Thursday, November 17, 2005

In the Heart of a Red State

An obvious question on the minds of PeP Nation must be: Where's PiedPiper? Well, have a seat kiddos, cause Papa Pied has a tale to weave.

I've been recovering from (and catching up after) a weekend in the Middle of Middle America, otherwise known as rural Missouri. That's right folks; I travelled to the heart of the beast, looked it in the eye, and proudly said, "Howdy, ya'll."

I was there for a friend's wedding. As many of you are aware, I spent some months teaching English in the Czech Republic a couple years ago, and it was one of my roommates getting married. In addition, I met up with a number of other friends from my Prague days.

We all flew into Kansas City (that's Missouri...not Kansas) where I actually ordered meatloaf and mashed potatoes in a restaurant. Skeptical at first, I must admit, it was delicious. However, this lends well to my first lesson from Red State's big. Obviously the geography is big, as evident on the Red State-Blue State map, with points of interest few and far between. More striking, though, is the size of the people, and I ain't talking about numbers of people. No, no, no, we're talking waistlines. Fast food on every corner, billboards that read "Beef: Why eat anything else?", and heavy use of varied condiments, particularly ketchup (or catsup...whatever), have a balloony breed of humankind.

The beauty of the bulge, however, is that Red Staters have adapted by building big. And that's where Wal-Mart comes in. On Saturday morning, I went to the Wal-Mart Supercenter - a mecca of consumption - where I walked around aimlessly for more than 45 minutes in search of a roll of Scotch tape. It's like a freakin' labyrinth with surprises around every corner. At one point, I turned a corner to find a fake mounted deer head trying to start a conversation with me.

And speaking of mounted deer heads, never have I ever been wished "Happy Huntin'" so many times in my life. We made the mistake - or perhaps had the fortune - of trolling through Missouri during the deer season opener. As usual, camoflauge was this season's in-style.

And, with no clever segue, that leaves only church. God is everywhere in Missouri. There are superchurches off the freeway, small chapels on nearly every corner, and my personal favorite, the First Baptist Church of Climax Spings, out in the country. The best stretch of highway we drove through had a church, a Budweiser distributor, and a bullet factory all within a half-mile of pristine blacktop.

Now, believe me, I don't wish to demean my Red State brethren. Without a doubt, any Missourian could spend a weekend in St. Paul and poke fun at the way I do things. But I think that's the point we're missing. Conservatives like to deride "multiculturalism" as this phony, lefty, PC conceptual nothingness. Yet, after spending a weekend in rural Missouri, I found my culture - if, as culture is traditionally defined, we're talking about basic mores and customs - dramatically different than that of my fellow countrymen and women. To deny that multiculturalism is a necessary part of our national framework is simply to deny our interwoven and opposing cultural reality. Maybe there's absolutely nothing to this argument, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

So cheers to the fat, preachy, consumerist hillbilly hunters out there! I hope to see ya'll again soon.


Anonymous said...

Just always tell are better than people from Missouri. I threw up in my mouth after reading this arrogant smut.

Anonymous said...

i would like to go on record as saying the phrase "i threw up in my mouth" is incredibly gross- that's the best you could come up wtih?? I would also like to point out that the phenomenon of large, denim and sweatshirt-clad people flocking to wal-marts occurs throughout the country.

Ilya said...

Love the picture.

PiedPiper said...


Just to clarify, I really didn't mean to be arrogant, although I can understand that impression. I had a great time and met some interesting and engaging people. I'm just always struck by the cultural differences that occur between like people.

And yes, there are large, sweatshirt- (and sweatpants-) clad people all over.

Anonymous said...

So "cultural differences" means "I'm better than cud-chewing Missouri people"? Still, the arrogance is arresting.

PiedPiper said...

I never wrote "I'm better than cud-chewing Missouri people," and I resent the fact that you would imply that. I'm not better. I know that. I'm different, just as you are different from me. If we are to get along, however, we must accept those differences although we may not understand them or like them.

Obviously, my friend who was married there is from there. I don't pretend to "know" where these particular people are coming from, but rather am pointing out curious and interesting observations. I was looked at arrogantly by some of the people I met because I am from Minnesota and I live in a city. It goes both ways.

I can understand the gut reaction to say, "Who is this cityfied kid who wants to pick on the country folk?" But that's patently false. Who are countryfied people to pick on the poor city folk? We ought to be able to look at our differences and move on. I grew up in rural Minnesota and know about the cultural divide between metro area and outstate. It's a matter of how you deal with it.

And it's also a matter of having a bit thicker skin.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

Andy, stop being a pussy. You are being arrogant, judgemental, and demeaning in spite of any meek attempts to spin it to the contrary. And that is alright. You can't post a column like that and then act suprised that some people would accuse you of arrogance. Embrace it, don't deny it.

Mandingo said...

Pied, I'm in agreement with Xtra on this one. I've been away for awhile (with school) but this posting was a little hard to stomach. And then to defend it? I re-read your post and it seems indefensible to me. Just my two cents.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

The post is defensible if pied chooses to defend it. Pied was heavy handed, and if that is how he feels, that is fine. But it is disingenous to run away from his post in his comments and at the same time to ascribe blame to the readers for being thin-skinned.

Anonymous said...

I truly don't think Pied wrote in arrogance; I think he wrote as if he were speaking to somebody who knew him well. This is fortunate, as it allows a personal honesty to emerge; it is unfortunate, as those who don't know him well (99% of the world) would have to do some incredible mental gymnastics to not be at least mildly offended.

Pied is a perspicacious guy, and can truly say he has experience with widely varying American cultures (here, you would need to know that the small town he grew up in gave him a real small-town America childhood; and you would need to know that the city life he leads now has some very urban characteristics).

When he levels wit seemingly at the expense of rural folk, it isn't personal (here, you would need to know that he takes similar aim at aspects of urban culture and intellectual culture - the point is "call it as you see it," whether it is rural America exemplifying some sad truths about American ignorance, or intellectual America exemplifying some sad truths about the American ego).

Being offended by criticism is fine, an almost unavoidable human response; however, if this criticism is well-thought and intended for a larger purpose than denigration, do not let your emotions stop further critical thinking.

Everybody has their prejudices, how ever small, and at this point Pied may lean towards criticizing rural culture. But beyond such normal imperfections we all have, I do not believe Pied retains any elitist or prejudice attitude (but like I said, you would have to know him to get that through his post).

- uwyoming

Ben There Ben That said...

Panties in a bunch over a humorous column? Really Anon, unscrunch yourself. Loved the deer convo.

Confamused said...

"Loved the deer convo..." Good point on not taking anything too seriously but a) blogs are for discussion and b) the word convo? really?

ben there ben that said...

B) Touche.