REGIONALISMrnThe AmericanrnRedneckrnby Joyce BennettrnThere ain’t no shame in a job wellrndone,rnfrom driving a nail to driving arntruck.rnAs a matter of fact, I’d like to setrnthings straight,rnA few more people should bernpulling their weight.rnIf you want a cram course inrnreality,rnYou get yourself a working man’srnPh.D.rn—^Aaron Tippin,rn”Working Man’s Ph.D.”rnThe hyperactive shopping mall aficionadosrnand franchise restaurantrndiners who populate the United Statesrnfail to understand the subtleties of characterrnthat mark the American redneck, arnman who, surprisingly, tolerates andrneven calls himself by the nickname, confoundingrnthose who would mock him.rnAnd for years Hollywood and New York,rnthrough cinema and television, have obscuredrnhis true identity by portrayingrnhim as a knuckle-dragging misogynistrnwho prowls backroads in search of fawnsrnand members of minority groups tornshoot. Informed by media propaganda,rnthe public fears that all over the country,rnlike rustic Caesars hot from Hell,rnbumpkin male revolutionaries seekingrnvengeance against the government arernpoised to murder and plunder. As wernlook toward a less than promising future,rnrather than dishonoring this heartlanderrnby accepting the same old caricaturesrnimposed upon us by unenlightened filmmakersrnand television producers, wernshould be celebrating the redneck’srnbrand of di’ersity and learning from hisrnexample.rnIll-at-ease in a society ruled by hardchargingrnwomen and word-mincing liberals,rnthe redneck struggles to adapt torna world less and less governed by horsernsense, and with each new generation,rnhis personality traits are a little more subdued.rnIf recalcitrant citizens of his kindrnfade from the landscape and are replacedrnby soft, easily policed proletarians notrnat all outraged by trespasses against civilrnliberties, then our end could be as certainrnas many predict. Before those of usrnwho know his worth begin singing dirgesrnfor him prematurely, as we have beenrnmourning America’s final days perhapsrntoo soon, we should first recognize whornthe redneck is and how he has safeguardedrnour system of self-government in thernpast and can now serve us as a paradigmrnfor the free man inspiring us as we strivernto keep our shaky republic. To definernhim more clearly, we need to take a closerrnlook at how he is viewed by those whornwould belittle and seek to change him.rnMore and more, the modern redneckrnis coming into contact with the overlycredentialedrnand undereducated hordesrnmoving from urban to rural areas.rnClaiming intellectual superiority to thernnatives they encounter, these interlopersrnare maddeningly unaware of their ownrnshortcomings. In my work in the area ofrncareer services during the last 12 years,rnI have met hundreds of dislocated megalopolitanrnNortherners. A New Jerseyrnmiddle-school teacher who recentlyrnmoved to my once agricultural county,rnhad occasion to write something that Irnreviewed. In her writing, she spelled intact,rn”in tack.” Another transplant wasrnamazed at the apparent inability of usrnyokels to spell or say the word “indigo”rnpropedy. He was referring to the namernof the local town that we call St. Inigoe’srnin honor of a celebrated theologianrnwhose family’s lineage can be tracedrnback to Visigothic Spain. I didn’t correctrnhim because, at the time, I was tr’ing tornbe less preachy and more charitable towardrnthese city slickers who assume thatrnan appreciation for both Dwight Yokumrnand Debussy cannot be found in thernsame individual and who believe thatrncountry people as a rule are ignorant andrnuncouth. To those living in New York,rnPhiladelphia, and Boston who confusernmother wit with wisdom, rural andrnstupid have become synonymous overrnthe years. And they seem to have a particularrncontempt for rural men, whomrnthey consider pea-brained tyrants reigningrnover equally illiterate but appealinglyrndowntrodden women and children.rnContrary to what urbanites mightrnthink, there are many well-educatedrngood old boys and a few who are classicalrnscholars. One whom I know is a 1955rngraduate of what was at the time consideredrnan excellent liberal arts college.rnWhile attending school, he usually wentrnhungry and, when no one was looking,rnwould fish uneaten, still cellophanewrappedrnsandwiches out of the cafeteriarnwaste bins. On weekends he wouldrnhitchhike the 100 miles from Baltimorernto his home and while there would takernhis shotgun out into the woods to killrnsquirrel and rabbit to help feed hisrnestimable but impoverished family.rnThey lived on a diet consisting largelyrnof wild game and rice, but their tablernwas impeccably set because a lack ofrnresources had provided no excuse for thernabandonment of good breeding.rnWeathering financial hardship, hernfinally succeeded in earning his diploma.rnIn spite of his erudition, and his ability tornspeak and read ancient and modern languagesrnand to translate French newspapersrnor the Latin inscriptions written onrnthe tombstones he seeks out in old Episcopalrnchurchyards, he remains a countryrnboy who does not question why someonernwould be moved to tears as quickly by arnbird dog on point at his master’s commandrnas by a reading of one of Swinburne’srnelegies. Speaking in an accentrnrich with an Elizabethan heritage, he’llrntell you that his most prized possession isrnthe Model 40 John Deere tractor he usedrnfor many years to work his land to earnrnextra money to supplement the incomernfrom a regular, full-time job. In connectionrnwith the latter, he had often beenrncalled on to testify as an expert witnessrnduring court proceedings. Assured, urbanizedrnattorneys hearing a drawl andrnobserving a Victorian courtesy, sized himrnup and usually underestimated him, butrnwhen they discovered that the self-effacingrnrube before them was in actuality arnlearned man, they quietly backed down.rnWhile the country boy is mannerly,rnthe aggressive err in assuming his politernbehavior to be a manifestation of weakness.rnLike Allen Tate’s “Good Soldier,”rnhe characteristically displays intelligencernand courage on the battlefield, and hernand his sort have been known to fightrnstarving and barefoot yet triumphingrnover superior numbers, as the Armyrnof Northern Virginia demonstrated repeatedlyrnagainst vast arrays of smartlvappointedrnand well-fed Yankees. Andrngetting down to basics, men who have alwa}’rns lived off the land are naturally goodrnshots, and fortunately for those who lovernthem, they are also survivors. Mv father.rnMAY 1997/41rnrnrn