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In his PC screed against novelist Jane Smiley, diarist AaronBa accused her of unfairly stereotyping the Scots-Irish. In my last diary, I argued she was doing nothing more than talking about group characteristics, and doing so in an historical context that has the exact opposite thrust of stereotyping. By showing such characteristics to be a product of historical and sociological forces, Smiley’s approach—based on the book Albion’s Seed, by David Hackett Fischer—undermines the stereotypical belief that such characteristics represent an immutable essential nature.

Here, I’ll take a look at a 2004 Wall Street Journal op-ed by Senator James Webb, himself a proud Scots-Irish who’s written a whole book on the subject, and compare his views with Smiley’s. Webb’s and Smiley’s views coincide to some extent, but differ in major ways.  Yet, we could not even begin to compare them, and learn from doing so, if we bought into AaronBa’s vitriolic PC attack on Smiley.

Disclaimer Before going any further, I need to state out front that I haven’t read Webb's book Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, so I don’t know how well the views expressed in the constrained form of this op-ed jibe with his views expressed at length in his book. I welcome those who have read his book to weigh in and add to this conversation. But a WSJ op-ed has sufficient prominence to be worth analyzing on its own, and serves to illustrate important points which still stand, even if Webb’s larger views are somewhat at odds with his presentation in this op-ed.  

Webb and Smiley/Fischer--Significant Points of Agreement

In his op-ed, "Secret GOP Weapon: The Scots-Irish Vote", published on October 19, 2004, Webb first described Bush’s campaign presentation in neutralist terms as it might appear to most elite commentators:

To an outsider George W. Bush's political demeanor seems little more than stumbling tautology. He utters his campaign message in clipped phrases, filled with bravado and repeated references to God, and to resoluteness of purpose. But to a trained eye and ear these performances have the deliberate balance of a country singer at the Grand Ole Opry.

Webb went on to explain:

Speaking in a quasi-rural dialect that his critics dismiss as affected, W is telling his core voting groups that he is one of them. No matter that he is the product of many generations of wealth; that his grandfather was a New England senator; that his father moved the family's wealth south just like the hated Carpetbaggers after the Civil War; that he himself went North to Andover and Yale and Harvard when it came time for serious grooming. And as with the persona, so also with the key issues. The Bush campaign proceeds outward from a familiar mantra: strong leadership, success in war, neighbor helping neighbor, family values, and belief in God. Contrary to many analyses, these issues reach much farther than the oft-discussed Christian Right. The president will not win re-election without carrying the votes of the Scots-Irish, along with those others who make up the "Jacksonian" political culture that has migrated toward the values of this ethnic group.

Several things come through in this passage.  First, that cultural identification matters.  Second, that the Scots-Irish matter.  Third, that for the Scots-Irish, war matters.  Fourth, that blood, and even heritage do not matter exclusively, the way they once did: A man with numerous hated Yankee trappings can, over time, transform himself into one of them.  Fifth, that many others, not Scots-Irish, have "migrated toward the values of this ethnic group."  All these points are ones that David Hackett Fischer and Jane Smiley have made.  Indeed, Smiley made exactly the same point about Bush that Webb just made: he has turned himself into a Borderer.

This isn’t to say that Webb and Smiley don’t have their differences.  They do, they’re profound, and we’ll get to them next.  But Webb and Smiley share a historical and cultural framework that at least enables some degree of dialogue, discussion and debate.  In contrast, AaronBa’s vitriolic PC attack on Smiley would completely shut down any possibility of exploring our differences, and working towards finding some sort of consensus.

An Intro To Differences

Differences between Smiley and Webb derive from four types of differences between them: differences of fact, differences of value, differences of perspective (inside vs. outside the culture) and differences of method—descriptive vs. comparative.  For example, Webb—assuming an insider’s descriptive method—mentions five issues that resonate with the Scots Irish: "strong leadership, success in war, neighbor helping neighbor, family values, and belief in God."  In contrast, Smiley’s outsider comparative approach highlights how the four groups differ in what they mean by family values and belief in God.  (There are implicit differences in value here, one might argue, but we’ll wait for more clear-cut examples for that discussion.)

Smiley does not focus on leadership per se, but she does say something that’s surely relevant about how strength is perceived: Cavaliers (#2) and Borderers (#4) are status-conscious honor-based cultures, in which insults must be dealt with because they threaten loss of status, which is inherently dangerous.  In contrast, Puritans (#1) and Quakers (#3) are self-respect-based egalitarian cultures. in which individual conscience is a stronger guide to behavior and insults are seen as reflecting more on character of the insulter than the one insulted.  As a result, "Cultures 2 and 4 view this equanimity in the face of insult as a weakness and failure of masculinity, and so they perennially underestimate the strength of liberals and their convictions."

It doesn’t take much to see why Bush would be perceived as a "strong leader" within Cultures 2 and 4, but not within 1 and 3.  He responded to 9/11 as an insult, and has continued to act as if the "war on terror" is the gravest threat America has ever faced—graver than either the Civil War, which nearly destroyed the Union, or the Cold War, which threatened nuclear annihilation.  From this point of view, his "axis of evil" speech makes perfect sense: We were insulted by being attacked, so we should restore our honor by counter-attacking the strongest enemies we have, regardless of whether they had anything to do with the attacks.  Liberals, on the other hand, have this strange reality-based idea that we ought to respond by capturing or killing those who actually killed our people, and that failure to do so after more than 5 years—longer than US involvement in World War II—is a sign of leadership weakness as well as incompetence.

The fact that Webb accepts Bush as a strong leader indicates both a strength and a weakness on his part. The strength is that he understands Bush on his own terms, and is willing to confront him—something which the Democratic Party as a whole still seems incapable of grasping, even after the success of doing so in the 2006 midterms. The weakness is that he doesn’t see the culture-bound nature of such "strength," and the weakness it reveals from a different perspective—an inner weakness hiding behind bravado that’s incapable of admitting, learning from, and correcting its mistakes.

Here, the differences in value clearly make their appearance, and do so directly as a result of differences in perspective (insider vs. outsider) and method (descriptive vs. comparative).  It’s the outsider/comparative perspective that calls into question the value of "strong leadership" as Webb construes it from an insider/descriptive perspective.

Somewhat similarly, the claim that "neighbor helping neighbor" is a Scots-Irish/Borderer value reflects an insider’s view that is more questionable from Smiley’s perspective, based on Fischer’s work. There is, of course, the tradition of feuding and fighting not widely seen in other traditions that puts a crimp in neighbors helping one another. Furthermore, Smiley notes that part of the Puritan concept of liberty was that "the individual should be free from want (which meant that members of the community were obliged to help their unfortunate neighbors)."  The point is not to argue that Webb is mistaken—only that there’s more to the story.  Once again, the outsider/comparative perspective that calls into question the value of "neighbor-helping-neighbor" from an insider/descriptive perspective—though not as sharply, perhaps, as in the previous example of "strong leadership."

These divergences contrast sharply with the agreement regarding "success in war" as a Borderer value, which passes muster from both perspectives.  Not only would Fischer/Smiley agree descriptively, but comparatively as well—they would surely regard it as a distinctively Borderer value.  Not that other groups are keen on losing wars.  Rather, they are significantly less likely to want to go starting them in the first place.

The differences discussed so far are potentially resolvable without too much strain. This does not mean that Webb would have to agree with Smiley, or visa versa, but only that they would see each other’s point, and acknowledge good reasons supporting that point. Complete agreement is not necessarily out of the question, either, but is not really the point. Mutual understanding and respect are.

Deeper Differences--Matters of Value

I now want to shift perspective, focusing on differences of fact—factual claims Webb makes that Smiley and/or Fischer would almost certainly dispute. Implicit in these differences are differences in value, method and perspective as well. Here, resolution is much more difficult. It is not enough to see each other’s point—though that would certainly help along the way. One or another fact claim—or both—must be abandoned in order for differences to be resolved.

But first, let’s consider a transitional case—one where differences in values come to the fore.  Webb writes of the Scots-Irish:

They are deeply patriotic, having consistently supported every war America has fought, and intensely opposed to gun control -- an issue that probably cost Mr. Gore both his home state of Tennessee and traditionally Democratic West Virginia in 2000.

In contrast, writing about all four groups comparatively, Smiley says:

They also use their cultural allegiances to define "America" and the right and proper form that patriotism must take. For New Englanders, let's say, patriotism is about the history of the Constitution, the slow progress of law and reason as differences that define the US in contrast to other nations with a more haphazard history. For Virginians, patriotism was about having the right to construct one's own way of life without outside interference. For the Quakers and their descendants, patriotism is about toleration, welcome, diversity, rewards rather than punishments. For Borderers and their descendants, patriotism is about passionate loyalty to the group, alert self-defense, and domination in every sphere.

Smiley’s view of Borderer patriotism is roughly compatible with Webb’s definition of patriotism per se—though he would no doubt bristle at negative connotations of "domination in every sphere."  But, of course, patriotism does not just mean what any one group takes it to mean, with no accounting for the rest.  Webb’s claim to have defined patriotism for all is at least a value claim, if not a factual one, made additionally questionable by equating it to intense opposition to gun control.  This may be how Borderers see gun control, but it is a view devoid of historical support, however consonant it may be with their culture.

In contrast, Smiley goes on to say:

To me, this shows, at least in part, why George W. Bush has retained his loyal following for so long, and why his White House staff don't ever seem to cross him or make him angry. As participants in this newly ascendant culture, their loyalty is always to their group rather than to abstract principles or ideas, even ideas that other groups take very seriously, such as the Constitution.

Bush’s profound hostility to the rule of law—not just the Constitution, but even the Magna Charta—is surely not compatible with patriotism as Puritans, Quakers or Cavaliers would understand it.

Deeper Differences--Matters of Fact

We now turn to two more clear-cut examples of factual disagreement, though the first shows a close affinity to our transitional case, precisely because it is difficult to separate fact and value claims when value-laden words like "patriotism" or "democracy" are at issue.

Webb writes:

True American-style democracy had its origins in this culture. Its values emanated from the Scottish Kirk, which had thrown out the top-down hierarchy of the Catholic Church and replaced it with governing councils made up of ordinary citizens.

The notion that any one culture has a lock on the origins of "true American-style democracy" is inherently suspect from the sort of perspective that Fischer embodies.  It is simply false to claim the Scots-Irish had any superior claim.  They were certainly less inclined toward fixed hierarchies than their Puritan or Cavalier counterparts, but more hierarchical than the Quakers. Smiley describes different conceptions of liberty for all three other cultures, but not for the Borderers.  Freedom from outsiders control can be assumed from what she does say, but religious tolerance would seem limited at best—a far cry from the Quakers:

the Quaker idea of liberty of conscience was based, not on rules, but on thought and choice, recognizing that different people could make different choices, and that those choices could still be conscientious. Certainly, this idea grew out of the Quakers' understanding of the facts of life--other religions and ideas were everywhere around them, and, as they had never been dominant, it was likely, if not certain, that they never would be.

In contrast, she notes about the Borderers:

Their religious beliefs were diverse on the surface, but shared an underlying intensity and tribal character--they were believers, simultaneously, in grace and sectarian conflict.

This is not a formula for promoting religious tolerance, which in turn forms the foundation stone for liberty of conscience more generally.

Thus, in terms of liberty, at least, it seems insupportable to claim that "True American-style democracy had its origins in this culture."  Indeed, it seems insupportable to claim that true American-style democracy has strong support in Borderer culture today.  They are all for their own liberty, of course, but have very little tolerance for the liberty of others, at least compared to the other traditions—especially the Quakers, the "liberal elite" onto which they readily project their own intolerance.

The second factually false claim involves Webb’s version of a favorite GOP meme: "I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me."  It’s instructive to recall that Ronald Reagan, who first popularized this meme, was extremely disingenuous about just when this happened, and why.  In Webb’s version:

The Democrats lost their affinity with the Scots-Irish during the Civil Rights era, when -- because it was the dominant culture in the South -- its "redneck" idiosyncrasies provided an easy target during their shift toward minorities as the foundation of their national electoral strategy.

This passage stands reality on its head.  During the Civil Rights era, it was not the Democrats, but the Republicans who "targeted" the Scots Irish as the foundation of their national electoral strategy.  The GOP even had a name for it—"the Southern Strategy." [Note wignut attempts to rewrite history in the linked-to Wikipedia article.] The Democrats never took pot-shots at "redneck" idiosyncrasies as Webb would have it. But the GOP took constant cannon shots at blacks and Yankees in wooing over Scots-Irish and other Southern whites. In contrast, "courting minorities" did not require demonizing anyone. It required simple justice, nothing more.  Furthermore, it was hardly "the foundation of the Democrats’ national electoral strategy."  The numbers just weren’t there for it. But painting the Democrats as beholden to minority "special interests" was a key part of the GOP’s Southern Strategy.

In short, Webb is regurgitating the GOP’s race-baiting false history it used to take over the Solid South.  It was certainly very important for the South to feel victimized, in order to avoid confronting its own long and bloody history of victimizing blacks—first as slaves, then as terrorized second-class citizens.  But just because it was psychologically important doesn’t make it true.  We may not want to rub this in anyone’s face—that’s not the best way to move forward.  But neither should we help them deny it.  Denial does not move people forward, either.

Conclusion: What We Need

What we need—something akin to South Africa’s "Truth and Reconciliation" process—requires creation of a shared moral context powerful enough to enable transformation, so that what has been owned as part of a cherished identity can be disowned for sake of a new identity. This is bound to be a painful process.  It cannot be easy, or it would have been done long ago.  But it must be done, for the sake of the Scots Irish, and their Borderer bretheren as much as anyone else.  This will, however, require leadership from within their own ranks—just as Afrikaaners needed their own leadership (not all of it, by a long shot, but at least one leading figure) to recognize, and act on the need for change.

Based on his WSJ op-ed, Webb is clearly not that sort of leader, at least not now, not yet.  He is still fiercely clinging to strands of myth that keep Borderer culture tightly bound to the past, and blind, if not outright hostile to other possibilities around it.

Yet, commentator matt n nyc writes ("Unfair to Fisher"):

I'm reading Webb's Born Fighting right now, and I'm finding it both a good support of the Fisher/Smiley thesis and a glimmer of hope. It seems to suggest that Scots-Irish culture can be both the problem and the solution. So enough of the defensiveness; be proud of your heritage and try to put it to work to defeat the wingnuts on their own turf.

And I concur.  (I’ve certainly got a Borderer fighting streak in me, as do a large chunk of folks in the liberal blogosphere.)

For Borderer culture to truly progress, it must first have some leadership that can see the contradictions here, and face up to them.  This need not mean accepting them as they are seen by outsiders.  But it does mean seeing the need for a more sophisticated explanation of what makes the culture coherent, on the one hand, and what its real cleavages are, understood on its own terms.  It is surely possible that Webb could become such a figure, over time.  But neither he, nor anyone else like him, will make the necessary, painful transition unless they are both challenged and listened to.  In short, we need dialogue.

We should all be prepared to be both challenged and listened to.

Originally posted to Paul Rosenberg on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 01:50 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar--Now Accepting All Manner of Live Vermin! (19+ / 0-)

    Like I said last time, dead rats, no.

    But live scorpions, tarantulas and all manner of other critters are now welcome along with live rats.

  •  Ummmm (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, TexasTwister

    I think there were immigrations from non-English speaking parts of Europe that have been equally important in shaping regional character and culture in the United States.

    The kindest thing I can say about this line of analysis is that it's so anachronistic and Anglo-centric as to raise questions about its contemporary relevance.

    •  Is the Declaration of Independence (0+ / 0-)

      Anglo-centric?

      •  No More that It Is Franco-centric, No. (0+ / 0-)

        And then there's the small matter of the debt to the Iriquois Nation as well.

        So, on balance, I would say no.

        •  The traditional rights of Englishmen? (5+ / 0-)

          Magna Carta?

          Of course the differences and similarities between the intellectual foundations of the American revolution and the French revolution could fill volumes.

          I for one have little trouble accepting that our culture is essentially English in origin and that modern liberalism emerged from a Quaker sensibility. This is part of why socialism and Marx have always found infertile soil in the United States.

          Note too the idea that these English cultures (sub-cultures) assimilate ideas from other cultures.

          As an analogy, compare the English language which routinely allows new words to be made up, or stolen from other languages, while deliberate efforts are made to keep the French langauge "pure"

          •  It's Shared Rootstock (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Paul Rosenberg, Bill White

            I'm not saying that the signers of the DOI weren't largely primarily English-speakers.

            But as for your secondary assertion about socialism and Marxism finding infertile soil here, this is historically nonsensical.

            Both had made great strides in the US by the early 20th Century in nativized forms. The great European immigrations of the early 20th Century, however, provided an opening for xenophobic and racist demonization of anarchism, socialism, and Marxism as dirty because of their associations with European immigrants.

            And it worked for most of the 20th Century.

            •  Stop, You're Both Right! (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              cookiebear, greenskeeper, Bill White, TomP
              Of course demonization of "foreign influences" played a large role in stigmatizing Marxism and socialism.

              But it seems foolish to ignore this sort of cultural insight in considering how best to meld ideas. The cultural chasm between British and Continental culture is profound, and leaves much more than just Marxism and socialism on the outside looking in.

              Indeed, Marxism and socialism made much more headway in 19th Century Britain in part--I, and probably Smiley would argue--because Britain had done much more to integrate her different folkways than America has thus far done.

            •  Which French political traditions (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              TomP, wondering if

              are incorporated into the Declaration of Independence?

              Okay, I will grant the influence of Montaigne and Montesquieu but weree they equal in influence to Locke, Hume, Blackstone and the English common law?

              The Puritans of New England?

              Insofar as part of the Anglo tradition is to be assimiliative, other influences surely exist, but our nation began as an English nation in language, law, traditions and ways of thinking.

              •  Three Notions Drawn From France (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                murrayewv, Bill White, vets74

                Which are arguably less "French Political Traditions" than emergent philosophical principles from the French branch of The Great Enlightenment:

                1. The equality of all men.
                1. The right of Revolution.
                1. The right of free trade.

                "Equal" is a funny word.

                If I make a potato-leek soup and flavor it with curry, are the base and the seasoning equal in volume? No.

                If I want the same dish three days later but my only choices are curried rice or classic vichysoisse, which will I choose? Probably the rice.

                So it's not so simple.

                •  Okay, lets see here (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  TomP

                  In reverse order

                  1. Free trade? Adam Smith was English.

                  1776 saw three momentous events: Jefferson's Declaration, Gibbon's "Decline and Fall" and Smith's "Wealth of Nations"

                  The English were the world's traders (and mercantilists).

                  1. Right of revolution?

                  Edmund Burke supported the American revolution and despised the French Revolution. Maybe there is a hint there our revolution was different than their revolution. ;-)

                  1. Equality of all men?

                  Liberté, égalité, fraternité was an abhorent slogan for many in the new Unted States.

                  All men are created equal? Sure, but there is a different conception about the role of government in relation to the individual than on the Continent.

                  = = =

                  Of course France and England are joined at the hip (read Tale of Two Cities or Shakespeare's plays) or recall 1066 and the Norman Conquest so if we get too dogmatic our positions evaporate into air.

                  Yet I stand by the assertion America is more English than French and therefore Albion's Seed is an vital piece of research.

                  •  Created Differences (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    cookiebear, greenskeeper

                    I think these examples all underscore something interesting--the degree to which British and French ideas share much in common, but are construed as different.  And part of this has to do with internal British divisions--both in Britain and America.

                    (3) Smith was Scottish, not English.  The Scottish Enlightenment was distinctly different from anything happening in England at the time. He was regarded as a radical at the time he wrote, but was appropriated as an establishment icon 40 years later, after the Napoleonic Wars. Yet, the French physiocrats were working very much along the same lines.  See, for example, Economic Sentiments
                    Adam Smith, Condorcet, and the Enlightenment
                    by Emma Rothschild.

                    (2) The right of revolution is a dicey concept.  It comes, in large part, out of the gaps in development of liberal political theory. In Britain this is best seen in Locke's concept of the consent of the governed coming well before there was any agreement on how such consent should or could be secured. But Britain had a much more developed political culture than France.  Its gap was with the divine right of kings, not within the developments after the divine right right of kings. In both instances, people drew on ancient claims that were partly invented.

                    (1) The Federalist/Democratic-Republican split--expressed starkly in the Alien and Sedition Acts was very much entangled with the French Revolution and the subsequent British/French hostilities.  The Federalists abhored what the Democratic-Republicans embraced, and vice versa.

                    While the Democratic Republicans were Cavalier-centered, they had crucial Quaker support at a time when Philadelphia was still the Capital city.

                    •  Internal British divisions (0+ / 0-)

                      I think these examples all underscore something interesting--the degree to which British and French ideas share much in common, but are construed as different.  And part of this has to do with internal British divisions--both in Britain and America.

                      Internal British divisions are the precise subject of Albion's Seed, are they not?

                      Perhaps Paul is correct to tell us we both are correct, merely two blind men grasping a different part of the elephant and arguing about its nature.

                      = = =

                      Anyway, as for Adam Smith being Scottish, the Scots-Irish were not English either.

                      Absolutely the broader European Enlightenment influenced the Founders of our American Regime as did classical Greek and Roman writers and perhaps even Shakespeare, but the question becomes what categories and filters best help us make sense of it all.    

                      As you say, by 1776 the divine rights of an English King were already far more constrained than the divine rights of a French King making a revolution against an English King somewhat less revolutionary, as it were.

                      As I recall, Cromwell had already deposed and executed one king while France had yet to experience such an event and Bernard Bailyn argues that deep reflecting on the English Civil War influenced our Founders as much as anything.

                      As I noted above, the patron saint of genuine conservatism (Edmund Burke) supported the American Revolution while condemning the French version and it was the French version that led to the Terror and then to Napoleon while the American version led to, well, us.

                    •  Ooops, that is you, Paul. (0+ / 0-)

                      Sorry! :-)

                •  2nd answer (0+ / 0-)

                  Perhaps the genuis of Thomas Jefferson was to append something altogether new onto the rootstock of the traditional rights of Englishmen, just as wine grape growers will graft fruit bearing vines onto hardier roots.

                  I read the Declaration of Independence as extending the traditional rights of the English to ALL humanity, as radical a revision as Jesus Christ announcing that God could transform rocks on the ground into the seed of Abraham if he so choose and therefore every human being was included within the group known as the Chosen People.

                  Jefferson (perhaps quite deliberately) misread the English tradition and thereby radically revised it.

                  Which is the essence of genuis.

        •  How many who signed on 4 July 1776 (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cookiebear, vets74

          were English and how many were French?

    •  Clarification (6+ / 0-)
      I meant to include the subtitle of Fischer's book, if not in the intro (every character is precious in that space), then in the body.  But I forgot, mea culpa.  Anyway, the full title is: Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America.

      Fischer's primary claim is that "WASP" is a far too monolithic description for even just the British contribution to our national culture.  And that's a claim I think would draw relatively few objections.

      Beyond that, as a descendent of the great post-Civil War immigration, I'm hardly about to dis my own heritage.  Yet, at the same time, I've had little trouble identifying with some aspects of American culture that established here long before my people set foot here, and revolting against other aspects.

      A four-fold typology clearly presents a more robust framework of tensions than a two-fold (Red State/Blue State) one does.  And since our electoral politics is predominantly binary, a four-fold framework seems to offer a significant improvement in thinking about electoral politics.

      The point of this framework, for me, is that it helps illuminate the sorts of debates over economic populism vs. social liberalism, for example, in a way that has some social history behind it, so it's not just a description of abstract political positions.  And to the extent that it helps to do that, to make those debates more concrete, more socially grounded in a matrix of social practices, institutions and expectations, I think that it's highly useful for us.

      There's no reason why the use of one particular lens for one purpose has to rule out the use of other lenses, either for the same or for other purposes.

    •  I think it is useful, but Paul does not assert it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cookiebear

      explains everything.  Catholic, Jewish, and other immigrants played a role, but were socialized into an Anglo-American culture.  I see Puritan and Quaker aspects in myself, although I am not primarily of English, Irish or Scottish heritage.  It was the WASPy suburb in which I grew up.  

      These cultural constructs are, by definition, generalizations.  They are not determinants.  They are influences.  There are other influences.  

  •  absolutely excellent once again (4+ / 0-)

    it really has me thinking about my neighbors. yes, my cultural environs have the added complexity of being Indian Country, and many of my neighbors are both Indian and Scots-Irish - one family behind me, as a matter of fact, is a crew of 6, half with blazing red hair, the others all identifiably Indian and all but the father members of the Keetoowah, which is a high blood quantum tribe.

    much of this fits. but some doesn't. but it would be difficult to lay blame on that lack of fit on the original analyses because of our unique situation.

    i will say this, though --- everyone forgot the word clannish. because here, at least, it is profoundly clannish and i can see nothing which could explode that clannishness.

    i would also add suspicious to the mix, although that may be a factor of clannishness.

    very, very, very interesting. thanks again.

    Cornbread is square, but pi are round.

    by cookiebear on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 02:02:06 PM PST

    •  I Just Have To Ask! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tamens, cookiebear
      What's a "high blood quantum tribe"?  It's so rich with connotations, I almost don't want to know!

      And, yes, clannishness is very much a Borderer thing.  As a Quaker type, I tend to get hives around clannish folks.  And I write for a paper published in a very clannish (almost entirely non-WASP) town.  But I live across the harbor from it.

      •  it refers to how much ... (3+ / 0-)

        Indian blood you have

        it's completely bizarre and fairly controversial. it was a standard imposed on the tribes by the US gov't, as a wink wink way of ensuring they'd die out, esp. the ones requiring high blood quantum, like the Kiowa and, of course, the Keetoowah.

        i don't remember the exact formulation, but people end up being 1/4 Cherokee or, in the case of the Cherokee Nation, even 1/2500 (needless to say, they have low blood quantum requirements which only require you be a descendent of someone on the Dawes Rolls)

        i actually knew someone whose CDIB card (which is - get this - Certificate of Degree of Indian Vlood card) said they were 5/4 Cherokee. woah.

        Cornbread is square, but pi are round.

        by cookiebear on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 02:39:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  5/4 Cherokee! (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cookiebear, kkjohnson, TomP
          You don't mess around with that!

          But what exactly is "high"?  And is there a "middle" as well as "low"?  Is there an "ultra-low"?

          I know I could probably google it, but then I wouldn't get all the quirky asides.

          •  well (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ignorant bystander

            i'd say most of the Cherokee Nation would be considered ultra-low ::ducking in case there's any CNO members lurking::

            hehe

            seriously, though, it's a highly contentious issue.

            on the one hand, it does serve as a protective mechanism. it's done a great job in recent years, for example, protecting tribes against poseurs and what are known as "wannabes" during the height of the New Age phenomenon and the race to secure college scholarships for Indians before universities tightened the standards for qualification.

            so it does have some protective value.

            however ... and it's a big however --- if, say, a woman from one tribe marries a man from another tribe, their children often have to choose which tribe they belong to, and even if that child is what could be considered - um - fullblood, for lack of a better term, that child will have a CDIB listing half.

            i don't know the rules for all the tribes, but i do know that's been a common problem. and given how small many of the tribes are anymore, it's a given people marry out of the tribe.

            it also really obscures historical and cultural relationships. there are many people here, for example, who are Creek and Cherokee and even Natchez, because many of the Natchez hid in the Cherokee Nation. but they're legally considered only Cherokee.

            one result is huge chunks of history have been lost to the children of that very history. another result, specific to this example but common throughout the country - the Natchez are considered to be "extinct." yet there are Natchez here.

            just as problematic, for the Cherokee, for example, their most traditional members tend to be both Creek and Cherokee, but are only considered Cherokee. so it's a dissing, in a sense, of the most traditional members and a way to force them into somewhat unholy alliances - you can be one or the other, but not both, that sort of thing.

            it's a huge mess.

            BUT it is currently helping to protect. but that's a shortterm result which may have disastrous longterm consequences.

            many tribes, esp. the ones who've lost much of their population in recent years, are trying to revise their blood quantum requirements as a result. i'm glad they are.

            Cornbread is square, but pi are round.

            by cookiebear on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 03:00:33 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The head of the Poarch Creek Nation in (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              cookiebear

              Alabama (or he was at one time, don't know if he still is head) was proudly 1/32 Creek.

              I remember thinking "That's as much Indian blood as I have."  And I've never identified as Indian.

              Food and the art of improvisation:
              Jazz Cooking

              by kate petersen on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 03:53:18 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  it's a state tribe (2+ / 0-)

                state tribes lack federal recognition, but are often recognized by states because they have such tremendous tourism value

                by the terms of most of the state tribes, i'd venture a guess 70% of the US is Indian. :=D

                that's all i'm going to say about it, though, because --- hooboy, talk about a can of worms. federally recognized tribes and their members ferociously object to the state ones, and i don't blame them

                but state ones are so open that anyone can be a member. and because everyone wants to be Indian --- okay, because a lot of people want to be Indian --- people get really mad and defensive and big fights break out and blah blah blah

                the terms of membership are often as vague as "pictures of my great grandmother show she was really dark so i am obviously Indian!"

                gah.

                Cornbread is square, but pi are round.

                by cookiebear on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 04:00:03 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I have to admit (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  cookiebear

                  that in the 70s, when I was a dreamy teenaged wannabe everything, the idea of being Indian was very seductive.  Later, when I actually met and talked with Hopi and Pueblo women, I realized just how stupid and pretentious that would have been.  I was simply not raised in the culture and no way I could have fit in.

                  Food and the art of improvisation:
                  Jazz Cooking

                  by kate petersen on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 04:34:53 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  wait, they are federally recognized (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                kate petersen

                sorry, i got them mixed up with some of the many groups in that area claiming to be Cherokee tribes.

                gah again.

                Cornbread is square, but pi are round.

                by cookiebear on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 04:03:42 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  heh (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cookiebear

          My best friend in high school always claimed to be half Cherokee, half Kiowa, and half Mexican.  But he was always quick to confess that he was not very good at math.  He made up for it by being cleverer than me at everything else.

    •  grew up betwixt between... (4+ / 0-)

      When we'd go up to visit the gradparents in the Catskills, clannishness definitely applied. It was really strange to have my grandfather referred to as "The (insert Scots last name here)."

      From what I remember of the old stories, the whole town was part of the larger concept of clan. Lots of fighting to be had...but wagons would circle if faced with external stuff.

      "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

      by kredwyn on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 02:34:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary Paul. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cookiebear, isis2, RosyFinch

    I also agree with your political conclusion regarding a need to transform certain aspects of the culture.  Of course, that's true with Puritan, Quaker, Cavalier, and other cultural viewpoints too.  No one cultural viewpoint has a monopoly on truth.  We need to transform America's cultures.

    I also agree with you on your analysis of the South and Nixon's southern strategy (which continues to this day).  I'm glad Webb's a Democrat now, but I opposed Reagan then and would do it now.  

    The Rs used race to draw the Scots-Irish and other southerners in.  They got the Wallace voters.  Webb may be truthfully describing his own internal view.  That may be how he felt.  I'm neither Scots-Irish nor a southerner.  But I think it is more than what Webb describes.

    I think both Webb and Fisher's books would be worth reading.  I plan to do so.    

    •  I Came Across This Interesting Article (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cookiebear, isis2, RosyFinch, TomP

      on Kevin Phillips and the Southern Strategy from 1970, "Nixon's Southern strategy 'It's All In the Charts'" [PDF] by James Boyd, New York Times, May 17, 1970.  In it, Phillips says:

      "From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that... but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans.  That's where the votes are.  Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats"

      It's hard to get much clearer than that.

      I do think that Webb is accurately reflecting Scots-Irish perceptions. But those perceptions are warped, to say the least. Had King lived long enough to bring the Poor People's Campaign to fruition, he might well have begun to change those perceptions in a fundamental way.

      So now we're left hoping for change to come from within the Scots-Irish tradition. Odds are not good. Cultures generally don't change in fundamental ways without pressure as well as support from without.  This is why I suppose that Smiley is skeptical about how trustworthy figures like Webb can be.  It's not a question of personal trustowrthiness, mind you.  Rather, it's a question of how much one can expect them to change, given what we know of them.

      Of course it's true that all the cultures need to change.  But Borderer culture is particularly change-resistent.

      •  This gives us a whole new perspective (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Paul Rosenberg, cookiebear, isis2

        on the "culture wars."  

        Modernity breaks down subcultures like the Borderers.  We need to reach those who identify with the best aspects of the subculture, the populists.  We may not be able to change the whole subculture and it may not be the right thing to do.  

        But we can reach out to those who reject the intolerent aspects of the subculture.  Just as Webb reaches out to us, we should reach out to him and others like him.  Where we agree, we work together.  Where we disagree, we try to do it with civility.  

  •  Mr. Rosenberg, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    isis2

    what part, if any, does the fact that these people spoke English and never really had a language barrier.  The feeling of outsider/other because of language certainly must carry baggage - when my grandparents (both sets: Scandinavian and Italian) came here, they were intimidated because they didn't speak English.  I remember my Italian grandmother cringing when she had to go to an outside the neighborhood store where only English was spoken. She eventually mastered the language but it wasn't easy.  This group might not trust "leaders" except in their own community.  Have you read Street Corner Society?  

    The new immigrants may think this nation is harsh as to language - but I believe we've become tolerant  -- certainly more tolerant than the 20's and 30's.  

    As well - Sen. Webb was a marine and has a culture of warfare which requires definite gradations of class -- in a sense it would be Nos. 1 and 3 that are independent minded and able to buck society since they push against class lines.

    Finally, why would anyone consider bush a leader, since he has failed at everything he attempted.  Do not these people look at past performance?  Simplistic, no?  Just because someone is in a  position of authority doesn't mean she is in any sense a source of authority.   It's a kind of failed Romantic thinking.  Like thinking Bonnie Prince Charlie was anything but a fool.  

    I have no patience with people who grow old at 60 just because they are entitled to a bus pass. Mary Wesley, British novelist

    by xanthe on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 02:49:31 PM PST

    •  Gaelic... (0+ / 0-)

      Hate to break it to you. This group didn't all speak English either.

      In the NY State mountains my mother grew up in, there were small groups of people who were still speaking Scots Gaelic.

      She never understood a word they said...until I started running through my Gaelic flashcards to study for my mid-term exam.

      "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

      by kredwyn on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 03:01:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That was 1940-1950... (0+ / 0-)

        I'm pretty sure that a few of them never came out of the hills...unless they had to...with that same cringe your grandmother had.

        "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

        by kredwyn on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 03:03:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, not sure about the gaelic here is WV.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kredwyn

          but the accent is very thick.  Hard to understand at times,a nd interesting grammatical conventions.   That said, I really enjoy the WV/KY/NC accent.  However, if you speak with someone from hear who leaves the area, they become very self conscious and/or defensive about the accent.  The accent is what people in movies use to connote ignorant or stupid- Ma and Pa Kettle.  It is a handicap in many fields to have a strong Appalachian accent.  

          You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

          by murrayewv on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 04:51:51 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Appalachian 'accent' - in Mencken at Bartelby (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kredwyn, isis2

            In regard to the Appalachian 'accent' -- it is really a historic language pattern that appears in modified form wherever the Scots-Irish settled.

            By 'historic' I mean it is the form of English spoken in the 'Borders' around the time of the Plantation of Ireland (begining of King James I).

            The amazing H L Mencken wrote a book on American English, which can be found online at Bartelby.com.  One example that comes ti mind is the word 'yourn' for 'your' (possessive); the plural of 'yourn' can be 'yourns' or 'yus-uns' -- at least in my area.

            Discovering Mencken's work gave me a whole new context for the dialect, by showing me its historic roots.

      •  Who knew? (0+ / 0-)

        Well now I do. thx.  But Kredwyn, you do say it was "small groups".

        I have no patience with people who grow old at 60 just because they are entitled to a bus pass. Mary Wesley, British novelist

        by xanthe on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 03:03:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It was a small (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          xanthe

          group in the 1940s when my mother was growing up. Since both of my grandparents died before she knew what the deal was with the Gaelic, there's no way of knowing who they were or how long they'd been up there.

          She vaguely remembers a few of them coming to her wedding in 1964.

          Remember that there are several different waves of Scots, Irish, Scots-Irish who came over at different times for various reasons...including to escape the famine.

          "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

          by kredwyn on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 03:07:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Interesting - the potato famine (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kredwyn, TomP

            as in:  The environment pushes social history.

            I have no patience with people who grow old at 60 just because they are entitled to a bus pass. Mary Wesley, British novelist

            by xanthe on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 03:12:11 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  environment... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              xanthe, TomP

              politics, and economics.

              "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

              by kredwyn on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 03:15:46 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  plus... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              xanthe, TomP

              There's the reality that many in Ireland wound up shifting over to English as the language to use did so because...well...the English were in charge of the country. And that included barring Catholics from taking Parliamentary positions up to the early parts of the 19th C.

              One of the objectives of the early 20th C cultural rebellion that went on in Ireland was to bring Gaelic back. The Irish Costitution is is both English and Gaelic.

              "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

              by kredwyn on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 03:33:07 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Do You Know The Book (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                kredwyn, xanthe
                The Imagination of an Insurrection: Dublin, Easter 1916 by William Irwin Thompson?  It's a really amazing account of the role of poets and other writers recreating Irish national identity through language.  Which is why it was no accident that poets were on the front line of the Easter Rebellion.
                •  Have probably read chunks... (0+ / 0-)

                  or something along that lines back in the 90s. My MA was in Irish stuff. It included a lot of discussion re: the Gaelic Revival and 1916.

                  Right now my mind is blanking as to what I have and haven't read beyond JJ Lee.

                  "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

                  by kredwyn on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 09:13:50 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  A Memorable Book (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    kredwyn
                    Well, I read it back in the 60s, and it made a lasting impression.  Although he was an MIT historian, it was Thompson's only history book, and a very atypical one at that, in terms of how it sought to plunge the reader into the sense of the visionary imaginative process of the time.

                    Thompson went on to leave MIT, and write a series of hard-to-classify books, what might be called cultural criticism from a historical/metaphysical perspective.  The Imagination of an Insurrection is a fitting precursor to the pattern of his later work, but it clearly is an historical work, not just an historically-informed work.

    •  Good Questions (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xanthe, TomP

      (1) I think the language barrier is one reason that these distinct British cultures retained such force for so long.  For the most part, in order to influence the larger culture, all non-British immigrants had to assimilate enough to speak in English.  And that assimilation included a lot that had nothing directly to do with language.

      One big exception, of course, was the immigrant working-class embrace of movies during the first couple of decades of the silent era.  But aside from that, people generally had to learn English to communicate with each other, even to other people who didn't originally speak English.

      (2) The contradiction of military service with its strict hierarchy and much of what Webb and others say about Scots Irish culture is certainly something that jumps right out at you, doesn't it?

      I think it would probably explain itself in terms of a long, long history of insubordination in the ranks, particularly with Cavaliers tending to make up the officer corps.

      But I'd love to hear from anyone who can trump my vaguely-informed speculation with good hard facts.

      (3) The Bush leadership thing is pure political theatre, as far as I'm concerned.  He's a front man, nothing more.  It's all he's ever been, and until the Texas Rangers team got ahold of him, he was always a failed frontman.

      But that goes along with Borderer culture, since it's fundamentally lacking in a way to judge things objectively.  Any judgement is always personal, it always involves honor and insult, which opens this huge gaping hole for an elephant herd of accountability to escape through.

  •  I think this was about Iran-Contra... (0+ / 0-)

    because of how it reads on the frontpage.

    It says contra sting. I was like, wtf? Jim Webb was involved in a sting on the contra scandal?!?

    Don't fuck with my ch'i.

    by Han Solo on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 02:50:52 PM PST

    •  One Of Countless Little Annoyances With DKos (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Han Solo
      I just have to shrug my shoulders at.

      For the most part, I've given up on trying to fight the title readability wars.  Sometimes incoherence--or at least inscrutability--catches more attention than clarity would.

      Alas!

      •  Hooked me. (0+ / 0-)

        I thought there were some juicy revelations in here, like maybe a confirmation of my longstanding suspicions that Jim Webb and Donald Rumsfeld used to run drugs to Cambodia for the CIA back in the day... or something.

        But it's just more boring stuff about people who write books about books that other people wrote.

        Boring!

        Don't fuck with my ch'i.

        by Han Solo on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 03:05:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I would very much like David Hackett Fischer (0+ / 0-)

    to write a future book about the Mormons.

  •  the military history J Webb described (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ignorant bystander, TomP

    Born Fighting
    is readable and I suggest you take a look sometime.

    Webb analyzes the Revolution and the Civil War and finds Scots-Irish squads as crucial to the victories.

    To me, his big point was that the character of the shrewd, armed frontiersman has become emblemamatic of Americans (from Daniel Boone through Davy Crockett to Douglas MacArther).
    He writes that many folks, dropping the hypenated American label. subscribe to the ideals of this sub-culture.  (no feuding with neighbors is not an ideal)

    Thanks for the post and the analysis.  The hardest part of Webb's book was his disccussion of how after being disabled, he took himself (with combat experience as a Marine platoon seargeant) to Georgetown Law School.  He met with disrespect and hostility for having been willing to be in the miliatry at all.  

    Commuting is a waste of time and energy. Worse is trucking lettuce from the Imperial Valley of California to the Hudson River Valley of New York.

    by RosyFinch on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 03:25:01 PM PST

  •  Here in Appalachia.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ignorant bystander, SnowCountry

    Huntington WV, we had an apartment fire that killed 9 people and left another 100 or so homeless and more who watched as the building burned, traumatized.  The community outpouring has been tremendous- the school is taking in students and the community is collecting money to help.

    Stephen Dunnings wasn’t expecting the kindness that he has seen since Saturday’s fatal fire at Emmons apartment building.

    Kindness from the Red Cross. Kindness from complete strangers off the street.

    He was one of about a dozen victims who stayed at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena after fire tore through the building where he had been staying with his brother and girlfriend. Volunteers with the American Red Cross manned the temporary shelter, providing food and water, directing folks to where they could get showers and handing out assistance cards so they could buy some clothes.

    “I take my hat off to these people — they’re great,” he said. “I was surprised. And people were walking in off the street, asking, ‘Can I donate some money?’ ” he said, shaking his head in surprise. “That shocked me.”

    He didn’t know people could really care that much about strangers.

    link

    So even as folks in Appalachia are clannish, they will open their hearts and wallets to help others with true generosity.  They know it could be them, and they help out.

    Smiley emphasized the warlike aspects of the Border folk (who include the folks from Yorkshire and Northern England, not just the Scots).  But the part I like about living in Appalachia is the egalitarianism- people are equals here very easily and like outsiders who are unpretentious.

    I thought- wait, am I being too romantic in my comment?  So I googled this term and found others traveling through the mountains in the 1800s had noted this quality.

    Upon first examining the accounts of mountain people that are supplied by these travel writers, one is struck by the often negative nature of their portrayals. In fact, a composite picture seems to emerge of a shiftless, poverty-stricken, uneducated, "unchurched," violence-prone yet proud and even arrogant cast of characters. Closer examination, though, reveals a more well-rounded and realistic group portrait. While a traveler will often cite the "laziness" or "slothfulness" of mountain people and discuss it at great length, another (or sometimes even the same writer) will briefly and with much less fanfare note that a lifestyle that combines subsistence farming with hunting/fishing/gathering--the lifestyle of most pre-1880 mountaineers--does not require the kind of rigidly scheduled "nine-to-five" workday associated with the newly emerging industrial factory lifestyle of the nation's urban centers.

    While many writers focus on the mountaineers' lack of formal education, others report their discovery of articulate and well-read mountaineers with copies of Addison and Steele's Spectator essays or Homer's Iliad and Odyssey in their homes. And nearly all the travelers, whatever their emphasis on the mountaineers' lack of education, note the extreme curiosity of the mountain people about the world at large and their tendency to subject the traveler to a barrage of questions about life in New York or "the Texies."

    Finally, most all the writers comment upon the extreme egalitarianism of the mountaineers: their sense that nobody is better than anybody else because of distinctions of wealth, property, or education. In retrospect, these travel accounts are most useful because they point out the necessity for caution, from the very beginning, when someone begins to assume that there was or is a "typical" mountaineer. Instead, these early accounts help us to understand that Appalachia was and is a land of contrasts, a region where varying degrees of ignorance and poverty co-exist with varying degrees of intelligence and wealth.

    Review by Stephen Mooney on Antecedents of Appalachian Literature.

    So this idea of the "mountain people", Scots Irish or Borderers, is there very early.  I think the mountains help make people like this, and people who aren't like this don't stay in the mountains.  You need family and help from the kindred when times are rough.  You need to be able to help and likewise mistrust a stranger (who in those days especially, could be a criminal).  You need to be independent and creative and learn to make do.  And most of all, you couldn't got around acting like you were better than those around you.  

    I think Smiley is not very sympathetic to the mountain history as she might be.  But it is a place and a people I care about.  Maybe it is my Anthropology major helping me out here- I see the strengths and the weaknesses.  My goal would be not to fear disagreeing with the mountaineers- have an honest and equal discussion with respect and you will be fine.  They were Democrats for many years.  Just don't expect to come swanning in and "fix" their problems without living with those problems for a while and seeing what has been tried.  

    You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

    by murrayewv on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 04:46:45 PM PST

    •  I'm Not Really Sure What Your Point Is Here (0+ / 0-)
      I find little here that I would disagree with.

      But, going back to the terminology of my diary, I see this is an example of a descriptive--as opposed to a comparative--approach, which is necessarily limited in its utility...particularly since most of Borderer culture manifests outside of Appalachia.  

      To elaborate: What's most important to me about Fischer's thesis is that different folkways have different enduring impacts on our culture, which spread significantly beyond the original carriers.

      In light of this, I find discussions of Appalachian culture to function as a defensive romantic ideal.

      Yes, Appalachian culture really exists. But the range of states, number of people and degree of influence attributed to the Scots-Irish spefically and Borderer culture generally goes far, far beyond the reach of Appalachia, and often departs wildly from the very aspects that are celebrated in defenses of Appalachia. So we're really talking about two different things, despite the undoubtable fact that there is significant overlap.

      •  I guess I never ran into a Borderer culture.... (0+ / 0-)

        until I came here.  And it is everywhere around me here.  Closest I could compare is Western Kansans.  Hardy Plains folk.  Independent and self-reliant.  Maybe I am being too literal, but I don't see the affinity group (people joining and embracing this aspect of WASP culture) so much as I see the roots culture as having validity.

        You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

        by murrayewv on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 05:57:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Think of It Like This (0+ / 0-)
          I heard this story on the radio a couple years back. An old-time Texas swing musician who'd been out of the music business for 30 years, due to changing tasts, hit retirement in his fall-back day job and returned to his first love. Things went surprisingly well for him, and he found himself playing successfully in Branson, I believe, where a cute little girl still in grade school loved his music, but had just one question: "Do you play any country music?" she asked.  He told the story with gentle humor, but it almost made me cry.

          That's the difference between roots and having the misfortune of growing up in Borderer culture crap, without having a prayer of knowing anything better.

          In short: Think Clear Channel radio sponsoring rallies in suburban shopping center parking lots to destroy Dixie Chick records.

          That's what I'm talkin' 'bout.

  •  Read Webb, and more history -- (0+ / 0-)

    -- before going out on a limb with your assertions.

    I have a few scattered responses --

    1.  The first democratic community in America was the 'Watauga' area,  currently SW VA, N TN, W NC.  In all other areas, law and order was determined by some variation of British law filtered through colonial legislatures, and/or British economic controls.  The Watauga was settled ca 1770s by several ethnic groups, but mainly Scots-Irish.  Due to Peter Jefferson's purposeful mis-mapping of the area, settlers were not 'claimed' by either VA or NC.  They developed their own goverment, democratically -- the first democratically-governed community in America.
    1. Having read Webb's WSJ article (and having just finished his book) I think that in WSJ Webb was trying to point out how important the Scots-Irish vote is to any presidential election, and to introduce upper-class readers to the culture, its values, and its history -- all in just a few paragraphs.  Since dKos is supposed to be all about electing Democrats -- who certainly haven't been successful with the Scots-Irish -- let's look at just which states matter in terms of Scots-Irish votes:

    The Scots-Irish comprised a large percentage of Reagan Democrats, and contributed heavily to the "red state" votes that gave Mr. Bush the presidency in 2000. The areas with the highest Scots-Irish populations include New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, northern Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, northern Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, southern Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and parts of California, particularly Bakersfield. The "factory belt," especially around Detroit, also has a strong Scots-Irish mix.

    Do you want Dems to win in those states?  Do you want those states' electoral votes to go to a Dem in 2008?  Then maybe you'd better re-think your attitudes toward the Scots-Irish.  

    Wait, here's an idea!  We can tell them that we think they're so heinous that they should come before something like a Truth & Reconciliation Commission to confess their culture's generations of sin, and hope to be forgiven and accepted into the democracy their ancestors bought with their blood -- oh, wait, you already thought of that --

    What we need—something akin to South Africa’s "Truth and Reconciliation" process—requires creation of a shared moral context powerful enough to enable transformation, so that what has been owned as part of a cherished identity can be disowned for sake of a new identity. This is bound to be a painful process.  It cannot be easy, or it would have been done long ago.  But it must be done, for the sake of the Scots Irish, and their Borderer bretheren as much as anyone else.  This will, however, require leadership from within their own ranks—just as Afrikaaners needed their own leadership (not all of it, by a long shot, but at least one leading figure) to recognize, and act on the need for change.

    Uh huh.  And are you gonna be the one to try and tell them that they need to give up their identity, for their own good?  How very 'white-man's burden' of you.  Of course, you'd need to do this from within a strong moral context -- 'cause I'd hate to see what would happen if you did it in a parking lot.  You'd be very lucky if all they did was laugh at you.

    Honestly now -- is there any other ethnic group that you would consider making such a demand of?  

    •  I grew up in one of those areas (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CroneWit

      This is the first I've heard that there was a strong Scots-Irish mix there.  I've never consciously thought of myself as belonging to that group.

      I've got the fever for the flavour, the payback will be later, still I need a fix - Bran Van 3000

      by Linnaeus on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 05:05:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Question of Context (0+ / 0-)

      This sort of response goes right to the heart of what makes Quaker/Borderer dialogue so difficult.  It completely ignores the context of my remarks, which is hardly surprising, since different cultures routinely misunderstand each other's contexts, even when they are clearly articulated.

      To start from the top, this statement:

      The first democratic community in America was the 'Watauga' area,  currently SW VA, N TN, W NC.

      simply assumes a pre-defined definition of "democratic community," completely ignoring everything I have said about the comparative vs. descriptive approach, and the different contributions of the different traditions.

      Next, we have a fairly straightforward presentation of what Webb is trying to do, which quickly slips into something else.  We go from a list of states where Scots-Irish are said to represent a significant population to this:

      Do you want Dems to win in those states?  Do you want those states' electoral votes to go to a Dem in 2008?  Then maybe you'd better re-think your attitudes toward the Scots-Irish.

      The "my way or the highway" attitude expressed here is precisely the problem Smiley is pointing to in doubting the promise of cooperation between Quakers and Borderers.  Also present is the assumption--quite unwarranted, IMHO--that because Scots-Irish are present in all these states, the same magic formula will appeal to all of them.  I think that's frankly ludicrous, Ironically, it embodies the very essentialism and reductionism that AaronBa mistakenly attributed to Fischer, Smiley and me.

      In point of fact, most of the states listed are Southern states, where Democrats have no chance of winning at the presidential level in the next 2-3 cycles, unless they've already locked in a landslide electoral college victory:

      West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, northern Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, northern Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma

      On the other extreme, others are already safely Blue, trending that way, or subsumed within safely Blue states:

      New Hampshire, Pennsylvania... Illinois...and parts of California, particularly Bakersfield. The "factory belt," especially around Detroit, also has a strong Scots-Irish mix.

      which leaves a rather short list:

      Virginia...Kansas, Colorado, southern Ohio...Indiana,

      Of these, Kansas and Indiana are solid non-South GOP bastions, where state-level progress is clearly far ahead of anything that can be hoped for at the presidential level.  Virginia is the flip: a Southern state trending our way (though probably not at the presidential level till 2012) because of an influx of largely non-Scots-Irish new voters from the expanding DC suburbs.

      This leaves a grand total of Colorado and southern Ohio.  Important, certainly. But hardly reducible in toto to understanding the Scots-Irish to the exclusion of all else.

      In short, when push comes to shove, this reality-based Quaker sees nothing here but a lot of empty bluster and bravado.

      So we can dispense with the threats, and get back to the point of trying to build understanding--something that threats invariably get in the way of.

      Finally, in a spectacular act of taking things out of context, CroneWit writes:

      Wait, here's an idea!  We can tell them that we think they're so heinous that they should come before something like a Truth & Reconciliation Commission to confess their culture's generations of sin, and hope to be forgiven and accepted into the democracy their ancestors bought with their blood -- oh, wait, you already thought of that --

      In typical white Southern victim style this completely misrepresents the two-sided nature of South Africa's Truth & Reconciliation process, requiring honesty, confession, and forgiveness on both sides. Nothing could better exemplify the self-destructive self-righteousness of present-day Southern racists than this ignorant outburst.  And, no, I'm not accusing CroneWit of being racist--only of buying into the self-destructive racist mindset on this particular point.

      But of course, even so, I wasn't talking about all Scots-Irish.  I was talking specifically about "the dominant culture in the South" as Webb himself put it, the "Negrophobe whites" as Phillips called them in 1970, who are still making excuses and wallowing in denial--aided and abetted, at least implicitly in this op-ed by Webb himself. This is what needs to stop. It's what needs to be turned around 180 degrees. And I'm still hopeful that this can be done.  I don't think anyone is beyond redemption, though some people fight it with every ounce of strength they've got.

  •  I should probably read Fischer (0+ / 0-)

    I wonder if his thesis about the four British folkways is a little reductionist.  Even when you consider European migrants alone, there are so many other ethnicities represented that I'm wary of such easy categorization.

    This objection seems so obvious, though, that I'm sure Fischer anticipated it.  Maybe that's what he is getting at when he says that one can ascribe to one of these folkways even if one can't trace his or her ancestry directly to one of those groups.

    I've got the fever for the flavour, the payback will be later, still I need a fix - Bran Van 3000

    by Linnaeus on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 05:03:19 PM PST

  •  Not quite how I read that OpEd. (0+ / 0-)

    It concludes with this sentence.

    In fact, the greatest realignment in modern politics would take place rather quickly if the right national leader found a way to bring the Scots-Irish and African Americans to the same table, and so to redefine a formula that has consciously set them apart for the past two centuries.

    I have said before, that is the single most interesting political statement I have read in my lifetime.  Whether Jim Webb is that leader remains to be seen, but that statement certainly seems to imply just the sort of leadership, and just the sort of reconciliation, that you call for as well.

    •  Pure And Utter Fantasy (0+ / 0-)
      This is the flip side of all the excuse-making for the continued refusal to face up to Southern racism--the wish-fulfillment fantasy of making all the ugliness go away, presto!, just like that!

      In the real world, the white South is the last place the Democratic Party can hope to find folks who will make common cause with their own African-American base.  The Midwest and interior West are far more fruitful places to look.

      The fact that Webb has this desire is certainly commendable. But from what I've read so far, he has nary a clue about what sort of gut-wrenching self-examination this would entail.

      I hope I'm wrong. And I certainly won't discount the possibility that Webb could grow significantly beyond where he was when he wrote that op-ed. But breakthrough progress depends upon hardheaded realism about what is.

      •  Well, to partially defend Webb (0+ / 0-)

        he also argues that the poor whites of the Confederacy supported the patrician plantation owners for reasons that were less than rational. And, in the 100+ years after the Civil War those same poor whites suffered economic deprivation because of that decision.

        In other words, the Tidewater folks manipulated the Scots-Irish for their own agenda and Webb hopes to persuade them that both they and the blacks were victims of the southern aristocracy.

      •  Read Born Fighting. (0+ / 0-)

        If you are judging Webb entirely by that op-ed, and it seems you are, you don't know nearly enough about him.  Read his book.

        His problems began when he stood up to a man named A. P. Mills, a local baron who owned both the bank and the general store in Kensett.  A. P. had done alright during the hard times, even finding a way to send his son Wilbur to Harvard.  Upon his return Wilbur became a judge, and then a rather famous congressman, both for his expertise in tax law and for his antics with a South American stripper named Fanne Foxe.  A. P. Mills was a cheerful man, a true "good old boy" who still would remember my mother by name when she returned to Kensett with her children more than a decade after she had moved away.  But he was also very much a creature of his time and place, and my grandfather was not.

        As my grandmother, great-aunt, and aunt all told it, my grandfather's sin was to explain to the black folk of Kensett that they were being charged higher interest rates than whites at A. P. Mills' store, thus keeping them in an even worse spiral of debt -- and also to suggest to A. P. Mills that this was not a particularly Christian thing to do.  My grandfather was pointedly warned that he was causing trouble.  By all accounts, my grandfather then told A. P. Mills to go to hell.  And A. P. Mills, along with some others who controlled the admittedly sparse purse strings of White County, showed my grandfather that there could be such a thing as hell on earth.

        Within a few weeks my grandfather could not get a regular job in White County.  He moved back up to the Carbondale coal mines for a while but my grandmother, one of twelve children, got homesick, so he brought the family back to White County.  They began following the crops around the region, picking strawberries when they were in season, picking and chopping other people's cotton, and truck farming.  School for my mother and her brother and sisters became intermittent and at times impossible as they picked and chopped alongside the adults.

        My grandfather, shunned by the local-powers-that-were, never backed down from his beliefs.  He had broken a hip badly in a farm accident, and an apparent bone infection eventually caused his skin to permanently split open in that area (I write "apparent" because no doctor ever treated him), bringing a steady ooze from the joint.  My grandmother kept two sets of bandages for the hip, boiling one every day while he wore the other.  But this did not keep B. H. from walking six miles round-trip to Searcy several days a week in order to debate others who gathered in the town square to discuss politics.  He argued for the rights of the black and the poor, and the unfairness of local leaders.  And in these spirited debates he was usually, as a wise man once put it, in either a minority or a majority of one.

        Jim Webb, Born Fighting

        Then read The Nightingale's Song by Robert Timberg.  It is a profile of five Naval Academy graduates.  Webb is one of them.  The other four are John McCain, John Poindexter, Robert McFarlan, and Olliver North.  The book is a good read.  It is instructive to see how much of the character each man displays today was already visible as a midshipman at Annapolis.

        Webb served with distinction in Viet Nam.  He came home early with a fistful of medals and a knee full of shrapnel.  He went through Georgetown Law School and eventually went to work at Veterans Affairs.  He was something of a loose cannon there from the beginning.  Again and again he went to bat for individual veterans who had difficulty getting their claims heard and their needs met.  He noticed that a disproportionate number of those were black.  He didn't help his own position within the bureacracy at VA by taking their side against the bureaucracy.

        He fought one particular case of a disabled black vet who had earned a citation in Nam but never received it.  The vet died without ever receiving the recognition he had earned.   Webb refused to let it go.  Years later, he  saw the citation awarded posthumously to the vet's family.

        When plans surfaced for the Viet Nam memorial, the original design called simply for the wall with all the names.  Webb and a few others fought to include the statues.  They felt it was important to see the faces of those who served and died there.  Webb fought almost singlehandedly to ensure that one of the faces was recognizably African American.

        Webb, a proud son of the warrior culture you describe, led platoons in Viet Nam in which African American men were almost always a disproportionate number compared to the general population in American society.  Many, if not most, were draftees.  They had no real reason to feel any loyalty to their country or to the military structure that put them in harm's way, essentially slaves once more.  Yet Webb saw them, day after day, serve with distinction, fight with courage, and die in disproportionate numbers.  Then he went to Veterans Affairs and saw those same men treated as second or third class citizens, shuffled through the bureacracy and if possible, made to disappear.  He took it on himself to right the wrongs he could.  He has history on this issue.

        •  Read My Diary (0+ / 0-)
          ignorant bystander:
          If you are judging Webb entirely by that op-ed, and it seems you are, you don't know nearly enough about him.

          me:

          Disclaimer Before going any further, I need to state out front that I haven't read Webb's book Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, so I don't know how well the views expressed in the constrained form of this op-ed jibe with his views expressed at length in his book. I welcome those who have read his book to weigh in and add to this conversation. But a WSJ op-ed has sufficient prominence to be worth analyzing on its own, and serves to illustrate important points which still stand, even if Webb's larger views are somewhat at odds with his presentation in this op-ed.
          The problem isn't with Webb's attitude toward blacks, but with his continued excuse-making for his own people, which does not help them in moving forward.  This is evident in the op-ed itself, regardless of whatever else he may say elsewhere.
          •  I say again. (0+ / 0-)

            If you insist on judging Webb solely on the basis of that one WSJ op-ed you misjudge the man, unfairly in my opinion.  I think you misjudge the individual based on your preconceptions about the group he belongs to.

            I read your diary.  I read the op-ed.  Again.  If Webb is making excuses for anything, I do not see it there.  Perhaps you could point out his excuse-making.  What I read is a fairly frank description of a cultural group, warts and all, by one of its own.  It seems to me that he acknowledges some less than admirable attitudes, prevalent in the culture, that made too many of its members valid targets of the infamous Southern Strategy.  But not all.  No culture is monolithic, not even this one.  

            And the culture is moving forward, contrary to your expectations.  I think Jim Webb represents a great potential for progress, for the cultural group he represents to some extent, and for America.  And I do not know but strongly suspect that John Edwards is another member of that group.  I think he shows great promise as well.

    •  thank you for this quote (0+ / 0-)

      I do believe that we need a formula that brings people together.

      Commuting is a waste of time and energy. Worse is trucking lettuce from the Imperial Valley of California to the Hudson River Valley of New York.

      by RosyFinch on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 11:02:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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