Unlike many of my left-leaning colleagues, I like to keep politics out of the classroom. Ditto for those thorny social issues. We don’t discuss abortion or gay marriage in my classes unless it’s somehow in the context of the day’s lesson.
Well, it’s a good thing I’m on sabbatical this fall. Were I in the classroom today, campaign strategy and communications would certainly have been dragged into the discussion. And I would almost certainly have been ranting about this…
Yesterday, at a political rally in nearby Greene, Ohio, Gretchen Wilson sang her hit song, “Redneck Woman,” after which she introduced VP candidate Sarah Palin as someone with that “same maverick attitude.”
I applaud the “maverick” label for the McCain campaign, as it helps to separate the ticket from W’s administration. And McCain has earned the badge. But “maverick” and “redneck” just ain’t the same thing, dadgumit.
To the gathering of her faithful here in Ohio, Palin opened by saying: “Someone called me a redneck once and I said, ‘Why, thank you.'”
Thanks for labeling me a redneck? Were I seated at the campaign “table” of McCain-Palin, I’d have to ask: Does Gov. Palin not understand middle America? Or does she understand it all too well?
It’s the last question that scares me, because it raises some serious ethical issues.
Having grown up in Western Pennsylvania coal country, I know a little about rednecks. Yep, where I come from, Iron City Beer and Redman chewing tobacco are part of the food pyramid. Rednecks were part of my social circle, and among those I called “good friends” back in the day. I played ball with them, hunted rabbits with them and drank beer with them – sometimes all in the same day.
Here’s what I know about rednecks after living among them:
Rednecks are an intolerant lot. They love to bully those different in looks, economic status or beliefs.
Rednecks eschew education. They go to school because it’s the law, but their parents have little involvement in their kids’ education. “That’s why they pay teachers, ain’t it?”
Rednecks don’t respect the environment. Not theirs and not the one we share with them. You know the stereotype of a car up on blocks outside a dillapidated clapboard house with an old couch on the porch? It’s not a stereotype where I grew up.
Rednecks don’t get the concept of “community” or “law.” They’re self-centered — fueled by arrogance and driven by ignorance. The law is something you work to get around.
As a professional communicator and campaign strategist, would you EVER counsel your client to adopt the label of “redneck”?
The polls clearly show the McPalin ticket in trouble. Maybe they think Redneck America will help them catch Obama. Unfortunately, those dumbass college boys running their campaign forgot the most important characteristic of rednecks. They don’t vote!
By adopting theme of “redneck girl” and embracing the title, Sarah Palin comes dangerously close to also embracing the racist values that divide us — the intolerance for people different from ourselves.
Rednecks? They want nothing to do with the likes of Barack Obama. He’s black, he’s articulate, he’s educated and he’s thoughtful. He is all they are not. Rednecks aren’t the kind of folks I want on my side. But unlike our esteemed candidates, I don’t live in a win-at-all-costs world.
A former client of mine, a lifelong New Yorker (Yanis, you out there?), once marveled that I survived my childhood in Appalachia.
“I understand the muggers in Brooklyn,” Yanis said. “They kick your ass to take your wallet. It’s just business. Rednecks? They kick your ass because that’s just the way they are. How do you reason with that?”
You don’t, Yanis. You don’t.
To celebrate one’s “redneck” status is divisive and plain wrong. Even Joe the Plumber would agree – if he were really were a plumber, but that’s another post for another time.
So yeah, I’m happy I’m not in the classroom this semester. Because I’d have no choice but to stage a few rants about the redneck strategy of McCain-Palin and their party of “family values.”
As my redneck friends used to say: “Pshaw.”
Note to Governor Palin: If Ms. Wilson can’t make your next rally, let me suggest you invite Randy Newman to sing his classic, “Rednecks.” This song tells you what the breed is really all about, and if you take time to study the lyrics, you might just rethink your position.
Disclosure: A registered republican since 1982, I crossed over to vote in the Democratic primary this year. I didn’t leave the GOP. The party left me. The strategy of McPalin reinforces my decision each day. Kinda sad.