Racism, fundamentalism, fear and propaganda: An insider explains why rural, white Christian America will never change

By Forsetti’s Justice, Alternet

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is still being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete bullshit. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to throw attention away from the real problem. The real problem isn’t east coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is rural America doesn’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of choices they’ve made and horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.

I grew up in rural, Christian, white America. You’d be hard-pressed to find an area in the country that has a higher percentage of Christians or whites. I spent most of the first 24 years of my life deeply embedded in this culture. I religiously (pun intended) attended their Christian services. I worked off and on, on their rural farms. I dated their calico skirted daughters. I camped, hunted, and fished with their sons. I listened to their political rants at the local diner and truck stop. I winced at their racist/bigoted jokes and epithets that were said more out of ignorance than animosity. I have also watched the town I grew up in go from a robust economy with well-kept homes and infrastructure turn into a struggling economy with shuttered businesses, dilapidated homes, and a broken down infrastructure over the past 30 years. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand these people. The problem is they don’t understand themselves, the reasons for their anger/frustrations, and don’t seem to care to know why.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

21 COMMENTS

  1. The problem isn’t a lack of understanding by coastal elites. The problem is a lack of understanding of why rural, Christian, white America believes, votes, behaves the ways it does by rural, Christian, white America.

    The problem, as of now, is exactly the coastal elites, for not seeing the profound systemic flaws in American Democracy.

    There is never any virtue in laying blame at the feet of the merely guilty, if they lack the freedom to think and act elsehow. Blame only those able to act freely.

    Don’t ever, ever think to vote again for a politician who has lined their pockets with Goldman Sachs Money.

    Make politics honest and honest folk may better listen.

    Excellent analysis otherwise.

  2. Re: #1

    Anyone who’s witnessed the last two weeks, and can STILL parrot the ‘the U.S. political parties are interchangeable’ nonsense is beyond reason.

    And functioning as an active tool of fascism.

    [First sentence removed by moderator to bring within Terms of Use.]

  3. Ouch. If your comment at #2 was really directed at Phil, John, I can assure you you’ve leapt to entirely the wrong conclusion about what he’s arguing, as you’d see if you looked back at his commenting history. But he’ll no doubt be along to explain that himself in due course.

  4. Sanders is honest, John.

    From over here in Europe, all Americans appear way over to the right, increasingly corrupt, biblically obsessed with justice and just desserts, like it fixed society, biblically obsessed with charity like it fixed social injustice, and starved of information of the rest of the planet. They have exactly the wrong toolset for a modern society to thrive any longer.

    Blaming the parasitised southern rump complicit in their own downfall delivers a little release of pleasure, but its the kleptocrats that have sculpted and maintained this state of affairs.

    Bigger fixes are needed than most in the USA contemplate. A step back is needed from all to see their own complicity.

  5. Marco, there is indeed a spectacular difference between the insanity of the uber right and that home for most decent folk, the Democratic Party. But I truly want want Americans to contemplate a bigger change and realise much they hold as self-evident truths about commerce (unfetter it) and Government (diminish it) and punishing and rewarding individuals like society played no role in failure and success, are too simple minded for use any longer.

    Holding the potentialities of government in relative contempt makes it too easy for a Koch Brothers’ buyout.

    Too few of the Democrats, if they think like me, say the good stuff out loud.

  6. Yup, totally got that, Phil. The Democrats are nowhere near as obscene as the Republicans; but they’re mostly nowhere near bold enough at present either. Big shake-up needed in order to create something that actually is a real alternative to the current ingrained exclusion of the non-mega-rich.

    I worry a bit about who’s going to do it, though. I have a lot of respect for Sanders, but to me he feels more like someone’s granddad than a nation’s president (though it’s impossible to imagine anyone less presidential than the current incumbent, of course). And I like Elizabeth Warren and think she’d make a great president, but it’s hard to avoid concluding that the US is some way off being ready to vote in large enough numbers for a female president yet. I’m not familiar with the other names that have been batted around.

  7. I cancelled my Time Magazine subscription (I live in Germany) around 2005 because of their kid-gloves treatment of scumbag Dubya (for more details of the then US media’s total failure David Brock’s 2004 book “The Republican Noise Machine” could be helpful). But before that, there was an article (an on-the-cover one) about the “American Taliban”. John Walker Lindh, captured as an enemy combatant during the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001. Now he was a convert to (Sunni) Islam, and thus a Taliban “proper”. It did not take me long (though memory, overlaid by later information, is always iffy) that “Taliban” as a generic term (like fundamentalists) need not be limited to Islam. The IS and Boko Haram in Nigeria fit the “proper” bill. But for sheer mass, no country seems to top the US – though, come to think of it, how many people are strictly “rural, Christian, white America”? Especially rural, c’mon, the US has the most industrialized farming system (industry) in the world. What is this, town / city dwellers still considering themselves to be “aw shucks” farmers, like the cowboy myth that has about 99% to do with Hollywood rather than reality? Anti-education sentiment is the massive problem, as far as I can see. And of course a by now creaky electoral system, not just for the president. Just think of the corrosive, corrupting term “gerrymandering”.

  8. I have a lot of respect for Sanders, but to me he feels more like someone’s granddad than a nation’s president.

    He’s old! And doesn’t dye his hair.

    But if you read, “Our Revolution. A Future to Believe in”, you’ll see that all his ideas are sound and entirely pragmatic. He is no idealogue, merely moral.

    Yes he’s too old now. We need another to step into his shoes. But I feel the Democratic Party knows its lacklustre image cannot allow it Sanders’ style of supporter/voter funding and that they must remain with hand out to rich vested interests.

    We need an independent, and Democratic help, I suspect.

  9. GK. You get to call yourself a farmer if you drive a Pickup. I think the mentality is unchanged though. Cultural isolation from the world breeds a fear of the world and an effort to further isolate.

  10. But if you read, “Our Revolution. A Future to Believe in”, you’ll see
    that all his ideas are sound and entirely pragmatic. He is no
    idealogue, merely moral.

    I have. Which is why I have a lot of respect for him. I’m just not sure that he comes in the packaging that would enable him to get his messages and his vision across. I sincerely hope there’ll be someone who can.

  11. Marco,

    considering how far he got against Hilary I think he has pretty well packaged himself. He presses all the right Old School Republican buttons of fighting for the little man and against the force majeure of economic monopolies. That’s why his campaign covered the unexpected voting range it did.

    What do you think a Bernie Sanders II needs in addition?

    Incidentally, I’ve found “Bad Samaritans” Ja Hoon Chang absolutely essential to understand the evolution of US political parties and their shifting economic alliances.

  12. Phil,

    In substance: nothing. I’d vote for him like a shot (bad phrase to use in a US context). But I’ve seen a number of his speeches/interviews where he just didn’t look or sound like a POTUS in waiting. It wasn’t what he was saying; it was the way he was saying it, his gestures, his appearance. I know that is all desperately superficial, but let’s face it, it’s pretty clear that many voters don’t decide how to vote on the basis of a long, hard, rational examination of the candidates’ policies. I’d vote for him because I support his programme; but to win, he’d need to sway those who don’t already support his programme. And I do worry about the fact he’ll be 79 at the next election. It’s not ideal.

    That said, I’ve just googled to see whether I’m talking rubbish, and I might be! He comes across much better here: https://www.cbsnews.com/videos/bernie-sanders-on-sexual-harassment-absurd-gop-tax-bill/

    How do you rate Elizabeth Warren?

  13. @OP – I grew up in rural, Christian, white America. . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .

    The problem isn’t that I don’t understand these people.
    The problem is they don’t understand themselves,
    the reasons for their anger/frustrations,
    and don’t seem to care to know why.

    That’s because it is fundamentalist Christian white America, . . . . . . where faith-thinking from preconceptions inculcated by authority figures, provides mind-closing pseudo-answers, which indoctrinated people cling to, but which don’t work in the real world of practical applications!

    When the thinking of mental gymnastic Biblical apologetics, is applied to adverse outcomes in real life, it provides no effective solutions to real world problems – Just as Trump’s attempts to prop up obsolete coal industries combined with obstruction the scientific education, and the development of the new technologies which will provide future jobs, won’t help the people who need to move to new efficient clean technologies for employment.

    The uncompetitive backward red-necks, may feel good for a few days after cheering for Trump, but that will offer them nothing by way of a long-term future! – It will of course be anybody’s fault except Trump’s and their own, when Trumpery fails to deliver! – (At least according to Trump, Faux News, and Dimbart!)

  14. Alan #13

    That’s because it is fundamentalist Christian white America, . . . . .
    . where faith-thinking from preconceptions inculcated by authority
    figures, provides mind-closing pseudo-answers, which indoctrinated
    people cling to, but which don’t work in the real world of practical
    applications!

    In rural, fundamentalist areas, the people are very provincial. Their area of concern covers only their district, and within that district they will be the first to help those in need. Beyond that area, though, they don’t care.

    That indoctrination is reinforced by their community, and they rarely have any reason to question it. Especially if we’re talking about generation after generation.

    Have you ever read Mark Twain’s “Pudd’nhead Wilson”?

  15. Racism and fundamentalism:

    A friend of mine put it well, I thought: “It is beyond their experience and education to begin to understand what it means to understand what their reality is.”

    Of course it isn’t hopeless, as the author (OP) stupidly suggests – and I am no optimist. Everything changes. It could get worse, or better, or stay the same for a long time. Each of these scenarios is possible.

  16. Many of the most stubborn reactionaries, the worst religious fanatics, and the most vicious racists are not from rural areas or the South. They have infiltrated all walks of life. And an analysis of this past election that I read proves that it was not the rural voters or working class and those in the “rust belt” that got Trump elected. That helped. Maybe a lot. But he had a lot of support from all walks of life: the college educated, suburban women, professionals, etc. We still need to abolish the electoral college, however.

  17. In this sad catalogue of inward-turned, indoctrinated, self-immolation there are very few ways in which, as the author points out, such communities are exposed to wider peer pressures, to the recognition of their own eccentricity. As he also points out, theirs is a world of group reinforcement but not impervious to wider consumer technology (like iphones). It is becoming increasingly obvious that the algorythm-tailored feeds of social media are maintaining and abetting mind-sets like these, often by supplying them with an argumentum ad populum. Contrary and debunking arguments are excluded. These are the classic conspiracy ‘theorists’ of Golden-age civilisations, Planet X crap, Chem trails, Obama death camps, you name it…, seeming ludicrously stupid when they demonstrate staggering ignorance of very simple facts; yet with all that Dunning-Kruger confidence.
    I also thought of Mark Twain on reading this, specifically Huckleberry Finn. He describes so clearly and kindly, how people who cannot bear to appear ignorant (and vulnerable) will not just draw on superstition as a solace but actively invent it, often for various obviously venal purposes. The confidence tricksters, who share Huck and Jim’s raft for a while, use exactly the strategies of Trump and the Evangelical fraudsters and fleece everyone they can, moving downriver rapidly to keep ahead of their reputation.
    Education; rational, secular, coeducational, with nationally prescribed curricula and textbooks and rigorously monitored implementation, seems the only long-term effective answer. As with most of the world’s ills.
    Parents should no longer be allowed to intellectually disable their children through their own hubris.

  18. Marco

    That said, I’ve just googled to see whether I’m talking rubbish, and I might be! He comes across much better here: https://www.cbsnews.com/videos/bernie-sanders-on-sexual-harassment-absurd-gop-tax-bill/

    How do you rate Elizabeth Warren?

    I’ve seen enough good days of Sanders and a few exceptional ones that make me think him exactly the one for the job, with the sole caveat of age.

    Elizabeth Warren is good but just (warming to my earlier theme of a profound repositioning being needed) not radical enough. Sanders pressed some of Trump’s (initial) buttons addressing working class folk. The DP thinks the problems are about the middle classes. They’re not. They’re about the deeply poor and the blue collar. The DP needs to learn lessons about funding and wrangling the banks into serving the needs of the country.

  19. Geoff

    Parents should no longer be allowed to intellectually disable their children through their own hubris.

    The disablement is real. Basic concepts need to go in at the right time if the childhood period of over-imitation is to be used to reliably secure them for later use.

    Children as property is the root problem. We need culturally to change this. To establish expertise in the raising of children, such expertise forever tested and developed and discussed yet always allowed to have a significant element of influence at least on every child.

    The closest to this ideal at present is the highly trained Finnish school teacher and the teacher training that supports them.

  20. phil rimmer #19
    Dec 11, 2017 at 6:03 am

    The disablement is real. Basic concepts need to go in at the right time if the childhood period of over-imitation is to be used to reliably secure them for later use.

    I have put this link with simple explanations on various discussions, as I think it is relevant to many indoctrination issues of wilfully retarded, mental development, or degenerative conditions, giving a throw-back to evolved primitive herd instincts.

    http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_05/d_05_cr/d_05_cr_her/d_05_cr_her.html

  21. Racism, fundamentalism, fear and propaganda:

    I see the French are tackling the fraudulent “standards” of their ultra-right politicians!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-42329911

    France’s far-right National Front (FN) has been charged with giving party members suspected fake jobs as assistants at the European Parliament, the party has confirmed.

    Its treasurer said they were the “natural follow-on” from charges laid against leader Marine Le Pen in June.

    About €5m (£4m) allegedly went to FN assistants who were not working for MEPs, but doing party work in France.

    The FN denies the charges and says it will prove it did not embezzle cash.

    The party is accused of illegally claiming millions of euros from the European Parliament in funds earmarked for parliamentary assistants to pay staff based in France instead.

    The charges were brought by French prosecutors on 30 November, FN treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just said.

    Ms Le Pen is one of 17 FN lawmakers – along with her estranged father Jean-Marie Le Pen and her partner, FN vice-president Louis Aliot – being investigated over salaries paid to around 40 parliamentary assistants.

Leave a Reply