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richard
Posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 - 05:47 am:   

No, not me - I got nothing to complain about.

This is more an information gathering exercise than a post, sparked by a post I just made about terrorism over on the war/dod e-mail thread.

An article I read recently explained the psychotic behaviour of Bush and neocon America thus: the neocon/religious right matrix is a product of thinking rooted in the deep south of the US, and the South has for the last hundred and fifty years been a defeated and humiliated culture. Thus you have the most powerful men on Earth (and their various populist backers in the media and the pulpit) covering up for an aggrieved loser mentality with all the xenophobia and desperate fear that this entails. (This also has some echoes in a nasty little process currently going on in the UK where extreme right wing power bases are on the rise in the poorest of white urban neighbourhoods)

Does this ring true to any Americans out there? Is it a simplification? Just plain wrong? What other explanations for the neocon pschosis are there?

Any thoughts, experiences, data gratefully received.
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Tim Akers
Posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 - 09:30 am:   

Mmm, I'm going to call that a little over-simplified. Let me throw some thoughts out there. I'm not trying to make any definitive statements here, cuz I think this is a damn complex topic "complexity in american culture? How could this be?" shout the europeans:D

First off, you'll find that the people who tend to throw their lot in with the conservatives (neocon is a misleading term, because it specifically refers to a movement some eighty years old, so I avoid it) are what we call 'low information' voters. They don't involve themselves in the details of any particular issue. They tend to hold opinions based on their 'gut feeling' or simply what they were taught as children. Hence the conservative.

As for the religious right, I'm a little wary of the entire concept. I think this particular phenomenon goes back way way way farther than the american civil war. Remember, a lot of the phanatiques and religiously persecuted fled places like england and holland to settle in the use. Our first founders were, frankly, a little nutsy on the god thing. There is a deep current of conservative religiosity that moves throughout the united states. There are areas that are less affected by this, but I'll theorize on the reasoning for this in a moment.

So, there we have the two pillars of the current conservative movement. First of all, before we start linking bush and his cronies to the south, I must point out one thing. In my opinion, one of the most evil men in the organization is rumsfeld, and he's from chicago. In fact, just last week while testifying in front of the senate armed services committee, rumsfeld compared himself (favorably) to Grant. If that doesn't send a shiver down the spine of any southerner out there, I don't know what will.

Right, back to the two pillars. The important thing to understand at this point is that both of these movements, for lack of a better word, proliferate in rural areas. I think you'll find conservative support in pretty much any rural area, regardless of its specific geography (north or south). In fact, the urbanization of the south is creating many pockets of progressive thought. Places like Atlanta, Asheville and Austin are full of pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion activists. But move five or ten miles outside the city limits, and you're back to bush country.

So, when we say that this kind of thinking is primarily southern, what we're really saying is that it's primarily rural, and the south is a more rural place than is the north. I don't personally think that it has anything to do with defeatist attitudes following the ACW, or any southern specific xenophobia. I've met just as many racists here in Chicago and in my travels to other parts of this bizarre country as I knew growing up in North Carolina. They may take a different tack, but I don't think that's something specific to the south.

On the subject of xenophobia, again that's something engendered by american isolationism, which leads to american unilateralism. But this post has gone on for quite a while, and really I'm supposed to be working.

Enjoyed Broken Angels, btw. Different book that Altered Carbon, but still very enjoyable.
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Jerem Lassen
Posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 - 09:35 am:   

I'm not sure I agree with that assessment. Texas kind of falls outside of that traditional civil war/reconstruction north/south dichotomy.

check this out:
http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0420/perlstein.php

The weird Christian fundamentalism/end-times-ism, and its resulting need to support Israel at all costs seems to be a bigger driving force to me.

Weird shit.
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Tim Akers
Posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 - 10:45 am:   

I'm pretty sure that apocalyptic christianity wasn't on Wolfowitz's mind when he wrote his paper on creating a friendly middle east. That's what this is really about, creating a western friendly islamic state to influence the rest of the region. The man is trying to fix the middle east, but he's doing it backwards. If anything, he's aggrevating the problem.

As far as zionist christianity is concerned, I'm really comfortable saying that that's a minority among the population. They're out there, sure, and they're vocal. But most red-lever-pulling americans aren't supporting the war because they believe that doing so will bring about the end times. That's an extremist view, and while frightening, it doesn't reflect the opinions of the vast majority of the religious right.
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 - 01:11 pm:   

Also, rural Kansas was for years a hotbed of left wing activism. I'm not sure I buy the rural/urban thing that much.

JeffV
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richard
Posted on Wednesday, May 19, 2004 - 04:58 am:   

Thanks guys,

Interestingly enough, I was told something similar to Tim's rural/urban line when I was in Portland - my media escort told me that in the city it's a fairly left/liberal environment, but that you only have to drive twenty miles out and you're into Bible and Shotgun territory. It's curious because it's the exact antithesis of the De Tocqueville thing - that American small town community spirit is what built American democracy as a viable system. Then again, what DT understood by democracy is probably a very far cry from what we demand of it these days.
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Tim Akers
Posted on Wednesday, May 19, 2004 - 06:43 am:   

Yes, rural kansas was precisely that hotbed; In the 1800s, when left wing activists wandered around with bibles and shotguns. I'm talking modern, after the secession of the dixiecrats and the end of the once "Solid South."

As with all generalities, there are always exceptions, regardless. But for every rural hotbed of activism, I can point to a hundred urban hotbeds, and two hundred rural strongholds of the radical right. Let's not make the rules according to the exceptions, eh?
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Will Hindmarch
Posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 11:14 am:   

The North/South thing is a perpetuating cycle, I think. A friend of mine routinely makes fun of the South for not letting go of the Civil War, and he does it by constantly mentioning the Civil War.

Short version is I think it's simplification for Southerners as a people, but probably spot-on for a number of powerful individuals. It's not just defeatism, though; it's also a feeling of ongoing persecution. The gun culture, the South, and some related groups are commonly mocked and ridiculed within the bounds of acceptable social conduct. However, if an NRA member with a twang in his voice makes fun of New Yorkers, he may be attacked for his behavior. Perhaps this fosters binary philosophies in the South? I don't know; I've never been south of Virginia as an adult, but that's how it seems up here as the son of an armchair Civil War scholar.

I'm oversimplifying now, myself, of course.
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richard
Posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 11:30 am:   

Will - yeah, that not letting go thing is usually the tell-tale, and neatly solves the generalisation problem. Sure, southerners in general can't be lumped together - but probably those who still go on and on about the civil war can. (And ditto for those northerners who can't let it go too, I suppose).

Ah, it's a common enough stupidity. I've noticed a similar dynamic in the Greece/Turkey divide. There are people in Greece still belly-aching about Turkish incursions into Europe that go back centuries. And right here in Glasgow, we've got our own peculiar idiocy embedded in the Orange marches - those guys are still bleating about a three century old conflict - and they WON for chrissake.

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