Stereotypes Ahoy!

Did anyone else find the article “Living in a Red World: For a Conservative, Life Is Sweet in Sugar Land, Tex.” as offensive and condescending as I did?

The point of the article was to illustrate what lifestyles are like in the so-called “Red states” that are the strongholds of the Republican Party. (Random observation: It’s a measure of how historically illiterate we are today as a people that, when choosing colors to denote conservative and liberal states, we make the liberals blues and the conservatives Reds. But I digress.) But it ends up making its subjects sound like such redneck hicks you can practically watch the reporter’s contempt drip off the page.

This is the home of Britton Stein, who describes George W. Bush as “a man, a man’s man, a manly man,” and Al Gore as “a ranting and raving little whiny baby.”

Yeah! And Stein doesn’t stop there. He goes to church! He owns some guns! He drinks Bud Light! And don’t get them started on how he eats:

Stein’s breakfast is scrambled eggs over congealed grits fried in butter, and coffee that comes not in bean form but already ground and is brewed not through natural brown paper filters but unnatural white ones. ” ‘Melitta plants four trees for every one used in the production of our filter paper,’ ” he says, reading the side of the box of filters. He puts the box back in the cabinet. “I could care less.”

Underlying all this, of course, is the presumption that the Red states are full of Britton Steins, strange people with unfamiliar ways who are impervious to reason.

I don’t doubt that Britton Stein exists, or that he eats the diet ascribed to him. But is he really that different from the Blue State folk who grind their own coffee and eat imported muesli for breakfast? More importantly, does it contribute anything to our national life to treat him as a figure to be gawked at — as some kind of curiosity, the Brother From Another Planet?

I was born and raised a Midwesterner, and I know a lot of fine Americans who have a lot in common with Britton Stein. I don’t always agree with their politics, and they don’t always agree with mine, but as long as people play by the rules and live their lives in some kind of honorable way, I can live with their political differences, and I don’t care what they eat for breakfast. It’s too bad the Washington Post doesn’t feel the same way.

(Footnote: they ran a companion piece today following around a Blue State family in — wait for it — San Francisco. Not surprisingly, this article was about 1000% less condescending. Go figure.)


Sandy Smith

April 27, 2004
10:44 am

The colors are a pretty recent phenomenon–Republicans have been blue on electoral maps for all of my conscious political life (extending to the 1980 election). Either with Dole or with Bush/Gore they switched. So I was kinda puzzled and it always looked strange to me to see the “red” and think “Republican”.
That being said, it’s interesting that our peasants and European peasants are not dissimilar…it’s just that European tastes (Musli, et al) have been adopted as “sophisticated” by Americans who inherited the British inferiority complex toward the Continent. The primary difference is that here the country is so big and state control of culture is so low that the peasants actually think they have a culture that’s just as good as their betters, whereas in Europe if they read papers with titties on page 3 and swill cheap beer they’re a bit more ashamed of it. However, what you read and eat and drink there also designates you more firmly, and the two cultures don’t mix.
I chalk it up to lack of social mobility, whereas if you look too far back in anybody but Bush’s family tree, you see a yokel in this country. And that secret shame drives a lot of yuppie America. No zealots like the recently converted.

Sandy Smith

April 27, 2004
10:49 am

Heh–compare and contrast the guy’s breakfast with the Mother Country: