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Tom Coburn is a Big Fat Jerk


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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Let’s Drink to the Slobbering Classes

One of the best reads of the week has gone almost unnoticed in blogotopia. Joe Bageant's meandering behemoth Let’s Drink to the Slobbering Classes is pasted together from reader emails. The end result is way too wordy (like I'm not) for conventional tastes, but nails it so often and so well, it shouldn't be ignored.

I read it while browsing Kos, which was an instructive experience. I love Kos, enjoy many of the posters there and believe it's serving a valuable function. However, some of the young Turks over there .... yeow! Eg, Lakoff posts a diary to announce Social Justice Sunday --- and here come the ambitious young highly educated extremely self-righteous and self-assured mobs "Excuse me, Mr. Lakoff, I believe your frame is wrong!"

Jeebus! Screw framing already, people, and grab a cluephone!

In any case, these are some of the very people for whom Bageant's big mess of an essay will make no sense, assured as they are of the security of their own place in the world and fervent that They Know Best.

When crap happens to working people, it’s usually a domino line of crap. It is bad enough that Poot lost his apartment when landed in the hoosegow, and will have to find a new one in August, along with a new job, unless he decides to starve to death by remaining at Gas ‘n Grubs. He also lost his truck along the way. I am almost willing to bet that his life will never recover from this setback. Meanwhile, something even worse has come of this run-in with American penology’s gulag system of white trash labor: By court order Poot cannot set foot in Burt’s Tavern until August. He may not survive such a blow.

[...]

the point is that for many working class Americans it is possible not to know a single person of liberal persuasion in daily life -- which must seem inconceivable to urban and metropolitan Americans. A night in any tavern in this town shows why this is possible. Can you spell American C-L-A-S-S system?

[...]

They have never been exposed to a union, never taken a college class, and do not expect too much out of life. Liberals, on the other hand, expect far too damned much, in their opinion. Life is tough. Suck it in. Don’t take chances. Be conservative and stick with what you know. Like most working people, they were born working class, never had college aspirations, and accept their lives. Such people do not have “careers”. They have jobs to pay the bills.

Meanwhile, the world outside Burt’s or Winchester, Virginia doesn’t exist. Not really. If you spend your days at a soul-numbing repetitious job with a brain simmering in anti-depressants, a belly stuffed with high fat, supercarb comfort food, and evenings half drunk or recovering on the couch from work . . . well . . . when the heck are you supposed to find time or mind to grasp the implications of global warming even as you contemplate being one payday ahead of homelessness? A while back I watched this bar full of people stare at a game of Afghani dead goat polo in silent, rapt attention. If that isn’t brain dead I don’t know what is. The relentless autocratic, blue collar American workplace has ground my people down, smashed ‘em right into the couch. There they are force-fed the huckster’s hologram of “personal freedom” in advertisements for off road vehicles. Getting a lousy public education, then being played against your fellow workers in Darwinian fashion by the free market economy does not make for optimism or open mindedness. It makes for a kind of bleak meanness nobody is openly talking about in the American political dialogue today.

I seem to remember a time when we weren’t so mean, back when most people in Burt’s believed in the American dream. A few still do, or at least pay lip service to it, though now they have been reduced to being grateful for having a job, any job. When you're easily replaced and are devalued you no longer pretend to have a choice. To feed your family you work harder and for less and without benefits. You eat shit and you ask for seconds. Eating shit eventually makes you bitter and resentful of anyone who does not appear to be eating their share of shit. So you feel that anyone else who gets a break, especially a government-assisted leg up is cheating you. From resentment it is only a short skip to hatred and the illogical behavior that comes with hatred. Like voting Republican against your own best interests.

American liberals have been wailing and moaning like a bunch of dying cats in a hailstorm. HOW COULD THEY BE THAT STUPID? Well dammit, we’ve always been that stupid. So get over it. But from time to time at least we were lucky enough to have real leadership, people like Franklin Roosevelt who understood that politics is and always will be about class struggle. Rich as he was, he had enough character to stand up for social and economic justice. Hell, even Nixon wanted universal health care. It took a truly godless pack of jackals from Texas to finally bring down and savage the Roosevelt legacy. 

The problem with the postmodern middle class and left is that they've forgotten about the class issue. Especially now that they are educated middle class citizens, urban dwellers, Jews and Germans and Italians and Irishmen, Asians and Poles, all far better off than their ancestors. They’ve come far from their Ellis Island roots and are now what is known as the “two shithouse Irish,” in redneck parlance.

Besides that, it's not easy for educated people with orderly lives to be on the side of overweight, undereducated, deeply indebted, and bitterly frustrated and prejudiced people, folks who have finally given up after being kicked in the ass one too many times. The system is so rigged against them that even those who strive seldom get out, which is in itself a lesson to others. These people, the people of debt counselors, joint custody, repoed vehicles and mobile homes, have been lied to, cheated, and robbed, mocked on television, and now once again spat upon by their supposed betters, this time the angry liberals. Show me the party that represents them. Who could they have voted for that would have improved their situations? Let’s face it, under the Democrats they would be getting screwed somewhat less (maybe), but they would not be getting ahead. In real wages they have lost ground under Dems as well as the GOP since 1973.

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