Friday, May 6, 2011

A Time to Rant

I was reading the Common Dreams website (Bill Moyers says the online resource is a "must" in his life and work) recently.  It's a compendium of "breaking news & views from a progressive perspective. And the latest ideas, opinions and in-depth analysis by some of the world's best progressive writers, thinkers and activists." The sight gleans articles from various publications (that it then posts under the Fair Use doctrine of US copyright law) and publishes insightful original reporting and commentary from a host of well respected contributors.


I had one or two of my own articles published on the site some time ago. I submitted a couple of more articles for publication (in reference to the leaking nuclear reactors at Fukushima) over the last couple of months but they were rejected. I guess they have a higher standard now. I am kind of disappointed with Common Dreams though. It's not because they rejected my last couple of submissions. I get rejected all the time. Just the other day  my proposal to use the bathroom at a fancy downtown hotel was rejected. It was no big deal I quickly found another outlet. I know how to cope with rejection. I'm used to it.


I guess I'm disappointed because their standards are high but not that high. It hit me when I read a recent short commentary by Abby Zimet in the site's sidebar feature entitled "Further." The entry, entitled U.S.A.! includes a Youtube video that captures the glee with which many Americans have celebrated the killing of Osama Bin Laden. In her two line description of the video, Zimet writes:
"A redneck in West Virginia celebrates the death of Bin Laden in quintessentially American fashion. Who ever said we, as a nation, lack dignity or grace?"
I got her disappointment, embarrassment, etc. with knee-jerk reactions but I didn't think it required a response in kind. Then I discovered another great thing about the Common Dreams website - the comment section. Anybody can post anything they want as long as it's not derogatory (unless you're a contributing editor - then anything goes I guess) and you get to have your name appear alongside the long list of luminaries whose words of wisdom appear in the main featured articles section! It's great!! I go by the moniker "Cupcake." Here's what I had to say in response to U.S.A.:


I’m a fan of comedian Jeff Foxworthy. I really like his jokes that start out with, “You might be a redneck if…” They are usually good natured and there is often something about them that hits home with me. When I read the line: “A redneck in West Virginia celebrates the death of Bin Laden…,” it sounded vaguely like a Foxworthy joke only the words hit below the belt. The statement is as loaded as the gun the guy in the video fires into the wind. The use of the word “redneck” here alone speaks volumes of how powerful educated elitists can wield words like a sword to create artificial divisions and defend their opinion at the expense of any kind of meaningful and inclusive dialogue. If you hope to win the heart and mind of somebody toting a loaded sidearm, it’s probably best not to insult him. Then again if you want to exclude them from the discussion go ahead and take a potshot.
No matter how you cut it, “redneck” like its lexical cousin “white trash” is derogatory. In describing the latter term, Matt Wray, the author of Not Quite White: White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness, writes:
“It conjures images of poor, ignorant, racist whites: trailer parks and wife beaters too many kids and not enough government cheese. It’s hard to care about such people. It’s even harder to take them seriously.”
During the West Virginia coal mine wars striking miners who donned red kerchiefs around their necks were quickly labeled “rednecks” by the Pinkerton guards and armed forces sent in to “put them in their place.” The derisive term stuck for years, hanging around the necks of union miners, who were a perennial target of discriminatory employment practices and more. Today people of West Virginia, one the poorest populations in the US, are a favorite target for the “redneck” tag.
Would we frame the actions of the Commander-in-Chief, who actually ordered the killing of Bin Laden and later lauded it in his address to the nation, with an equally derogatory expression? Certainly not, but there is a fine line between that and the tendency to paint the many poor and undereducated who often wind up serving as the cannon fodder for our Imperialist adventures around the world with the “redneck” brush.
Now while I was spending a good half an hour of my life typing this comment, somebody at the Common Dreams website went and changed the word "redneck" to "yahoo. " That's good because they realized the term was offensive and replaced it with another perhaps less pejorative term but the real crime here for me was that it rendered my lengthy diatribe entirely pointless (ahhhh!). I could have been watching TV during that half hour or driving an all terrain vehicle around town while shooting a six gun into the wind (like the guy in the video on the Common Dreams website). That is, if I had any of those things. Then something extraordinary happened. It was something that I have only experienced once or twice on these web pages. Somebody commented on my comment! Somebody actually read what I wrote!! I forget exactly what it said but I think it all boiled down to "you might be a redneck but we love you anyway." It was a gratifying affirmation of my existence.


The View from Here


What do local Temple Vallians think of American's celebratory reaction to the killing of bin Laden?  I don't know, everybody has stopped talking to me (due to a series of unrelated incidents that happened a long time ago). The Japan Probe website, however, has translated some comments made by Japanese netizens from Japan's popular (and notoriously mean spirited) Channel Two message board as well as interviews with some surviving relatives of the 9/11 World Trade Center massacre that appeared in the mainstream Japanese press.

Final Thoughts on the Death of OBL from Michael Moore via, uh, Common Dreams - it's a really great site(added May 13).


Related: Remember Operation Nifty Package?

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