Saturday, June 22, 2013

About the book "Flight Behavior" and more

About the Book "Flight Behavior" and more.

There is a way in which politics becomes identity.  I don't know what to do about this but I think it is dangerous.

In Barbara Kingsolver's book, "Flight Behavior" she deals with this subject, among others, well.  I am only paraphrasing one of the main characters who said something like, "If I'm already judged as the dumb red neck in the pick up then what the hell.  I might as well go on and burn a little more gas."  This is Not an exact quote. 

The Ozarks region of the U.S. is basically an extension of Appalachia.  It was settled by the same group of Scottish, Irish, and Scotch-Irish mixed with Native American who settled the Appalachians.  So the same attitudes prevail.  The Ozarks is basically land too rough for big spreads, big farms, or agribusiness.  People run cattle, rent out their pastures to those wealthy enough to buy horses, and if they have some river bottom land or a couple of fields to grow food they work Very hard to do so.  The deer here who feed many are smaller than in the flat land or gentle hills of Northern Missouri.  In the Northern part of the state soy beans and corn can be grown on a large scale and the deer eat the often genetically modified crops. 

Theme parks have stupid hillbillies and stupid hillbilly themes.  Is there truth behind the stereotype?  Yes, but it is constantly reinforced.  People come from all over the world to here hillbilly humor about people so backward they can't tell an indoor toilet from a water fountain.  This Isn't true! 

People with money come here to retire from big cities and build beautiful large homes in the woods.  They shake their heads at the "stupidity of the locals" who smoke, talk funny, use poor grammar, and eat junk.

I'm not defending any of these things.  What I'm saying is that when you have no hope of changing your situation for the better this is often what happens.  Similar things happen in big cities where poverty is intergenerational, just like it is here.  But wealthy retirees don't go their because the prices aren't so low, the land isn't so pretty or valuable, and crime is more likely to effect them.  Of course, with the growth of methamphetamine labs. And hidden marijuana plants, crime is everywhere. 

Am I painting a stereotype of my own?  Yes.  Not all Ozarks settlers came from Appalachia, just most of the original settlers among whom there were some English and some German people.

Not all retirees humiliate and demean "the locals".  Some share and some volunteer to teach literacy or in other ways.

But I honestly believe there is a Core of truth in what I'm saying.  Like many stereotypes, there may be Some seed of truth in them, with the Reasons for that seed of truth being Completely misunderstood by those not from the area.  Not politically correct?  Oh well.

I admire the work of blues artist J. J. Gray, to whom I apologize, if I have misspelled his name.  His songs tell the political truths of his home, Mississippi.  In his song "Life in a Country Ghetto" he talks about being judged as "Poor white trash" and being called by a vicious name beginning with N.  Then he sings "We're black and we're white, we're living side by side".  He refuses Both stereotypes in favor of common living conditions and humanity.  Talk about scaring politicians!

Let me tell you a story about one of my heroes.  It's one of my sisters.  She worked her way through college.  Then while getting her masters she worked six and a half days a week for a retired couple as a maid, physical therapy assistant, party producing helper, and whatever was wanted.  Sometimes her employers felt free to comment about her personal appearance, though she is a scrupulously clean person with perfect hygene. 

Now she works for the state as an archivist, has taught history classes at a local community college, and has used her degree in art history to do research for the National Historical Society.  She worked at a hillbilly theme park for a while and some of it sickened her.

She has many survival skills that people who are younger and live in the city of Springfield lack.  She gardens, growing vegetables and flowers, she can rewire a lamp, build an outdoor arbor, make clothing, cook great food, can food, if she has to, and more.  She knows how to shop to pull quality out of a second hand store or flea market.  Her I.Q. was once measured at 140 or higher.  She will always have my respect and admiration for those seven years as a maid-plus, and taking care of a husband, And going to school for her Masters Degree.

I know a young, very intelligent man who wants to go to college.  He wants to work on making cars, designing cars, which run on available bio. Fuels like old filtered cooking grease.  He knows his grammar is bad and that he'd need help in English and literature courses.  But he works fixing transmissions and can't afford college. 

He believes that if he were Afican American or Latino or maybe even a Woman, he might get in on a scholarship.  Do I agree with him?  No, I think there are probably Lots of African American, Latino, and female students who would love a shot at college and have none.  But the way to change his hopelessness and beliefs is Not to humiliate him as white trash who works on cars and drinks beer with his buds.  The way to change them is to test him and work with his strengths.  He pays his bills, helps his sister raise her kids and is a soft spoken, very bright man.  I would like to See him in college, as I believe he is smart enough to put his education to use for the benefit of All of us.  I think he has given up on this dream.

This man is already benefitting society.  He has switched from a transmission mechanic to working for a nonprofit corporation set up many years ago when poverty was a thing to be Fought in our country, insulating and weatherizing the homes of low income people of all races.  I hope this job hasn't been cut.

In Springfield, Mo. 53% of the children live below the Federal Poverty Level.  But in the U.S. Senate the school-based feeding program may be cut out of the newest farm bill.  Is there more poverty than 53% elsewhere in the U.S.?  Of course!  All I am saying is that you don't change the beliefs of poor people  of Any race by labeling them.  Whatever beliefs about others are encouraged by the media, politicians, supposedly "funny" comedians who thrive on humiliating others, and local religious leaders, when combined with poverty and despair, will become a part of that group's identity.  Once this happens it is Very hard to change.  The only reason I found out about the proposed cuts to school-based food programs for kids is because I seek out those kinds of emails.  I have no children in school.  But I will live in the world children help create as I age.  It's the only insurance policy with meaning, now that Ann is gone.  And it is a way I can hopefully benefit my and other communities.

If you have the time to read, check out Barbara Kingsolver's "Flight Behavior" and also  the music of J. J. Gray.

No comments:

Post a Comment