. One can see the humiliation they resent played out in the comments on this blog, though not necessarily what you have said.
So, you find rural people alien. That is, in fact, one of the biggest problems we have in the US now. I guess for you, living in Queens, blacks and Puerto Ricans, etc, etc, aren’t alien to you. It is very challenging to develop empathy for a group you have little contact with. Very challenging indeed. Nobody in media seems to be doing any kind of decent job helping that way.
And I added,
But I don’t think very many people consciously want [a return to lynching and internment camps]. They want the good parts and not the bad, without quite realizing that some of the good was made possible by the bad.
Mu Yixiao, reacting to Gischer’s first comment, added:
I grew up in “Mayberry-only in Wisconsin, not NC. I think we only had 2 police officers then, and one of them-while he carried a gun-carried only one bullet. He kept it in his shirt pocket. I am not joking. He was actually known as “bullet” because of this.
With the exception of a year or two when a Vietnamese family lived a few doors down from me*, our town had 4 non-white people. Two (a black and an Asian) were adopted children of the most white-bread family you could ever imagine. The other two were a black couple that had a horse farm at the city limits-“Old Man” Newton and his wife.
Vietnam was something happening on the other side of the world that Walter Cronkite talked about at 6:00; it didn’t affect us. Race riots were something that happened in Chicago-that was a “big city” problem; why would anyone hate someone like Old Man Newton? He’s really nice!
I have no doubt that there was a dark undercurrent that my young self never saw, but the “Mayberry” template isn’t that far off of what I grew up in.
EddieInCA, responding to Gischer’s second comment about there being things about small-town 1960s America worth being nostalgic over, asked
Seriously. Like what?
The Boy Scouts?
The local VFW?
The local businessman who ran the town?
Tell me what was so good.
Shortly after reading this yesterday I watched the “All Madden” tribute show, which I had intended to watch for nostalgic purposes but which took on new meaning in light of Coach Madden’s passing. (Poignantly, he watched it with his family on Christmas.) In it, the sportswriter Peter King referenced a 1990 cross-country bus trip he took with the late, great sportscaster on the Madden Cruiser that he wrote up for SI in a piece called “Busman’s Holiday.” He quoted from the article’s conclusion:
When we reached the congestion of eastern New Jersey, it reminded Madden that he was closing in on his home away from home. He reflected on the trip and the country he had crossed. “I think we’re in pretty good shape,” he said. “The thing that’s always amazed me is how it works. People who live on farms don’t want to live in big cities. People who live in big cities don’t want to be farmers. If everyone wanted the same thing, or wanted to live in the same place, the thing would never work. There are people who are as happy as hell living in Kearney, Nebraska, and eating at Grandpa’s. There are people who are as happy as hell living in the middle of nowhere.
“Probably above that, what I’ve learned traveling around is this: People are nice. You go to a big city, and you hear the world is going to hell, but it’s not true. Small parts of it are; the whole isn’t. Hey, all we have to do is spread out a little bit, because we have a lot of space. You get out there, and it makes you feel better about America. The thing works.”
Schmaltzy, to be sure. But I think basically right.
I grew up in the suburbs, that space between the small town and the big city. Even when we lived in Houston and El Paso, we lived in suburban-like communities. Well into adulthood, I thought of New York, Chicago, and LA as cesspools of crime, corruption, and filth. But it turns out that, no, they’re actually pretty fantastic places that, like everywhere else, have some downside.
I worked in downtown DC for seven years and, aside from the commute, liked it. And I’ve been to New York, Chicago, LA and many other great American cities many times and always enjoyed the experience. The concentration of talented people brings opportunity, creativity, and all manner of wonderment that exist only here and there outside the big city.
For daily living, though, I prefer the privacy, space, yard, etc. that you can only get in the city if you’re really loaded, if then. I’d love the walkability of the city but life is tradeoffs.
In most ways, the early 1960s, the glory days of “The Andy Griffith Show,” were worse than today. But, of course, they never had the superior technology to miss. And, for less affluent White Americans, things were in some ways better. Most notably, it was far easier to support a lower-middle class, or even a middle-middle class, lifestyle on a single salary. That things were in most ways worse for Blacks, women and LGBTQ folks didn’t register with most White people because that’s just how things had always been and it was therefore “normal.”
But, of course, that normality was always oppressive if, like Eddie, you weren’t White. And Eddie was a star athlete who went on to great success as a Hollywood producer. The city is, almost by definition, more diverse and more welcome to heterogeneity than the suburbs, much less small towns, which are almost always insular.
For a lot of reasons, I wouldn’t want to live in Mayberry. But, unlike so many Americans, I could blend right in. Another White guy, after all, wouldn’t be the least bit out of place.
White Americans, even those of us who weren’t alive in 1960 when the show started, can be nostalgic for the homey, friendly community that Mayberry (or “Leave it to Beaver,” “Happy Days,” and other idealized family sitcoms) represent. Nonwhite (and likely LGBTQ) Americans will immediately recognize not only that they can’t see themselves in these shows but that they wouldn’t be welcome.
I grew up in the suburbs and wouldn’t have gone back after grad school if you gave me a house. I was with Eva Gabor, city life is the way to be. The best city situation was a first ring StL suburb, a small yard 45 x 120 an active commercial district a few blocks to the north that featured a movie theater, a dozen or so restaurants that one could crawl home from if necessary and Washington Univ a couple of blocks to the south, along with Forest Park a few more blocks to the SE. All pleasant walks. Plus it was a multi-racial community that was culturally interesting.
Now we’re back in the white bread suburbs and the only place we can go without getting in the car is the bathroom. It is a resort community, with the attraction being the Atlantic Ocean and I can walk to that. Making the rest tolerable.
Although I never liked Mayberry or any of the rural shows — growing up in Berkeley in the 60s, these represented a fantasyland that had no appeal for me at all — I have to say we’re being a little unfair to it. Yes, there was maybe all of one Black speaking part in its entire run. But was it really that much whiter than either Friends or Seinfeld, both of which premiered in the 90s? And which, while set in one of the world’s most multi-cultural cities, somehow almost never managed to introduce a significant character who wasn’t white?
And while a certain class of people may long to go back to the times of Mayberry, there are those of us who long for the equally fantastic NYC where you can afford a gigantic apartment with 20 foot ceilings and huge windows on a sous-chef’s salary.
There are suburbs where being white doesn’t automatically make you welcome in them. If you’re unmarried and childless, you’ll be a pariah. People will actively shun you.
Mayberry was a fantasy, and that’s all it was. In real life during that time, young Americans were in a useless war in Vietnam, political figures were assassinated, and riots burned in our cities. I didn’t watch the show; I think Star Trek was the thing my peers liked. The fantasies on television were far from any reality; my favorite example would be I Dream of Jeannie where an adult cis-gendered male never asks Barbara Eden the obvious question. The question we need to think about is whether this fantasy injured its adherents.
I mostly grew up in small towns in the Midwest, then lived in Philly for 14 years, then Tampa and ever since in rural PA. In the small towns things were generally pretty friendly and people supportive, as long as you were one of them. A little out of context but Kristoferson nailed it. “Then you ain’t one of us We don’t really give a damn ” Things felt safe too. It felt like everybody worked and contributed. I remember talking with my grandfather when I was home on leave (a farmer) and he really struggled with he idea that people might not have work. Something always needed mending or painted. I tried to remind him about the Great Depression that he had lived through but it just didnt click.
For me the bigger issue was the very rigid class structure. The kids from the wealthy families could do almost anything and get away with it. The cops just drove them home and asked the parents to watch them better. If you were a poor kid that didnt happen. If you were poor you’re pretty much unseen and needed to stay that way. We either had no or very few minorities where I lived. They stayed out of sight too. And lest we forget, being a teacher, nurse or retail clerk were about the only acceptable jobs for a woman.
I could also go over the merits and problems of city living but others can do that better. From my POV it is just a matter of choice. There are advantages to both lifestyles. What I strongly agree with is that things really weren’t all peachy back then. A lot of that was just because stuff was covered up. Back then if a teen girl got pregnant they pulled her out of school and sent her off. The abused wife just took more valium or drank more. Few knew or tried to find out what was going on with the priest and the altar boys.
That’s a good question. I believe there were people who were disappointed and angered that life wasn’t like television.
I wonder, too, if some people didn’t escape to Mayberry to get away from the world around them.
It’s interesting to note that The Andy Griffith Show ended in 1968, which saw the assassinations of MLK and RFK.
I regard the city as humanity’s natural habitat, because we’ve made them to suit us.
However, this is not entirely true. Many younger cities, or newer parts of older cities, and especially suburbs, are also designed to suit cars and trucks (which Sagan onece joked aliens would see as the planet’s dominant lifeforms). Some parts don’t even have sidewalks for pedestrians).
In Downtown Vegas, there’s a two block area on Fremont street which was closed to traffic, paved with nice flooring, and covered with a canopy that plays a light and music show on LEDs several times per night. There are several casinos, a few small shops, a couple of restaurants, and some outdoor bar seating. There are a few stages used for concerts on weekends (when staying Downtown, make sure to get a room not facing Fremont St.) During the day there are buskers putting on shows or photo ops for tips, a few kiosks selling or making stuff (spray-paint Vegas “landscapes” on paper are very popular).
It’s very pleasant (except, for me, than they hold concerts), and very pedestrian friendly. It’s also unlike the rest of the city and the suburbs, or most other cities in the world.
There are other two blocks closed off, but you have to cross a street with traffic to get there. There’s one casino there, El Cortez, and several shops, bars, restaurants, etc. I don’t venture out there much. It’s not covered with a canopy, for one thing.
Crossing a street on the other end gets you to the Plaza, and from there it’s a short walk to Main Street Station and The California casinos.
100% this, And those were considered “Comedy Shows” as opposed to say “Living Single” or “Hanging with Mr Cooper” or “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” which at the time were seen by many as being “Black Comedy Shows” (albeit popular ones).
Which gets to a point in James’ first essay that I wanted to address:
James, you wrote this about Northam, but I think it’s pretty much the case for most of us who are 40 and above (if not 30 and above… or 20 and above). This is still happening to this day in many cases. Perhaps the most recent standout one was Chuck Todd’s use of “parents” versus “Black parents” (when what he really was saying was *white* parents vs Black parents.
This is how embedded this stuff is for us.
People vote with their feet. In 1960 Mt. Airy’s population was 7,000. Today, 60 years later, it’s 10,000, an increase of about 40%. In that same time Raleigh, NC metro population has grown from 92,000 to 1,500,000, a 16-fold increase.
People are driven out of places like SF, LA, NYC or Chicago, generally by high housing prices, which is to say that those places are just too darned popular; people escape rural areas. If you equalized job opportunities and housing costs and somehow magically allowed the population to re-locate purely on the basis of preference, San Francisco would have a population of 50 million, and the coastal regions of California would hold half the US population.
With remote work will we see people suddenly feeling liberated and moving out of RDU or Charlotte? Some, absolutely. Are they moving to Mt. Airy? That I’ll believe when I see it. Small town life, even with high speed internet and Netflix is boring. People leave LA because no one can afford to buy a house. Are they moving to Mt. Airy? Nah. Austin. And why Austin? Because Austin has many of the plusses of LA at lower prices. IOW, they aren’t leaving the big city for the small town, they’re leaving the expensive big city for the somewhat cheaper big city.
I took a look at Mt. Airy housing. I have a 2000 sq. ft. house, 3/2 with a nice view and a pool on an average-sized lot. For the cost of my LA house, this is what I could get in Mt. Airy:
Two houses, a barn, a horse barn, and 79 acres, plus lower state income taxes. And I still wouldn’t live there.
The city or town/country divide has been with us for literal milenia. The Aesops Fable version can be traced back to 2nd century CE.
What happened in the US was that the divide became increasingly racialized over the course of the 20th century. While I don’t think that’s the only aspect of the current tension, it’s an important one.
Note, to some degree the racial or at least ethnic concern about cities goes back much future and was tie to immigration (see, for example, Gangs of New York). However, the Great Migration changed the racial make-up of cities outside the south in a profound way. Especially when combined with White Flight and Red Lining in the suburbs and middle class urban areas.
Then add in media coverage of urban race riots during the 60’s, urban crime during the 70s to early 90’s, and the shifting image of the poor from being more of rural phenomena to being concentrated in urban areas like the projects (and then the War on Social Services started by Reagan) and folks ideas about what constituted cities shifted somewhat.
Again, I think that animus (including seeing folks who live in Cities as primarily “takers” — thanks Reagan) is still motivating a lot of folks.
For example, I think it helps explain the classic Tea Party “I don’t want socialized medicine, but don’t touch my Medicaid” or our relatively recent general aversion to food assistance programs (including in rural areas).
I’ve lived in a lot of places and, because of my work and circumstance have spent significant amounts of time in manufacturing plants in very rural areas all over the US, the types of places where getting a starter minimum wage job in that lone manufacturing plant could be life changing, if only because it opened up the possibility for some day getting four or five dollars an hour over the minimum wage. I had to train a lot of these people over the course of a number of days and sometimes went out for a drink after work with them. To some extent, I got a window into their lives, and they probably got a window into mine.
In my personal life, my friends and much of my family range from progressive to highly progressive. So I feel justified in the following critique: to a large degree, progressives in the US have astoundingly little empathy for rural folk of any kind, and perhaps especially white rural folk. It is not easy growing up in such places, where jobs are few, everyone with ambition moves away, and everyone with a problem moves back because they don’t have any other place to go. People make fun of your accent, disparage your churches, and dismiss you as a hick. You can work your tail off, get through your crummy public elementary and middle schools, with scandalously underpaid teachers, work even more to get top grades in a high school that only seems to value the athletes. You can be the first in your family to head off to college, even if it is the third tier state school in a remote town, survive the disorientation of town life and student groups and everyone being different, even alien, graduate, and then discover that getting a job is tough because you still talk like a hick, don’t know how to dress quite right, and if you just don’t seem to fit in. People make fun of the school you attended, the one you struggled to reach and graduate from, and immediately discount you when they see it on your resume.
It’s a sad fact that we progressives are just as likely to misunderstand and withhold empathy from people because of the color of their skin, where they are from, or their religion. And we are also just as likely to withhold “membership in the club” to such individuals unless they constantly acknowledge conventional wisdom and prove they are one of the “good ones”.
Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a comment hoisted, so this feels good.
I don’t think I can explain the attraction to city dwellers. Which is why I didn’t really try, though I tried to hint.
There is a quality and depth to the connection you have with the other people of that place that doesn’t really exist in the city, without years of painstaking work. You are known. You are seen. This has consequences. There are fights, to be sure, and crimes, but very little random violence. If you’re a police officer, you don’t kneel on the neck of someone who lives two miles down the road for 10 minutes, killing them in the process. You know them, they know you. You might not like each other, but you’re both attached to web that also connects to the land somehow.
That’s not to say there isn’t racism. There surely was and is. The downside to this is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to become someone different than who you were when you graduated from high school. I’m sure this is comforting and safe for some. Others might like to tear that all down, so they leave. And this quality of course will amplify stereotypes.
Given what I know about you EddieInCA, it sounds like that wouldn’t appeal to you. And yet, I’ll bet you have now a well-established social network that sees you and knows you, and this is thing you value. You had to build it, and you likely don’t regret that. Where I came from, it was built-in.
I grew up on land my great-grandfather homesteaded in 1872. My father’s three brothers also lived on different parts of that land, and his sister had a summer residence there. There were other families in the area that dated from that time. Which means you knew something about them. Nobody was really rich, per se, but they all had a history that was known.
@Jay L Gischer:
First, really well said. I do want to push back on one small detail:
This is where reporting does all of us a lot of disservice in terms of our understanding of crime. Generally speaking, the majority of violent crime is typically not random. Most violent attacks are between people who know each other (ditto sexual assaults). It’s just this typically isn’t reported or it only gets called up in follow-up stories that most people don’t pay attention to.
Of violent crimes robberies/breaking and entering are the most likely to be done by strangers.
And my understanding is that these percentages are pretty consistent regardless of locale.
Getting to people’s blind spots we tend to over-emphasize stranger-danger and lastly under-emphasize how dangerous acquaintances can be.
Mayberry rests on an enforced social hierarchy that depends on things like lynchings and internment camps to punish people trying to disrupt the hierarchy. They may not want the lynchings, but they want the benefit of the lynchings. And frankly, when the lynchings do come, you’ll find they don’t want the lynchings in the airy “If I were a rich man…” sense, not in the “we’re actively working to stop these” sense. They’ll just stand by and let it happen and shrug because they didn’t “want” them to happen so it’s really not their problem at all.
For more context, success came late in life. I struggled to pay bills well into my early 40’s. I had alot of crap jobs to pay bills, while trying to learn the craft and meet people. I was in my mid-30’s when I got my first real mentor, who taught me how to actually do the job.
And while I do well now, “Hollywood Producer” is one of those things where the reality is very different than the perception. It’s a good living, but it’s hard work – encompassing being away from friends and family for long periods of time; sometimes in less than ideal situations.
A lot of crap jobs for a long time. Well worth it eventually, but damn, it was a ride.
My BIL, rural Tennessean, actively dislikes me because I live in Memphis. That’s what my sister told me, anyway. Because I live in a majority black city, he has never visited my home or directed any conversation to me at very infrequent family events. He cancelled me before he even met me.
It feels kinda threatening driving outside the city these days. Prius Killer bumperstickers on MASSIVE pickup trucks are a common sight. There was an old rusted out bus with a huge anti-Hillary sign parked off Highway 51 for years. Don’t go looking for country charm in these parts… I breathe a sigh of relief when I’m back in city limits.
@Michael Reynolds: Wait — your house doesn’t have a 5-person, remote controlled skeet shooting range?
For middle class women. Poorer women have always had a variety of jobs. Middle class women doing those jobs was seen as threatening their status. Now, moving up to the professional jobs, that was middle class women being kept out of middle class men’s jobs. There was the social pressure that a middle class wife or daughter working implied the middle class man couldn’t support them properly so they were prevented even if it meant living as Orwell’s “shabby genteel,” middle class on a working class salary.
The record of North Carolina lynchings shows the last one occurred in 1930 – 92 years ago – and that was late, with the bulk happening before the 1920’s.
Power, in places like Mt. Airy, flows much more from the local churches than from cops or mobs. If you want to find the ‘social hierarchy’ look for the biggest Baptist church in town.
I get the impression that not even @EddieInCa has a shooting range. Obviously he’s got a pool full of models in bikinis, but no skeet. And the only time he sees a horse is when some mafia don needs to cast a relative in a movie.
@Jay L Gischer: the very good HBO limited series Mare of Easttown from earlier this year shows some of the challenges of being a small town cop. On the one hand, she knows the trespassing addict because he’s the brother of her high school basketball teammate, so instead of arresting him, she calls around to find him some services. On the other hand, when she’s investigating the murder of a teenage girl and is narrowing down the suspects, she has a difficult time moving forward, because every suspect is someone she grew up with and cares about.
@Michael Reynolds: @wr:
Funny. My little 3/2, in Northridge, with no view gets me this in the Mount Airy, NC area:
That house in Los Angeles would be $5m, minimum. Even more if in Beverly Hills, The Palisades, or Santa Monica.
I want to congratulate you – and I hope others will join me – for making a non-stupid comment.
@MarkedMan: I have to admit, I have a difficult time having empathy for those with so little empathy for me and other city dwellers. We are told that we’re not “real Americans.” Our cafés and diners are not visited by reporters to get our perspectives. Our votes are automatically considered suspect. Our neighborhoods are considered crime-ridden hellholes. If they want empathy, encourage them to start showing some back.
ETA: it was during the 2008 election season that I first heard the term “flyover country.” I had never used the term, despite growing up in the Midwest and living on both coasts as an adult. But suddenly I was being told that people like me called rural, non-coastal America that all the time.
Or as my relatives from Missouri said when visiting my house: “Your house costs how much? That house be $60K back home in Dexter.”
Sadly, he wasn’t wrong.
@mattbernius: My favorite Tea Party sign was one that read Don’t turn Medicare into Some Socialized Medicine Scheme. I used to have a picture of that one but it was on a computer that lived in Korea and I didn’t make a copy to bring home. My friends (expat and Korean alike) saw that sign and we used to laugh at the cluelessness of that person. But then again, denial IS just a river in Egypt.
@Jay L Gischer: “If you’re a police officer, you don’t kneel on the neck of someone who lives two miles down the road for 10 minutes, killing them in the process. You know them, they know you.” [emphasis added]
I suspect, having lived in small towns that I didn’t grow up in for most of the past 40 years, that the highlighted portion of the quote above has more to do with it than “you’re both attached to web that also connects to the land somehow.” But perhaps I’m being too cynical. I’ve been “not from here” in several different places now. Cities are easier places to be “not from here” in my opinion. By a longshot.
@JKB: @Michael Reynolds: I certainly will second that. I was expecting that I might be the first in line but am happy to yield to one of our more illustrious social critics.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
You’re not being too cynical. It’s much easier to be “not from here” in a city.
Kierkegaard on city mouse vs country mouse. K. tells the story of the little cobbler from a small village out in the hinterland of Attica visiting Athens for the first time. He goes up to the Acropolis to visit the temples, and as he’s walking around he sees the marble relief of Nike adjusting her sandal. He looks at the sandal and says, “Shoddy workmanship.”
@Jay L Gischer:
Didn’t Jim Brown 32 comment a week or so ago about white attitudes toward poor whites. I’m not sure a small town cop wouldn’t kneel on a black, brown, or white trash neck.
Not cynical at all, I was going to make the exact same point.
In a small town there are locals and there is whatshisname. And if he’s an atheist? I learned a long time ago that the easiest way to get people to leave me alone was to tell them I don’t go to church.
@Michael Reynolds:..And I still wouldn’t live there.
Besides, even with the airport that close who’s going to deliver quality California weed that far?
Many people live in or near cities because of their jobs, trying to find the sweet spot between short commute and “as far away from the city as possible”. If you were to magically equalize jobs and housing prices, I don’t think you would end up with everyone in cities.
We need a rural revitalization program to ensure that people don’t flee from rural towns for purely economic reasons. They’re unpleasant people who are just making our cities unpleasant by their presence — everyone would be happier if they stayed in rural America.
Perhaps focus on the tiny “cities” that rural areas have, using the purchasing power of the government to spur the growth of manufacturing and services there, even if we have to overpay for these products and services. Rather than buying paperclips from China, buy them from Podunk.
It would be a wealth transfer, but it would also help stabilize the country.
@Jay L Gischer:
I’m jealous. I would even be good with “and Gustopher had an unhinged rant about something or other.”
The prices being driven up on the outer islands by people from big cities being freed up to telework would seem to argue against that premise. It isn’t Mt Airy, but it ain’t the city.
Nostalgia is a normal human thing that everyone does to some extent. Many people are nostalgic about a lot of things, including childhoods and that’s ok. I do not agree with those who try to dictate to strangers how they should feel about their personal circumstances growing up. Or that one is somehow obligated to feel eternal shame for the crime of having been born and raised in a community with advantages that were denied to others.
It is also possible to accept both the good and the bad. Those who assume that a white person who feels any nostalgia for their childhood growing up in the south is somehow promoting the idea of Jim Crow or is supporting racist ideas is, at best, a stupid assumption.
In my own case, I think of my Dad who was both an important and positive figure in my life, but also a broken and damaged SOB who caused a lot of family trauma. I’m nostalgic for my youth, for all the good things he did for me, and the experiences I had growing up. At the same time, I’m also angry at all the bad things he did. He cheated on my mom and threatened to kill her. At one point, he kidnapped me and abandoned me at a construction site. He had a temper that would explode. At least part of this was due to untreated PTSD from WWII, but that doesn’t really excuse it. Suffice it to say, I have a lot of mixed feelings. But not everything was about my dad – I have nostalgia for a lot of things when I was a kid.
My friends and I played “smear the queer” a lot as kids and I have fond memories of that. I didn’t know until later how offensive the name of the game was – it simply wasn’t something we were aware of until we got older.
That is the experience I had and as a kid, I had little control over it. I’m thankful and nostalgic for all the good things and benefits I had, and a lot of that I’ve tried to pass on to my own kids – that doesn’t mean that I ignore the terrible things or have any desire to pass those terrible things on to the next generation.
I think the same thing can be true for some white kid who grew up in the rural south in the 1950’s. Or for anyone who grew up in a small town or rural area. There seems to be this attitude among some progressives that no white person who grew up in the south or a small town with a homogenous population can have any positive feelings about the experience. Well, I disagree. Like anyone else, they have the right to have positive thoughts about the good things from their childhood – just like everyone else. Strangers on the internet who assume that people who express nostalgia are closet racists for not being wholly ashamed of their childhood circumstances should just be told to fuck off. No one made them the arbiter of anything, much less how individuals ought to feel and characterize their own childhood experiences.
The distinction there is metro areas. Most people move to the suburbs, not urban cores. Well over half the country’s population lives in suburban areas now, which have been growing faster than urban cores. Millennials, in particular, are starting to shift to the suburbs for the same reasons the boomers and Gen-X did – marrying and having families drives the desire for larger affordable homes and good schools.
@Michael Reynolds: Yup. My house is just over a million but it’s 6500 square feet on five acres. And I’m not in the boondocks.
@EddieInCA: Oh, for sure. Unless your daddy is a Hollywood big shot, it’s damn near impossible to break in because so many people want to do what you do. I think you’re 4 or 5 years older than me and you didn’t get your big break on TotC until I was finished with my PhD (and I took a four year detour in the Army.) Snd I’m guessing that it was years before you were making what I made as a lieutenant or junior prof. You make a hell of a lot more now but you’re at a level of success not many ever reach. You damn well earned it.
I was raised until fourteen in a town of 3,000 in ND. (In ND that qualified our HS for the big school league.) My family moved to more urban precincts. Years later I followed a job to Richmond IN, pop 20,000 then, and probably still. We had a very active newcomers club, largely because even people with way better social skills than mine couldn’t seem to make friends with the locals. Many of us had lived in small towns before but hadn’t seen this. We eventually decided that a) culturally it was a southern small town, and b) if their family didn’t know your family and they hadn’t known you through school, they didn’t have a mental hook to put you on.
Common line, probably true, was that there were more Richmond High grads in Indy than in Richmond.
@gVOR08: For sure, they wouldnt go the George Floyd route because they’re part of the same tribe. They’d eff up white trash that wasnt from their town with no problem though.
Most of these people are poor except for the few families that run the town and retirees that made money elsewhere but want the most out of their fixed income. The social hiearchy in these places is divided between people with money and people with values. People with money are, of course, at the top. Practically, the poor with a semblance of responsibility and values do not consider themselves in the poor group. They are adjacent (in their minds anyway) to the town’s ‘rich’ (really lower and upper middle class).
The ‘poor’ are the lazy, irresponsible, drug addicted, schiesters who try to nickle and dime every government, community institution, and person they can to keep sponsoring their lifestyle. This breeds resentment of these programs because if you have a job and are working hard….you either dont qualify or you dont have time to jump through all the hoops to get the assistance. Its not worth the squeeze.
Democrats should understand that should they desire to keep being the Party of the Poor, Programs, and Services. It translates different to rural folks
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
Cool, Cracker, now I know what you’re getting for your birthday! Now we’ve just got to decide if we’re getting you a sign or a t-shirt. Or a coffee mug.
Very true. The only people who’d hire my white, crippled grandmother in the 30’s/40’s/50’s were the “gentlemen” from Chinatown who “didn’t run” most of the gambling in that PNW port. And most of the white women in her neighborhood wouldn’t associate with a woman who didn’t go to church AND had friends in the “minority” communities.
@Jay L Gischer:
In town, grandma’s friends were mostly Filipina/Samoan/Black women (see my comment to JKB), so I was the kid who could play with the white kids but couldn’t invited for dinner. Her brothers settled in rural Whatcom County after their return from WWI and were viewed as “newcomers” for the 60+ years they lived there.
My experience in both Sheriff Andy’s and Mr. C’s neighborhoods left me outside, peeking in the windows. And yet, to all appearances, I looked just like them.
To paraphrase Wednesday Adams in the movie, no, I just look like everyone else. As always, YMMV.
I endorse this wholeheartedly. News picks up on the unusual stuff, and this gives to those viewing from a distance a very distorted view of what goes on. I would encourage everyone to use that idea when you see news about groups you don’t know anything about. Such as, for instance, rural folk.
That’s what Fed Ex and UPS are for.
@flat earth luddite:
Wow. Whatcom County is my home county. What are the odds? I can believe your story, but I’m now curious as to just where in WC they lived. Deming? Lynden? It seems less likely for Ferndale or Blaine, but still possible.
Let the R’s provide it for them (the won’t). Even if Dems successfully put together a program, they’d never get credit for it a the ballot box.
Im almost certain that one day, population density will be considered a public health, quality of life factor.
Humans are mostly pack animals and the conditioning that occurs in a highly dense pack(cities) and a spacious pack (bumfukistan) breeds citizien that, in aggregate, are dogmatic and inflexible in their thinking and approach to community /society.
You can see this in voting patterns, in general, the suburbs are our most reliable firewall between the rural and urban voter who believe whats best for their environment is obviously the best prescription everywhere.
Our cities need less people and our flyover areas need more. PEOPLE are the economy. If you have Poplulation 10,000…you have no economy.
BTW I loved the Andy Griffith show. I happen to catch a few episodes of the Black Wonder Years…really made me feel nostalgic. Its good to see a different version of American youth shared with all. Id like to see a hispanic version.
@MarkedMan: @MarkedMan: Apparently during a pandemic, many consider themselves epidemiologists even without any medical training. This discussion (and the one on the previous post) seems to be anecdotes and generalizations masking as sociology. “[To] a large degree, progressives in the US have astoundingly little empathy for rural folk of any kind, and perhaps especially white rural folk.” Pray tell, what is the evidence for this statement other than your occasional hobnobbing with members of the working class? I grew up in a rural area in a single-parent family with immigrant grandparents who spoke little English and who had worked in dirty, dangerous jobs in mills. I worked menial jobs from mill work to night shift care for cognitively disabled adult men. My first real exposure to black Americans was in the US Navy. I consider myself very progressive politically, perhaps even radical. How did that happen? Maybe because I realized early in my life that I was fortunate (some now may say, privileged) to have been born in this country and a white male. In your view, do we lack empathy because we don’t agree with some whose entire political and social views are expressions of white grievance?
You have shown you can do better than making ridiculous and insulting generalizations.
Interestingly enough, I’ve been thinking about these kind of issues after watching “The Power of the Dog”.
I just thought of another way of describing why someone might like rural life. Like it has been said, it’s a choice, different people like different things.
My cousin lives in SD, in the Black Hills. He is a retired math teacher, and a very clever fellow. He has told me some of the “real life” story problems he asked his students and they are very slick.
He spends most of his day in retirement driving a mini tractor into the National Forest nearby looking for fallen trees. He trims them, pays the park a nominal fee for them, and drags them back to his place, where he cuts them to length and uses a hydraulic splitter to make firewood, which he sells, also making deliveries with his mini-tractor and a trailer.
This is an occupation that keeps him active, gets him outdoors, which he likes, and does something that is valuable to his community and meaningful. He also has a lot of autonomy while doing it. This hits all the factors of human motivation. It is something he could not do as a city dweller, though to be sure, one can do other things in retirement that serve many needs. But maybe not the “outdoors in a National Forest every day” part.
And yes, the ability to do things like this, to live this way, is disappearing. Far fewer people can do this sort of thing than used to.
@flat earth luddite:
The old joke about Maine is that, even if you were born and lived in the same town your entire life, you weren’t a local because your parents were from away. That attitude has faded as the young have left the inland towns for the south coast. Where you still find it is in the island communities Downeast.
@dmichael: Here’s the most succinct way I can highlight what I see. When a progressive (of any color) makes a comment about discrimination based on race, and a poor white person says, “Well I’ve been discriminated against too!”, rather than inquire as to how they had been discriminated against, the immediate reaction is a contemptuous, “Well you’re white and therefore privileged. Your feelings of discrimination are nothing to me.”
Or are we not being harsh enough with Friends and Seinfeld?
In Seinfeld the answer is clear — these are horrible people, and they’re probably racists too. It explains everything.
In Friends… they are ostensibly good people, or at least presented as if they are good people, so if we wanted an in-universe explanation it would have to be something about cities and clusters of friends being remarkably segregated (which is true, and would have been a truly interesting theme to explore — Chandler dating a Black woman and everyone being really uncomfortable with her but not quite knowing why)
It’s also an era of television where we started regularly seeing Black TV (there were a few in the 70s, but it really took off with cable when there were more options), which meant more-than-token representation but basically more segregated shows. The rise of Black TV led to a whitening of mainstream TV. I don’t know that this was a good thing, and it feels like we are just getting back to the more integrated mainstream TV shows of the 70s and early 80s, where there were token minority characters that had meaty parts — Welcome Back, Kotter, Barney Miller, WKRP, etc.
It felt like a novelty stunt casting gimmick at the time when Star Trek: Deep Space 9 cast a Black man as lead, but watching it now the only thing that stands out is that he only dated Black women. (This might be more my personal growth than a genuine oddness at the time)
A bunch of years ago, I went to see Django Unchained on or near opening day (was that Christmas), and there was definitely a mixed crowd and trailers were mixed as well. There was a trailer for a white haunted house movie, followed by a trailer for a Black haunted house movie. I was slightly sad that they didn’t use the same sets.
Anyway, around the time of Friends and Seinfeld, TV was beginning to segregate, and they are weird as can be now.
Fuck that thinking. It’s bad. We are one country, and politicians should serve the entire country.
It’s also wrong tactically. We might not win over the rural areas, but we will decrease the margins there, which will help us win the states.
It also just hurts us. If our PPE stockpile was American made at the beginning of the pandemic, we would have had the ability to ramp up production here, rather than having a shortage of masks because of transit times from China and the Chinese needing those masks.
Having some manufacturing infrastructure is a national security and readiness interest.
And, I want the right wingers to stay where they are and not move to cities for jobs. I don’t like them, and want them to stay away. 20% of Seattle voted for Donald Trump — one in five of my neighbors is a Nazi — and that’s way to many. It’s like the Bush administration’s “flypaper theory” — Help them over there, so we don’t have to see them over here.
Lots of reasons, one for every level of contempt.
Congratulations! You get to avoid speaking to him AND be the better person!
It’s not as good as having a decent person in your sister’s life (I’m assuming if he was married to your brother, he would be a little bit less awful in this specific way), but it means you get full credit for attempts to be pleasant without the risk that he’ll actually speak to you.
Since my TV at home doesn’t get any channels I have had a small DVD collection. I used to have several seasons of Seinfeld on DVD, a series that I watched regliously in it’s first run when I did have a tube with rabbit ears.
After Michael Richard’s ni99er remarks at some nightclub, I threw all my Seinfeld DVDs in the trash. I tried to watch them but I wasn’t laughing any more.
I read about the apologies Richards had made but I guess I’m just not all that forgiving.
gVOR08- I graduated high school from Columbus IN.
@Mister Bluster: Don’t be so hard on yourself. At least you thought Seinfeld was funny once. That’s more times than I did.
That’s just … not true. I mean the whole concept of intersectionality belies that. And intersectionality, as I understand it, was an outgrowth of critical race studies, which is a subject on which progressives are attacked relentlessly.
I had fondish memories of Seinfeld from its first run. I recently tried to rewatch them with my wife and found the first season too cringy to get through. I’m not sure if it got better later in the run.
My high school, which only taught grades 10-12, had 4100 kids attending. So my high school was 33% bigger than your whole town.
Sad fact: Of the 1900+ that started 10th grade with me, only 721 of us graduated. Most dropped out.
Speaking as a white person who has been “discriminated” against I always say, “Man the F up.” because in every instance of “discrimination” I was subjected to, somehow or other I was always able to buy my way out of it.
Funny how that worked.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: Here I thought I was the only person who never got the jokes on Seinfeld.
@EddieInCA: I eventually went to a HS in IL roughly the size of my original home town.
I don’t recall our grad rate, but it was better than 721/1900+. That kind of grad rate doesn’t sound very Mayberryish.
@gVOR08: bet if you look at the dropout rate at the time in the Appalachian region, it kinda is
I have zero nostalgia in my soul. I’m actually working on a memoir/writing how-to, so I’m walking back through my life, and the closest I come is some kind thoughts for a couple restaurants I worked in. I wouldn’t go back to any moment in my past. I’m a lot of things but I’m not ungrateful or unaware of how lucky I’ve been. There was a time in my life when my alternate life path was turning into Walter White without the chemistry degree. My life is a series of near misses and crazy dumb luck. You don’t want to replay that hand where you drew four aces, you just want to await the inevitable retribution of the irony gods.
I can totally respect that. Everyone has a different experience.
One other point – there were plenty of shows that lampooned rural America – Green Acres, Hee Haw, Beverly Hillbillies are the ones off the top of my head.
I haven’t watched any of them in decades, but I remember them being funny (at least they were when I was a kid) and absurdly and stereotypically satirical about white rural America and white rural Americans.
Green Acres and Beverly Hillbillies, maybe, but Hee Haw was filmed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville by and for rural southerners, so was not lampooning them (at least not intentionally).
@Andy: I occasionally watch Gunsmoke reruns on cable. They routinely had “white trash”, “hillbilly”, “Appalachian”, whatever you might call them, characters that were appalling stereotypes. And suddenly now they want to make a big deal out of not being respected?
@Jay L Gischer: A bit outside of Lynden near Loomis Trail Road. The old farmstead is still there, although apparently now owned by non-locals growing berries/grapes, AFAICT.
OTOH, Grandma’s old neighborhood in Rainier Valley is, AFAICT, turned into either wild Himalayan blackberry farms or meth labs (I can’t tell which in a drive-by).
The great thing about The Beverly Hillbillies is that it only pretended to lampoon the bumpkins, it was Drysdale, the Beverly Hills banker, and his snooty society wife who were the designated fools.
@Gustopher: “It felt like a novelty stunt casting gimmick at the time when Star Trek: Deep Space 9 cast a Black man as lead, but watching it now the only thing that stands out is that he only dated Black women. (This might be more my personal growth than a genuine oddness at the time)”
I don’t think this had a lot to do with the producers or the distributor as it did with Avery Brooks himself. My first sale was to his breakout show Spenser: For Hire, and one of the episode’s guest stars was a very annoying female publicist, played by Kate Burton. There’s a moment when she finally falls asleep (and thus stops complaining) and Hawk in the script says something like “Not too bad when her mouth isn’t moving.”
And no, not the greatest line or moment in the world — hey, it was my first professional script! — but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that Avery Brooks insisted that his character would never express even this much attraction towards a white woman. Ever. (We changed the line. It hurt nothing.)
So if his character on Deep Space 9 only dated Black women… that was probably a big piece of it.
@Gustopher: “Or are we not being harsh enough with Friends and Seinfeld?”
You can appreciate them for what they did well or you can decide that what they did badly was so egregious that it outweighs everything else. It’s not like we can change them now, so watch or don’t.
@Grewgills: ” I recently tried to rewatch them with my wife and found the first season too cringy to get through.”
The first two short seasons weren’t good at all. I don’t know if you’d still like the later seasons, when the show found its voice, but they are the show you once loved, not those early ones.
I get quite creeped out when there are not sidewalks. Creeped out might be a bit too far – disconcerted.
A downtown is where I am most comfortable.
I didn’t even own a car for years and years because I did not need one and owning one was not worth the expense. I could walk, take a bus, get a taxi.
One of the best things ever is being able to walk to work. Being able to do so in the skyway during winter was pretty awesome.
Avery Brooks is such a self-contained person in every role.
It is not that he disdains or rejects others opinions, he just gives the sure feel that his personal shit is his business.