Editor’s Note: This blog has been in the making in my mind for at least a decade, so I’m going to get it started with an unpublished essay I wrote in May 1999. It offers some insight into my thinking about rednecks.
By K. Daniel Glover
I went to the United Nations in New York City a couple of months ago, and while whetting my intellectual appetite with a smorgasbord of world affairs morsels dispensed by the likes of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, I had what those snooty New Yorkers would call an epiphany.
Here is my great insight into the human race after two days of briefings on human rights, world population and the United States’ international role: Rednecks rule in this wacky world we occupy, even in an arena as distinguished as the United Nations.
I reached that conclusion in, of all places, the 10th floor restroom of the U.N. headquarters, where there, taped to the inside of the bathroom stall, was a sign that read, “Gentlemen dispose of toilet paper properly. Let’s keep the restroom clean.”
The same sign undoubtedly would have read differently in, say, my home state of West Virginia — perhaps something like, “Put your trash in the toilet, boys, not on the floor. This ain’t no outhouse.” But whatever the words, the sign sends the same message: Don’t matter where you live or how highfalutin a job you have, you’ve probably got a wee bit of redneck in ya just waitin’ to get out.
Then there is me. Would I have to fight the urge to use my dinner roll to swab the gravy on my plate in fancy restaurants if I hadn’t been raised a proud country boy?
Yet today, I write for and edit a highbrow Internet publication (IntellectualCapital.com) whose editor (Pete du Pont) is a former Republican governor, congressman and presidential candidate. Before that, I worked nearly seven years at Congressional Quarterly, a company that prides itself on a weekly publication known as “the bible on Capitol Hill.”
And thanks to my good career fortune, I someday can tell our grandkids I have quizzed national leaders like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Vice President Al Gore, and dined with world leaders like Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. I also can point them to most any major library (and now to the Internet) to find some of my words of attempted wisdom.
I say all that not as a boast — my chosen profession just happens to have fabulous perks — but to prove that rednecks exist in all walks of life, in every corner of the globe. And we contribute to society.
Even Al Gore thinks so. Why else would a vice president and senator’s son reared predominantly in Washington’s elitist political culture portray himself, as he did recently, as a common man who worked his father’s Tennessee farm as a youth?
Gore clearly wants voters to see him as an honest, hard-workin’ redneck rather than a spoiled child of privilege who wheels and deals with the Chinese to raise campaign cash. He knows redneckedness is a state of mind to be cherished, not a consequence of culture to be ridiculed.
He also knows that few rednecks fit the century-old stereotypical mold: the tobacco-chewin’ thug with more guns in his truck than teeth in his mouth; the perennially barefoot and pregnant wife, parading around the house in curlers and skimpy bathrobe; the scraggly, troublemakin’ kids.
Yes, some rednecks are dirt poor, wear hand-me-downs, and have atrocious habits and manners. But others are stinkin’ rich, array themselves in the finest of garments and religiously heed the counsel of Miss Manners. What we all share are a common-sense approach to life and a passion for the simple things.
Scott Watson, a West Virginia coal miner and buddy of mine, pegged the redneck mindset best a few years ago. Every time he and I returned from a round of basketball or golf (yes, rednecks golf!) and parted ways to head to our afternoon jobs, Scott would smile and proclaim our redneck motto: “Life would be good — if you didn’t have to work.”
Indeed it would. Now if the rednecks at the United Nations could just remember to flush the toilet and clean their hands before returning to their diplomatic posts.
Filed under: Government and Rednecks and Spotlight