Sometimes I pause to ask myself just how many “Americas” we have in this country. There’s the America that Reagan idealized in his shining city upon a hill. As Joe Bageant reminds us in his book, Deer Hunting with Jesus, there’s also the a large backwoods America, where all kinds of strange ideas take root.
Today’s Washington Post takes us to one of the Bageantian hamlets that are hard for some urban, coastal sophisticates to imagine. But lack of imagination doesn’t make these places any less real.
Welcome to West Plains, MO:
Since it was erected by a local conservative about a month ago, the billboard has been criticized by political Web sites, media outlets and travelers passing through West Plains as racist, factually inaccurate and small-minded. More telling, though, has been the reaction — or lack of it — in the town itself.
“To a lot of us, the sign is just a step in the right direction,” said Kevin Collins, 38, who wrote to the local newspaper in support of the sign. “I’m like a pit bull, and believe some things are worth fighting for. We can’t just sit back and let him become president.”
The part that’s insane is the fact that Obama, more so than McCain, has small town America’s interests at heart. But “policy” doesn’t travel well to these isolated towns. “Policy” is something that educated people discuss over pear mojitos. Intolerance, however, well that arrives fresh each morning care of conservative talk radio.
If you haven’t read Bageant’s book, please consider doing so. There can’t be any segment of our population that’s neglected and left behind. That’s injustice. It’s easy to put people like Kevin Collins–the guy who “can’t just sit back and let him become president”–in a derogatory box. But there’s no advancement in that.
Let’s listen to Bageant on the topic…