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Has America Become Redneck Nation?

Note: This article originally ran in late January of 2003 at Blogcritics, where I was among its earliest and most prolific contributors. I wrote numerous essays, interviews and product reviews there until about 2009 or so. At some point in late 2017, the current management at Blogcritics chose to remove all of my articles without notifying me, and have yet to respond to my email requests for an explanation, or to let me know how to restore them there. (Accidents happen on the Internet; perhaps it was just a glitch?) In the interim, I will slowly be reposting my more interesting pieces here, beginning with Michael Graham's 2002 book Redneck Nation, which caught very early on in the post-9/11 world the left's racially obsessed identity and/or grievance politics. 

I'm always a sucker for books that purport to explain how the world--or at least how America--works. Whether it's Alvin Toffler's Third Wave trilogy, Tom Wolfe's wry studies of how status rules our lives, or David Brooks' recent classic, Bobos in Paradise, I'm sure to read it.

So when National Review Online, at the height of the Trent Lott imbroglio, interviewed Michael Graham, the author of Redneck Nation, I had to read a copy. Here was a guy with a hypothesis that was at once so outrageous, and yet so...logical.

As you may have guessed by its title, in Redneck Nation, Graham essentially believes that somewhere in the past 25 years or so, the South quietly, and through no fault of its own, won the Civil War. That doesn't mean there will be a Confederate flag flying over the state capitals in Albany or Sacramento, (although Redneck Nation has a line that's a real catchphrase, " the only difference between Brooklyn, New York and Birmingham, Alabama is that you can't get a gun rack in a Trans-Am.") but it does mean that many of the ideas of the old South, though thoroughly discredited by the 1960 civil rights movement, have slowly crept into-or back into-the minds of many Americans.

How Did It Happen?

How did we become redneck nation? In an interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review (for whom Graham has written for from time to time) Graham said, "when I talk about redneckery in Redneck Nation, I'm not talking about the Jeff Foxworthy stereotypes. I'm writing about the ideology: What did a typical white southern 'redneck' believe at the beginning of the civil-rights movement 50 years ago?"

  • He believed that race mattered, that race was determinant.
  • He believed that free speech was dangerous, spread by "outside agitators" who never learned the southern speech code: "If you can't say something nice...drink."
  • He believed that all women were either delicate creatures in need of special social protections, or they were roadhouse trailer trash who would spank you and call you "Daddy."
  • He believed that the more irrational and ridiculous your religion, the more fervently you believed in God.
  • He believed the most entertaining way to spend a Saturday night was to watch something get "blowed up real good."