we are really two nations, or two continents. this is an example of what is now a whole genre: new yorky journalist tries to calm his nerves and drive into rural/small town america. really for years he's only read, you know, michael tomasky, jill lepore, and thomas frank or whatever: the people out here, these teabaggers, etc, are insane, stupid, and evil. other than that, though: the salt of the earth. they are entirely manipulated and have no idea what their own interests are. maybe eric lutz figures he can slip somebody a hint down at the diner.
it is very much like british explorers penetrating the dark continent in the 1830s, let's say. the savages are so fascinating and incredibly stupid. don't they understand anything? why aren't they working in textile mills? do they want to live like that? we'll have to re-educate them, under compulsion if necessary, which it definitely is. so it's odd that we speak more or less the same language with more or less the same accent, are all familiar with the same television ads and stuff. we sort of share a culture. but insofar as eric lutz shares a culture with the assholes driving trucks out here, he's no doubt consumed by self-loathing.
so really, speaking on behalf of, say, rural country fans, i want to say: you obviously do not want us in the same nation as yourselves. you despise us. you don't listen to a word we say under any circumstances. all you do is dehumanize and patrionize and insult us. cut us loose, for we are to you mere filth, and take a long warm bath in obamacare to clean yourself up. but here's what i'd like to tell you, eric lutz, and i direct this at your whole ilk: you are an elitist. you are a classist (and also, dear god, a leftist: spend the next two years engaged in withering self-reflection. then do another piece like that.) you are so full of self-righteous ignorance that you have become unmoored from reality. so i hope next time you head out here, we'll have worked out the border fencing and attack dogs.
one very possibly good effect that country music could have in a less polarized culture: it could represent something of the experience of rural americans to urban and suburban americans. (believe it or not, i think hip hop had an effect in making suburbanites sort of understand something about black ghetto-type experience. think about what it was like for a kid from the burbs to take in public enemy during the crack epidemic etc.) i think we are in a golden moment of country artists doing that in a compelling way. i would adduce kacey musgraves and her sometimes collaborator, the very fine brandy clark (about whom more later). (musgraves and clark co-wrote follow your arrow.)
they are very critical of the experience of, say, growing up and living as a female person in economically depressed small-town america. but they represent that experience in a compelling way, in a way that might have the potential to make eric lutz see something about what it's like from inside, and register the people who have it as human beings with experiences that are comprehensible to other human beings, even across our berlin-like barrier. see, his empathy machine is broke. art is a good mechanic that way. but then he'd have to listen to the country station for a half hour, whcih would be against his religion. and i do mean religion: his sheer, wholly irrational faith.
funny but when i travel or live in rural america (whiteford, md; york springs and seven valleys, pa; batesville, va; cottondale, al, for some of the residences) people are by and large amazingly nice. i look a little off, i'm sure, and true i am myself a somewhat educated person. and yet they don't shoot me at all. i was talking to a slovenian prof at a conference in poland this summer, and he was saying, with real fear in his voice, that he was going to be spending time in rural texas. he said 'tea party' and 'guns' in a heavy accent. i'm like: dude, i'm telling you if you have never been in rural texas, you're gonna love it. amazing food. great music. and the world's friendliest people everywhere wanting to help in any way they can. and so on. chill, it's ok!
remember obama's 'clinging to their guns and religion' thing? that might actually be the moment the tea party started (or perhaps it was the point where the man who said that actually became president). it's like romney and the 47%, only obama meant a different 47. they highly overlap, however. now: here is somebody who knows, to help explain it to highly-educated sophisticates everywhere.