The attached article came across my desk this morning, but my wife and I were just discussing Rednecks last night:
I self-identify as ethnically Redneck. I grew up in the woods shooting guns(1) and fishing, riding four-wheelers and driving tractors, drinking beer. Mostly stuff I still very much enjoy doing today. But...
I don't know if other people see me as Redneck or not.
I value hard work and personal accountability - I believe all honest labor is virtuous. I believe freedom isn't free, and I honor the spilled blood of *all* the reactionaries whose sacrifices have allowed our society to progress to where we are today. I don't think a Fancy Degree from some Ivy League School makes you one bit better than me with my GED and college drop-out status. I grow my beard, that God gave me, like a man was meant to. And yes, I own an American Flag and 12-ga shotgun, both of which I keep in good repair.
My United States naval service provided me an opportunity to live for six years in two different European countries - democratic socialist countries - and opportunity to better understand what it really means to be a minority in society dominated by someone else's culture. This means I can see with my own eyes the people in this country who are excluded from mainstream society, people now excluded that have been excluded for decades and for centuries. It also means that I do not as readily accept the "Communist Boogeyman" arguments that Right-wing media so often peddle to my Redneck brethren. And although I don't think the labels of "Leftist" or a "Socialist" come anywhere near defining me, I'm not afraid of being labeled as such when I stick up for Organized Labor, or to assert that the our country is doing a piss-poor job of taking care of our sick and impoverished, of treating the people in our prisons humanely, or that "Late stage capitalism" isn't working out all that great for most people - These positions may make me a pariah among the Rednecks I grew up with, although in total honestly, I'm not completely sure.
My experience at University studying Engineering provided me with new skill sets in math and science, and taught me how "vigorous research" is performed in an academic setting. This means I'm not intimidated when Experts or The Media break out their flashy interactive graphs and damned statistics to lie to me for their stockholders' and advertisers' benefit - I can work through issues for myself because I know how to read and how to use a library. And so while the Liberal Elites don't intimidate me, I don't think I have the visceral hatred of them that many of my fellow Rednecks do.
I am very proud of where I'm from. But I now live 600 miles to the North and have no plans of "going home" to live anytime soon. That's because the Arch-Conservative(2) Policies of Oklahoma's government over the past 30 years of my life, combined with the knock-on effects of Bill Clinton's NAFTA, and the Housing Bubble's Burst in 2008 - which led to the largest redistribution of wealth in our nation's history to the rich from the middle class and poor - these things have destroyed my home.
Fort Smith used to be a manufacturing powerhouse where any man could get a decent job if he were willing to work hard at Rheem/Ruud, PREDCO, Baldor, or any of the Furniture Plants. Those high paying jobs are now gone, probably forever, and all of that manufacturing equipment now lies in Mexico being operated by people who make a few dollars an hour with no healthcare or retirement benefits. The Public School System of Oklahoma is in shambles, as evidenced by the Teacher Strike last year (oh, and the GOP in the Legislature has since voted to pull back most if not all of the concessions the Teachers were formerly granted). Public Healthcare is a nightmare there with so many unemployed turning to alcohol and methamphetamine to cope, and the politicians couldn't care less (although promises of "Cracking down on the Druggies" will win some Sheriff's races for you). My home is a shell of the place it once was.
I still see myself as Redneck, but maybe the Navy turned me Pirate. Maybe some Rebel Blood once watered my Cherokee roots, and that's the source of my dissent with the American Status Quo. Or maybe this Redneck just got lucky enough, to get educated enough, to crawl out from under my would-be Corporate Masters.
If you'd like to get to know this Redneck better, my family has an Open Dinner Table. Hit me up, we'll break some bread, trade some stories, and hopefully both be better equipped to understand our neighbors better.
(1) I tend to prefer using the nomenclature I learned in the Navy of "weapon", although firearm, sidearm, long arm, and shotgun are perfectly descriptive and equally acceptable terms for personal weapons. "Guns" fire 2,700# rounds 24 nautical miles from aboard the deck of warships.
(2) Arch-Conservatism dominates in Oklahoma in both the political and popular-religious spheres. It is a firmly held belief of mine that the two of these reinforce one another, by design. If I'm right, it means the solution to the woes of my home may be neigh un-fixable... unless the Rednecks Revolt taking back both their government and their religion from The Powers That Be.