November 24, 2010

What about all the liberal rednecks?

They exist. Why aren't progressives talking to them?

Backstory: So I'm reading the book "No More Prisons" by League Of Pissed Off Voters (aka League of Indy Voters, aka League of Young Voters) founder William Upski Wimsatt.

It's all about hip-hop activism, inner city organizing, etc. And I think that's largely been the model that the league has followed. Which is great- If you live in a city.

I had an epiphany today, which is tied back to my training at the 1st annual Smackdown (aka organizer training session) in Columbus, Ohio back in 2004. After hearing story after story of how hard it is to be poor in a city like New York, I began to feel like, "well damn, I thought I was poor, but I've had it pretty good." But then after talking with the same people, I discovered that they had all sorts of opportunities that I never had, like specialty public schools for the arts, after school programs, they were cultivated for leadership by these like... community unions which served as like a parallel government.

Anyways, I'm not saying that living in a city doesn't suck-- like I said, I heard horror stories too, but I realized when talking with these kids, that rural folks like myself grew up in a different kind of poverty that sucked in different ways. I ate gov't cheese and gov't bologna growing up. Sometimes that and mustard was all we had to eat. My middle school almost folded because our property tax base wasn't enough to support it.
Arts program? Phht. Music program? HA! We barely had a gym program. Hell, we barely had a school.
What would the solution be? Bus us to another school? Where exactly might that school be at? We consolidated already to cut costs...

In the Boy Scouts, parents brought venison they'd hunted, killed, and cleaned themselves, for barbecues. They talked obliquely about factory farms and pollution, and how hunting connects us to the land. Hunters and fishermen are ready and available allies on environmental issues, but we dismiss them as rednecks. To our own peril.

Anyways, the long and the short of it is this:

The next breakthrough that progressives are going to have to make before we can effectively take our country back, is getting a foothold in areas of rural poverty.

The question we need to be asking is, "What about all the liberal rednecks?"


  1. Great point. It's the same as some environmentalists who discount hunters and farmers. These are people who genuinely care about the land, the wildlife, and our wild places, yet some people assume that if they don't have a certain education or a specific career, they have nothing to offer to the movement. We have to reach out to people across the spectrum and find allies and those who are open to new ideas, no matter where they live or what they look like.

  2. I live in rural WV. Thankfully I ran across some liberal/progressives quickly. There is a huge potential for organizing in rural America. It's unfortunate that liberal organizations that fund grassroots organizing fund urban organizing and leaves those of us out there doing it in rural areas struggling just to get noticed.

  3. Well, reading your experiences with rural poverty makes my experience with urban poverty not seem so bad. I grew up fluctuating between lower middle class and poor, even getting so poor once that I had to dig in dumpsters to get food. Still, for the most part it seems to have been a better experience than yours.

  4. I don't know that anybody's experience in poverty has been "better" or "worse." They've been different. Poverty sucks no matter what.

    Though I was poor growing up, I also had ready access to nature. I didn't have to worry so much about gangs or drugs, though drugs and gangs did exist- the population was spread out, so it wasn't an issue I had to confront on a daily basis.

  5. Well I never dealt with gangs, since I grew up around a pretty middle class "suburban" area, I was just lower middle class until my teens where I became flat out poor. There was a few meth dealers in my junior high though, shocked me when I first ran into them.

  6. This makes since Punk Patriot. If you look through our nation's history you find that many rural places, the mountainous places in particular, were purposefully populated by those who thought differently than the everyday man in the lowlands and cities. Many the revolutionaries of their time. The term "redneck" itself has it's roots in political activism.