Cheryl Oreglia: Too Much Time On Our Hands

I featured American blogger and writer Cheryl in a guest post late last year, and now I am very pleased to once again bring her to the attention of everyone in our great community.

Here is what she has to say about herself.

ABOUT ME
Living in the Gap is a lifestyle blog which appears randomly as I corral the time to write and reflect on the mundane. I do have a life outside of my head and it squeezes between me and my keyboard like a frightened child. What can you do? On the surface my life is common, I’m married with children, a high school teacher who lives for weekends at the lake, but just below the surface is a unique voice, one that I hope will resonate with you. Living in the Gap, customized, over the hill, gritty, complicated life. Wouldn’t have it any other way. Join me. Living in the Gap has over 100,000 views and is syndicated by The Good Men Project. Contact me at cheryloreglia@aol.com

Here is a link to her blog.
https://cheryloreglia.blog/

This recent post from her own blog gives a flavour of what you can expect to find.

TOO MUCH TIME ON OUR HANDS

Is there such a thing as too much time on your hands?

Yes, I believe so.

And there is also a thing about balancing how you spend your precious time.

Larry and I have been spending just about every waking hour together, and I’m discovering things about this man that I never knew, and believe me when I say you can’t unknow what you’ve come to know.

For example, I discovered Larry has a morbid fear of dishwashers (he can get a dish to the sink but no further), he’s taken to wearing a headband out to dinner (and people compliment him?), and oddly enough he can not resist a worthy challenge.

I found this old photo of Larry and me, I believe it was premarriage, but you can’t be sure. Clearly, we were in our early twenties, obviously tired of backgammon, and forced to discover new forms of entertainment.

The impetus for getting ourselves in such a pose had not been fully established but what I do know is Larry is looking down my shirt!

How rude.

We were staying with his parents at their Kono Tayee estate, I assume one of them snapped this photo, and it’s been sitting in a basket up at the lake ever since. I glance at it ever now and then, shake my head, and return it to the basket.

Recently I decided to make a copy of the image, thinking I’d frame it, and hang it up at our lake house. You know, for posterity and all, a reminder that we were young once, and remarkably agile.

I don’t know why, but the image always makes me smile, and sort of sigh as if nostalgic for the good old days.

So we’re sitting around the house, thumbing through the plethora of programs now available on Netflix, and I said something banal like, “I wonder if we could pull that off at our age?”

What was I thinking?

Larry says, “I’m certainly strong enough”

“Really honey? Are you insinuating there has been a shift in my anatomy? And besides, we don’t have a beanbag!” Not to mention I’m a total fail at balancing and have a minor fear of heights?

“A beanbag?”

“You know when you recreate an old image by wearing the same clothes, getting in the same position, with a similar background, except you’re decades older? It’s a thing.”

“Never heard of it.”

“I’m shocked, hey, do you still have that shirt?”

“That shirt – No”

“I definitely don’t have my shirt, which you are looking down by the way.”

“I’m focusing on keeping you airborne.”

“And smirking?”

He looks me up and down, “I think I could hold you?”

“Not reassuring.”

“Yeah, I could do it.”

“Well, I guess we’ll never know, will we?”

It’s the “will we” that got me into trouble. Before I know what’s happening he’s on the floor balancing a pillow with his feet.

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
–Bruce Lee

He says, “nothing to it.”

I don’t have the heart to tell him I weigh slightly more than a pillow, as he kicks the fluffy square into the air, narrowly missing my plant!

I muddled something under my breath about the status of our health insurance but Looney ignores me.

“Come on we have nothing to lose.”

“Only my dignity, and my ability to walk, and breath, other than that, we’re all good.”

“Can I just advise, if you feel like you’re falling, lean to the left.”

Famous last words…


“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Maya Angelou

I’m Living in the Gap, practicing Acro Yoga, with Looney as my partner.

What are you all doing with your spare time?

Anecdotes:

“Opportunities will come and go, but if you do nothing about them, so will you.” Richie Norton
“Live is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Helen Keller
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” E. E. Cummings
“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” Unknown
Instructional video for you adventurous types, please drop your pics in the comments

Please take some time to check out the rest of Cheryl’s blog, say ‘Hello’, and welcome her to the community.

Awesome!

I am aware that language has to change. Even in my own lifetime I have seen many new words become common parlance. Then there are the words derived from advances in technology, like ‘Texting’, ‘Online’, and many more. Young people have invented abbreviations like ‘LOL’, and ‘LMAO’, and they have also started to become acceptable to many people, even outside of text messaging.

Some of those new words have come from America. A ‘Diner’ was once unknown here outside of old films, but it is no longer unusual to see a roadside eating establishment with that name. There are many similar examples, but you don’t need me to list all of them here.

There is one word that I wished had not changed though. It is a very old word, and one with a serious meaning. Here is a dictionary definition of that word.

awe
/ɔː/
noun
a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.
“they gazed in awe at the small mountain of diamonds”

The most common way this is seen to be expressed now is in the use of the word, ‘Awesome’.

Notice the additon at the end of the definition, under INFORMAL.

awesome
/ˈɔːs(ə)m/

extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring awe.
“the awesome power of the atomic bomb”

INFORMAL
extremely good; excellent.
“the band is truly awesome!”

A word once used to descibe the power of imaginary gods, or witnessing the unbelievable sight of an atomic bomb exploding, is now in everyday use, especially in America. Used to describe everything from an ice cream or a nice new T-shirt, to a pop group. It also turns up in casual conversations, like this example.

“Hey, can you pick me up around four?”
“Yeah, no problem”.
“Awesome!”

We are going to need a new word.

Blogger’s Books: Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Today I am featuring a non-fiction book from American writer, Maryanne.

Here is her own short bio.

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is an international author, award-winning journalist, and public speaker. Her latest book “Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Here” can be found in Barnes & Noble bookstores.
She is the sole proprietor of her home-based business “Pear Tree Enterprises” (www.peartreeenterprises.com). She works as an editor, ghost writer, and public speaker.
Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta received a medal for “Best Speaker” at Toastmasters International. She was awarded Toastmasters Certificate of Appreciation for outstanding performance and valued contribution to Toastmasters District 83 Annual 2019 Conference.
Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta resides in New Jersey, with her husband, Dennis, and their beloved cats.

This is her book blurb for “Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero”

What’s holding you back from being the extraordinary person you were created to be?
Inspirational author and speaker Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta walks you through ten steps you can start taking today to elevate your life to next-level joy, success, and contentment. A survivor of intense bullying, Maryanne shares her hard-won wisdom to empower you to embrace your uniqueness, connect with the people who deserve you, and cultivate the courage to create the life you’ve always wanted.
You’ll learn how to love, respect, and advocate for yourself so you can become your own superhero–no cape required!

Here is an Amazon link that you can use to find out more, and buy a copy if you wish to do so.

Maryanne is also running workshops based on her book, and you can find out more about those from this link.

I am also giving workshops based on the book. The link is here: https://courses.allfalfa.com/en/listings/975347-be-extraordinary-10-ways-to-become-your-own-hero
The Workshops are $40 per class, but if someone is struggling due to lay-offs because of covid, I will get them in FREE!

Please try to find time to welcome Maryanne to our great community.

George Carlin: ‘Dumb Americans’

I didn’t know about this man until my friend Antony sent me a link to this clip of a standup performance from 2016.

***Be warned, there is a LOT of swearing in this 10-minute film***

He attacks obesity, shopping habits, and the standard of education in America.

But he does make some very relevant points that still ring true, four years later.

And not just in America, but in Britain too.

Space Force!

The Space Force! It must be here, they have a badge!

In Saner Thought

A Serious Lack Of Imagination!

By now most will be aware that we have a new a separate military branch, the Space Force…..and just last week the new “logo” was released…..

Notice anything?

The Pentagon’s new US Space Force is not Star Trek’s Starfleet Command, but their logos bear a striking similarity, the AP reports. President Trump unveiled the Space Force logo Friday, writing on Twitter that he had consulted with military leaders and designers before presenting the blue-and-white symbol, which features an arrowhead shape centered on a planetary background and encircled by the words, “United States Space Force” and “Department of the Air Force.” The logo, which bears the date 2019 in Roman numerals, also is similar in design to that of Air Force Space Command, from which Space Force was created by legislation that Trump signed in last month. (See a comparison of the Space Force logo and…

View original post 219 more words

What makes me laugh

I’m quite a serious person. I think too much, (especially on Sundays) then write about what I think. I have strange dreams, then write about those too. I look back on my life. often living too long in the past, and I complain about the weather. A lot.

But I do have a humourous side, and things do make me laugh, often out loud. But I don’t laugh at people falling over. I certainly don’t laugh at Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, or Eddie Murphy. I rarely laugh at sitcoms on TV, particularly American ones, and when people tell me that so and so is ‘hilarious’, I generally look blank, and wonder what they are talking about. But there are people who make me laugh, and shows that I laugh at too.

Eddie Izzard

Father Ted

Peter Kay

Sarah Millican

Dad’s Army

Woody Allen (As a stand-up)

Just a snapshot of some things that cheer me up to watch. Non-British readers may need some help with the regional accents. If so, please request a translation in the comments. 🙂

Escaping ‘That Wedding’

I might be busy on this blog tomorrow. As well as that, Ollie will certainly be getting a longer than usual walk, I assure you. Unless you have been in a coma for a very long time, you cannot fail to be aware that there is to be a Royal Wedding in Windsor on Saturday. Prince Harry is to wed his American bride, with all the trappings of the traditional pomp and ceremony adored by the people of this land.

Not adored by me of course, as anyone who knows me will tell you. I am not a Royalist, and if you have ever glanced at my other blog, you will be aware that I have made that clear, in no uncertain terms.

The circus has well and truly come to town. Thousands of television network reporters from all over the globe have claimed their spots and vantage points. The usual gang of deluded Royal fans have established themselves alongside the railings on Windsor’s streets, with many being in place since last week. News coverage of the event started last week too, and has now reached constant fever pitch on the BBC here. They go over and over about the route, what the bride will wear, and who is invited, or not. Recent ‘Breaking News’ declared that The Duke of Edinburgh is well enough to attend, quickly glossing over the fact that the bride’s father will not be around to walk her down the aisle.

Drilling into the tiniest details, we hear that she may, or may not, wear a tiara, loaned to her by the Queen. The wedding cake is in the hands of an American cake-maker, flown in for the job. It is going to contain no less than 500 of the finest organic eggs, sourced from Suffolk. Flavour will be supplied by 10 bottles of Elderflower cordial from the Royal estate at Sandringham, and 200 lemons all the way from the Amalfi coast. Sweetness and softness will be covered, as 20 kilos of butter and the same of sugar will be added.

I am sure that this is heartening news for the women who will spend their time visiting local food banks, to get enough stuff to provide their children with a meal today.

Let’s not forget the young lady’s engagement ring. This features a huge central diamond, flanked by stones taken from the ring of the late Lady Diana, Harry’s mother. A ring of such quality would ordinarily cost anything up to £100,000, but as it includes stones from the ring of Lady Diana, it is described as ‘priceless’. So, a few million at least, I’m guessing.

Great consolation for the workers in Windsor, earning £320 a week, on a minimum-wage, no-hours contract, I’m sure.

Whatever I think, and this is just the tip of my thought iceberg, the world will be watching, (including my wife) with one notable exception. Me.

And before everyone gets too excited, have a think about what happened the last time a member of the Royal Family married an American Divorcee.
I feel sorry for the girl. Life as she knew it is over.

Feud: A TV series review

Reading around the blogs this year, I was excited to see positive reviews for this TV series. I imagined it would only become available here on Netflix or cable, and that I might never see it. However, the reliable BBC bought the rights, and showed it on BBC 2 recently. As it is about well-known people in historical events, spoilers do not apply.

The feud in the title refers to the relationship between two former Hollywood greats, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford. Both past their best years, and unable to find work, they are finding life hard away from the spotlight, and struggling financially too. Joan Crawford sets out to find her own project, one that will give a starring role to an older woman. She buys large numbers of paperback books, reading through them until she finds the perfect story, a pulp-horror novel titled “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?” She takes the idea to jobbing film director Robert Aldrich, and manages to convince him to not only direct it, but to invest heavily too.

But they need another older female lead, to play the role of Baby Jane, and he brings in Bette Davis. The two diva-like actresses have never worked together before, and their rivalry from the golden years of Hollywood soon surfaces. Aldrich also has to convince Jack Warner to allow him to use film studios, and to release the film when it is completed, not an easy task. Once filming begins, the troublesome pair soon clash, and make life difficult for everyone on set.

This is really my kind of thing. Great period feel, a wonderful cast, and that film within a film feel so familiar from the ‘old days’. Everything about this production screams ‘class’, and no expense has been spared to deliver a convincing TV drama of the highest order. Jessica Lange plays Joan Crawford with some flair, and a lot of pathos too. The studio system is examined, from casting couch to double-dealing, and actors treated as disposable commodities. So too the role of the bitchy gossip columnists, with Hedda Hopper played by the brilliant Judy Davis. British actor Alfred Molina is outstanding as the struggling Aldrich, trying to juggle the wants and needs of his difficult stars, alongside the demands of the studio bosses.

Stanley Tucci as Jack Warner displays that callousness and head for profit very well, though still comes over more as Stanley Tucci most of the time. Jackie Hoffman delivers well in a supporting role, as Mamasita, Crawford’s put-upon housemaid, managing to expand that part into one of the leads. But rising above all is the exceptional Susan Sarandon. She plays Bette Davis just right. Not trying too hard to look like her, but managing to capture the very essence of that famous film star. In a cast where nobody is bad or wasted, Sarandon steals the show, just as Bette Davis did from Joan Crawford, in the real story.

This is wonderful television for anyone interested in films and cinema. But it is also just as wonderful for anyone interested in well-made drama, and fine acting. It will have its detractors, I have no doubt. But for what it’s worth, I loved it.

Bred For Meanness

I first read this on the American website, Prole Center. I later reblogged a link to it on my other site, Redflagflying, in October 2013. I often come back to that post, and read it again. I think it is one of the most powerful and important pieces of American writing I have ever read. So, even though it is neither seasonal nor cheerful, I am publishing it today. These 3200 words are well-worth reading, I assure you. Especially for my American readers.

Bred for Meanness
by Joe Bageant

From our (ultra controversial) archives—January 12, 2006
Dispatches From America’s Class Wars [The Greanville Post]

Many years ago I worked at an industrial hog farm owned by the Coeur d’Alene Indian tribe in northern Idaho. The place stank of the dead and rotting brood sows we chopped out of farrowing crates — bred to death in the drive for pork production. And it stank of the massive ponds that held millions of gallons of hog feces and rotting baby pigs, and every square inch was poisoned by the pesticides used to kill insects that hogs attract and the antibiotics fed to hogs from hundred pound sacks. The Coeur d’Alene Indians refused to suffer those kinds of conditions; they wouldn’t even manage the place. They contracted it out. As my friend Walter Wildshoe said: “Only a white man would work there.”

The hog farm, however, offered one company benefit. The white manager gave employees any young pigs that developed large tumors — those with tumors smaller than golf balls went to market with the rest of the hogs — or were born with deformities such as heads scrunched sideways with both eyes on the same side, or a leg that stuck out of the top of their body instead of the bottom. We employees would butcher and eat them. Among hog farm employees, all of whom were tough descendants of the Scots Irish mutt people, free pork of any kind was prized, deformed with tumors or otherwise. You never saw a Swede eat the stuff.

So I took these pigs home and, using a huge old butcher’s knife, slashed their throats in the woods, right in front of my two kids — ages two and four at the time — without flinching even as the pigs screamed almost like humans and thrashed around, splashing thick dark glops of blood everywhere. It bothered me not one bit, just like it never bothered my daddy or granddaddy. Nor did it seem to bother my children as they watched, just like it didn’t bother me as a child when my uncle handed me sacks of barn kittens to drown in the crick. And Walter would shake his head and say, “Only a white man would wrestle a hog with a butcher knife. An Indian would shoot the motherfucker with a gun.”

My point here is that we rural and small town mutt people by an early age seem to have a special capacity for cruelty, compared say, to damned near every other imaginable group of Americans. For instance, as a child did you ever put a firecracker up a toad’s ass and light it? George Bush and I have that in common. Anyway, as all non-whites the world round understand, white people can be mean. Especially if they feel threatened — and they feel threatened about everything these days. But when you provide certain species of white mutt people with the right incentives, such as free pork or approval from god and government, you get things like lynchings, Fallujah, the Birmingham bombers and Abu Ghraib.

Even as this is being written we may safely assume some of my tribe of mutt people are stifling the screams of captives in America’s secret “black site” prisons across the planet. Or on a more mundane scale of cruelty (according to CBS footage) kicking hundreds of chickens to death every day at the Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Wardensville, West Virginia, just up the road from where I am writing this. Or consider the image of Matthew Shepard’s body twisted on that Wyoming fence. All these are our handiwork. We the mutt faced sons and daughters of the republic. Born to kick your chicken breast meat to death for you in the darkest, most dismal corners of our great land, born to kill and be killed in stock car races, drunken domestic rows, and of course in the desert dusty back streets at the edges of the empire. Middle class urban liberals may never claim us as brothers, much less willing servants, but as they say in prison, we are your meat. We do your bidding. Your refusal to admit that we do your dirty work for you, not to mention the international smackdowns and muggings for the republic — from which you benefit more materially than we ever will — makes it no less true.

Literally from birth, we get plenty of conditioning to kill those gooks and sand monkeys and whoever else needs killing at any particular moment in history according to our leadership. Like most cracker kids in my generation, from the time I could walk I played games in which I pretended to be (practiced for) killing — Japs, Indians, Germans, Koreans, Africans Zulus (as seen in the movies Zulu and Uhuru!) variously playing the role of U.S. cavalry, Vikings a la Kirk Douglas, World War II GIs, colonial soldiers, and of course Confederate soldiers. As little white cracklets we played with plastic army men that we tortured by flame, firecracker, burning rivulets of gasoline, kerosene or lighter fluid. And if atomic bombing was called for, M-80s and ash cans. We went to sleep dreaming of the screams of the evil brutes we had smitten that day, all those slant eyed and swasticated enemies of democracy and our way of life. Later as post-cracklets in high school we rode around in cars looking to fight anyone who was different, the “other,” be they black, brown, or simply from another school or county. As young men we brawled at dances, parties or simply while staring at one another bored and drunk. We bashed each other over women, less-than weight bags of dope, money owed and alleged insult to honor, wife, mother or model of car — Ford versus Chevy. In other words, all of white trash culture’s noblest causes. With the “fighting tradition” of Scots Irish behind us, we smashed upon each other ceaselessly in trailer court and tavern, night and day in rain and summer heat until finally, we reach our mid-fifties and lose our enthusiasm (not to mention stamina) for that most venerated of borderer sports.

Said meanness is polished to a high gloss murderous piety most useful to the military establishment. Thus, by the time we are of military age (which is about twelve) we are capable of doing a Lynndie England on any type of human being unfamiliar to us from our culturally ignorant viewpoint — doing it to the “other.” Sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, most of us, given the nod, can torture the other as mindlessly as a cat plays with a mouse. That we can do it so readily and without remorse is one of the darkest secrets of underlying the “heroes” mythology the culture machine is so fervently ginning up about the ongoing series of wars now just unfolding. And when one of us is killed by a rooftop sniper in Baghdad we weep and sweat in our fear, band closer together as Border brothers in the ancient oath of ultimate fealty and courage. And we meant it and we do it.

About half of the Americans killed in Iraq come from communities like Winchester, Virginia or Romney, West Virginia or Fisher, Illinois or Kilgore, Texas or … About forty-five percent of the American dead in Iraq come from communities of less than 40,000, even though these towns make up only twenty-five percent of our population. These so-called volunteers are part of this nation’s de facto draft — economic conscription — the carrot being politically preferable to the whip. The carrot does not have to be very big out here where delivering frozen food wholesale to restaurants out of your own car entirely on commission is considered a good self-employment opportunity. I’m serious. One of my sons did it for a couple of months.

Once you grasp the implications of such an environment regarding the so-called American Dream, the U.S. Army at thirteen hundred bucks a month, a signing bonus and free room and board begin to look pretty good. Even a nice long ass kicking tour of the tropics killing brown guys becomes attractive. Especially compared to competing with other little brown guys at home, humping “big-roll sod” across ever-expanding MacMansionland. In the process, we mutt people learn worldly lessons that the post graduate set raving about the jobless economy cannot know. For instance we know firsthand that there is no way to beat little brown sod balling guys willing to sleep in their cars and live on canned beans and store brand soda. Better to go “volunteer” for the Army.

Along with the military come those big bucks for college later, up to $65,000, which according to current wisdom is more than enough to buy your way out of the beans and soda pop car camp at the edge of the new Toll Brothers development. Maybe some poor kids do go to college on their military benefits. But personally speaking, I can count the number on one hand I know who ever did. Most of them were black. The rest seem to go to the local truck driving school (rip-offs designed to collect government money) or the ITI “vocational career training,” again designed to hoover up federal dough. Let’s be honest here: graduating from the average American cracker high school here in the suburban heartland is not exactly the path to Harvard Yard. Your best educational option is probably the one you are looking at on the matchbook cover.

Now that education has been reduced to just another industry, a series of stratified job training mills, ranging from the truck driving schools to the state universities, our nation is no longer capable of creating a truly educated citizenry. Education is not supposed to be an industry. Its proper use is not to serve industries, either by cranking out feckless little mid-management robots or through industry purchased research chasing after a better hard-on drug. Its proper use is to enable citizens to live responsible lives that create and enhance their democratic culture. This cannot be merely by generating and accumulating mountains of information, facts without cultural, artistic, philosophical and human context or priority.

“No one should be forced to dive into an ocean of debt to learn how the world works, much less escape minimum wage hell. It should be enough just to want to know. Then too, look at our educational institutions. Academia, at least from this outsider’s perspective, is an almost impenetrable veneer of elitist flatulence and toxic competition. Jesus, no wonder this country is in such sorry shape.”
– Arvin Hill, Texas philosopher

How in the hell did knowledge become so commoditized in America? Dumb question. After all, what do we expect from a nation of pickle vendors who will charge you for the air you breathe, and then make you beg for your change? At first blush, higher education and the working class Scots Irish mutt people seem to be oil and water. Maybe so. But the majority of them also have a snowball’s chance in Florida of getting a higher education. Especially when it comes to the institutions of learning that constitute our elite springboard into careers in law and politics, business and science. The Yales and the Harvards and Princetons.

For example, according to the Wall Street Journal, Asians constitute about 2% of the population but make up over 20% of Harvard graduates. About one third of Harvard graduates identify themselves as Jewish. Together Jews and Asians make up about half of Harvard graduates. Subtract these, plus the 15% minority quota and that leaves maybe 40% of openings for the 75 or 80% of white Americans who are not Jewish, Asian, Latino or black or whatever. Now throw in the skew of northeastern WASPs at elite universities and we are left with maybe 20% of openings for 60% of white Americans. It presents a sorry damned picture of liberal East Coast WASPs and Jews and minorities getting all the prime educational gravy. The neocon leadership is right when they tell working white Americans the system has been stacked against them by an unseen hand, though they never mention that their own kids are among the silver spooners rowing around in the Ivy League gravy boat.

I know I’ll get clobbered by Jewish and black critics for pointing this out. But liberal refusal to see white people as also being diverse, and seeing that some of them indeed need their own sort of affirmative action is exactly the kind of thing that helped the neocons lead these working white people buy the nose. Education is everything. You know it and I know it. And what the white working classes don’t know because lack of education has hurt you and me and them.

So why in the hell don’t we help this group of people into college and into the institutions that are elite springboards to careers in law and politics? Why not have affirmative action for Appalachian kids from the Ohio Basin or from the Deep South or anyplace else where tens of millions of kids grow up in houses containing not a single book, except possibly the Bible. Why don’t we do these things? Part of the reason is that this stubborn proud people does not whine beg or threaten its way to access to education, employment or anything else. And part of it is because we unquestioningly accept a system that calls greed and self-interest drive, thus letting the prosperous professional and business classes pretend there is no disparity around them for which they might just be partially responsible, even as they pay the maid and the gardener who lack health insurance a pittance — or see that their mechanic’s bill reads, “repare of fuul injection, $105.” And because liberals have driven secularism into the ground and broken it off, and need to actually adhere to some religious values — real ones — even if we don’t feel particularly inclined toward religion. (Psst! Everybody else in America DOES feel inclined toward it.)

So we will either see that Americans, religious or not, get educated equally so they won’t be suckered by political and religious hucksters. If not, then we must accept that uneducated people interpret politics in an uninformed and emotional manner, and accept the consequences. America can no longer withstand the political naiveté of this ignored white class. Middle class American liberals cannot have it both ways. It has come down to the simplest and most profound element of democracy: Fairness. Someday middle class American liberals will have to cop to fraternity and justice and the fact that we are our brother’s keeper, whether we like it or not. They’re going to have to sit down and actually speak to these people they consider ugly, overweight, ill educated and in poor taste. At some point down the road all the Montessori schools and Ivy League degrees in the world are not going to save your children and grandchildren from what our intellectual peasantry, whether born of neglect or purposefully maintained, is capable of supporting politically. We’ve all seen the gritty black and white newsreels from the 1930s.

A member of this peasantry, I quit school at age sixteen in the eleventh grade to join the U.S. Navy. I hated school, hated the social class differences in a small town that make life so miserable during adolescence, when one’s community and social status is being nailed down permanently for anyone planning on staying here. As a former young white cracklet I can say with all confidence that when you live with a rusty coal stove in the middle of the living room for heat, your old man smells of gasoline and motor oil no matter how much he bathes and your mom suffers from strange, unpredictable behavior due to untreated depression, you do not much feel like inviting the doctor’s daughter home. Or anyone’s daughter for that matter. Doctor’s son = College, career, golf, nice car and a bimbo. Redneck laborer’s son = Well, if you stay out of trouble, there’s always room for one more broad shouldered chinless pinhead stamping out bright yellow plastic mop buckets on the injection molds at Rubbermaid.

Thus, at sixteen and choosing options, I decided that launching fighter jets from the deck of an aircraft carrier to kill gooks and the notion of pussy and booze on some exotic foreign shore looked damned good. When I think about what happened to my boyhood friends who stayed home and put in 30 years at Rubbermaid, my choice doesn’t sound that bad even today. They all became redneck ultra-conservatives, mostly out of some sort of fear and bitterness that I can never seem to put my finger on. But I knew these people in a younger and more hopeful time. I know they were capable of — not to mention deserved — more than they got out of life. Maybe their bitterness stems from that.

Meanwhile, their kids do the same as they did. Go uneducated. Sometimes I walk the street on which I grew up. And when I look around I see the same kinds of kids as ever. They are all fatter, but they are the same cigarette-smoking, know-nothing white punks that I was, the tough sons and daughters of the unwashed. In my old neighborhood where over one-quarter of adults do not have a high school diploma, there are lots of yellow ribbons in the windows, Marine Corps and Army parent’s icons on the porches and scrubby lawns, evidence enough that you do not need an education to contribute something of value the far-flung perimeter of our expanding empire of blood and commerce. Pure meanness is highly valued in Caesar’s legions. Lots of Americans don’t seem to mind having a pack of young American pit bulls savage some flyblown desert nation, or running loose in the White House for that matter, as long as they are our pit bulls protecting Wall Street and the 401-Ks of the upper middle class.

The problem is this: pit bulls always escalate the fight and keep at it until the last dog is dead, leaving the gentler breeds to clean up the blood spilled. We mutt people, the pit bulls, have always been your own, whether you claim us or not. And until you accept that you are your brother’s keeper, and help deliver us from ignorance, you will continue to have on your hands some of every drop of blood spilled — from the sands of Iraq to the streets of East L.A. All the socially responsible stock portfolios, little hybrid cars and post-modernist deconstruction in the world will not wash it off.

About the author
The late Joe Bageant, TGP’s editor emeritus, justly called “the people’s sociologist”, carved up the time in his busy, hard working life to complete at least two classic books, Deer Hunting with Jesus, and Rainbow Pie, both often uncomfortably honest, outspoken journeys through the heartland of America’s white poor, its ruralitania, and especially its Southern Scots-Irish population