“You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.” ― Robert A. Heinlein

Conservatives celebrate the virtues of ‘fly-over country’ – home to Bubba and other small-town, ‘real’ Americans. The virtues of these landlocked folk are enumerated as common-sense, tradition, religion, patriotism and gun ownership. Does this celebration of the heartland bear scrutiny?

Consider young Americans. Are they fleeing the built-up to embrace the bucolic? Are they passing up jobs in gritty cities to pursue Smallville’s economic opportunities? Are they leaving behind intellectual wastelands to walk Socratic pastoral paths? Are they scaling the slope from slum to summit? In short, no.

photoYoung Americans are abandoning small towns for a chance at the brass ring.

And which young Americans are leaving the small towns? Is it the indolent, the unintelligent, the unimaginative – the brutes? Hardly. It is the ambitious, the go-getters, the young who want to ‘make something’ of themselves. Left behind are the dolts, the cud chewers, the unthinkers. The cream rises. The dross descends.

Not all is lost for these inertial folks. They can bask in the warm regard of patronizing politicians praising virtues that neither create jobs nor put food on the table.

These poor lambs are easily seduced by post-mortem perks. In return for inhumanity today they will revel in eternal bliss. They may not be inspired to murder. And their rewards may not be scads of virgins. But the equation of evil unto others now – in exchange for heavenly reward later – runs parallel to the jihadists’ career path.

Are they truly ‘real Americans’? Would America’s Founders recognize these people as kindred spirits? Heirs to the movement which created the country? Repositories of the national philosophy?

The question is unfair. In 1776 the country was vibrant. Less than 1 in 20 lived in cities. Agriculture accounted for the majority of GDP. To the founding fathers, small town folk would be instantly recognisable. But America and the world have not stood still. Ignorance and superstition are not virtues. Blindly following the exhortations of the pulpit is not admirable. Racism is offensive to decency. Group think is offensive to critical thinking. And uncritical love of country is only a virtue if you’re mindless.

What enthusiasm and ‘can-do’ exist in the heartland is borne in on the shoulders of foreigners. Vietnamese escaping their war. Somalians escaping theirs. And if we should let them, Syrians escaping theirs. But we shan’t let them. The mindless saps of the middle have instructed their representatives in DC to stand stalwart against vitality and energy. Let not their mediocrity and sedation be ruffled. Let not their bubble be burst.

If I sound dismissive of small town America, it is because I am. And by small town America, I mean a philosophy grounded in geography and demographics. But even as a dying fire has embers that light and warm, there are some lights in the rural blackness that burn brightly. There is, after all, nothing in country water that necessarily robs a man of his mind. No epidemic kills all its victims.

The right wing arbiters of real Americanism have anointed these solid folk of the soil as exemplars of all that makes America great. But the fact is that all which makes America great is found in the intellectual vitality of great universities and the striving of immigrants in the great urban centers.

The reason it’s called ‘fly-over’ country is because there is no reason to land.


The Good Old Days – Or, “the Older I Get the Faster I Ran in High School”.

September 16, 2014

“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” ― Marcel Proust One thing that rarely changes is the sense in the older generations, that there is something defective in the younger generation. A sense that things were better in the ‘good old days’. Certainly, there is a large number who pine […]

Read the full article →