The Homelander Revolution

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Since it is, in fact, one of my hobbies to try to understand this whole red state-blue state thing (for lack of a better term), I was wholly engaged by this book review of Brian Mann’s Welcome to the Homeland, which makes another attempt to explain it all to ya on this subject.

One choice excerpt:

Another way of putting it is that homelanders are the highly visible minority of Americans who are least comfortable with the totality of change in our national life over the past 40 or 60 or 100 years. They’re uncomfortable with the transformed role of women, the heightened sensitivity to race relations, the declining importance of marriage, the dethroning of Protestant Christianity as a quasi-state religion, the widespread acceptance of homosexuality, the renewed influx of non-English-speaking and nonwhite immigrants, and the constant negotiation required by the polyglot nature of metropolitan life.

Rural, conservative Americans see themselves, Mann writes, as outsiders in our metrocentric culture, but as outsiders who are “uniquely connected to the true vein of national character” and therefore “uniquely qualified to judge and correct the broader society when it goes astray.” This conviction is profound and genuine, Mann insists. He paraphrases the message of Focus on the Family’s influential radio broadcasts this way: “We’re normal. We’re healthy. We offer a better way forward.”

This makes good sense to me, admittedly a clueless blue-stater despite my red-state roots. (And by the way, could someone in the studio audience please explain what the Intimidator is?).

On the other hand, Mann’s book contains some deep flaws, which the reviewer details on the last page of the review. Personally, I loved Thomas Frank’s What’s The Matter With Kansas and found it incredibly insightful. This formulation, though, adds another piece to the puzzle. If Frank is describing how metros see homelanders, to utilize Mann’s terminology, Mann is describing how homelanders see themselves, which is equally if not more important in trying to understand what’s the matter not just with Kansas, but with all of us.

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12 Responses to “The Homelander Revolution”

  1. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Sounds like an interesting read, Sandi. That excerpt, at least, strikes me as spot on.

    I’m guessing “the Intimidator” is a Dale Earnhart, Sr., reference.

  2. Sandi Says:

    Really? The context in which it came up was something about Jesus with the Intimidator at his side. I was like, what? Then it said that if you didn’t get the reference, you might be a metro.

    The other interesting part of the review talked about how it used to be the case that these same people participated in the overall culture that was marketed to everyone. (I would agree with that with the caveat of country music). Now, there is a specific set of entertainers and shows — NASCAR, Toby Keith, etc. — marketed as “red state” entertainment. And the loss of common points of reference helps to polarize people even further. That goes back to what I was saying a year ago about niche marketing and balkanization.

  3. David Says:

    Re: Jesus with The Intimidator

    A couple from the homelanders:

    With a bolt of lightning, Dale Earnhardt arrived,
    as he stood before Jesus, his spirit revived.
    Jesus hugged his precious child, then revealed his perfect
    plan, “I brought you home, to let you know, that I’m your biggest fan!”

    I urge each of you to take time and examine your own life in the light of the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt. Have you made the same decision as Dale and decided to trust Christ as your Savior?

    And one from the metros:

    The Redneck Jesus

    Wow. I think I’ll stick with the Church of Elvis.

  4. Michael Lasley Says:

    The book sounds interesting, Sandi. Although, I must be honest, I get a headache when thinking about the great political divide in our country.

  5. Michael Lasley Says:

    Oh, and to add even more of nothing to the conversation, the good Governor Schwartznegger was on campus yesterday to sign some bill. But it was in invite only crowd. (We had John Kerry last week, so we are apparently a bi-partisan campus.)

  6. Sandi Says:

    I was wondering why no one comments on the posts that I consider the most interesting topics … it is headache-inducing in a way, but in another way it’s the most important issue of our time and has the potential for profound consequences to the future of the country. So we can’t put our heads in the sand about it. Judith Warner had a post on her blog at the NY Times today (unfortunately, it’s part of the Times Select content and so only available to subscribers) arguing that people are attracted to the right because humans have a deep psychological need to dichotomize, and so their simplified, black-white way of thinking fulfills some kind of evolutionary need in us to separate good and evil. Another factor, she said, was that people really wanted to feel that their lives have purpose and meaning and that they are part of something larger than themselves, some kind of greater good. Not having these things, it is posited, causes depression, so people’s enthusiastic response to right-wing hatefests has been a defensive response of trying to stave off depression. I commented that these kinds of needs, increasing urbanization and geographic mobility has led to scattered families and less of a sense of community. (That’s certainly the cause of much of the angst I have in my life). Churches, whatever else I or whoever might say about them, offer people a sense of community in a way in which there is no secular equivalent.

    So, no one wants to talk about this? Really? Al? Anyone? Bueller?

  7. Sandi Says:

    that is, “in addition to these kinds of needs.”

  8. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I’ll probably have some sort of comment or other, sometime. I just read the full review last night. And this whole NIE/Woodward book/detainee bill cluster of issues has me distracted.

  9. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I’ve just been really busy, Sandi. In addition, I don’t seem to have much intelligence to add to the discussion, thus my quietness lately…

    I think Judith Warner’s ideas make sense. And until there’s a desire to go beyond understanding why we’re different to caring about people in spite of differences, there’s not an awful lot of hope for things getting better (imho). It just seems more interesting now because we’re about 50/50 (unleashing a little more competition and making the spin more important for those in power on each side).

    Until there’s a political party that emerges for ALL people, I’ll have to generally side with Democrats who tend to stand up more for the marginalized. But I don’t suspect either side will learn to love the other, long as there’s power and goodies to be had…

  10. Whitney Says:

    Sandi,
    No comments doesn’t necessarily mean our heads are in the sand.

    I for one (1) have a hard time getting in this discussion here because it always just leaves me feeling frustrated; and (2) REALLY don’t have time this time of year to focus my thoughts all that directly on this stuff. While I do think about it (and I do think the red-blue state thing is artifactual–and driven primarily by media hype…) I don’t have any extra time to sit down and formulate thoughts than actually translate well in writing.

    Interesting? Yes
    Important? Oh, yes.

    You guys can jabber, I’ll keep reading, and if something strikes me or the mood to actually think about it in depth hits me, I’ll chime in. 🙂

    BTW, I don’t know if you all were serious w/ references to Dale Ernhardt, but it totally cracked me up. Some people in Dixie have definitely made him one of their own gods. Weird, weird, weird.

  11. Michael Lasley Says:

    I always enjoy your posts, Sandi, and I do think they are important. Most of the time I don’t comment because we seem to agree on a lot of political issues. So I hope my headache comment or my usual lack of comments is not interpreted as my not caring or enjoying or learning.

    The political divide only gives me a headache because political discussions often drain my energy, paralyze me from doing things that I think a good citizen should do. I in no way think this is true for everyone — just for me (seriously, my brain can only handle so much conflict before it completely shuts off). And I’m not letting myself off the hook about being informed. I think the discussions are important. And I try to read things from differing perspectives on our current political state of affairs.

  12. Sandi Says:

    I wasn’t trying to chastise anyone, FYI, just begging for someone to talk to me. 🙂

    I have found that although most roads ultimately lead back to about the same place, it’s really interesting to hear the different ways that various people articulate the way they perceive the political divide. In the sense that no geographic locale is monolithic politically, of course it is true that the red state-blue state thing is overblown. On the other hand, there is a reigning orthodoxy in different places even if not everyone agrees with it, and it’s palpable. There are things I can say here that I couldn’t say in Mississippi … there’s that whole sense of relief when I’m visiting my best friend in Berkeley that I can, as one of our mutual friends put it, “talk politics without looking over my shoulder.” That’s real, in its own way.

    And I guess the issue to me is not so much that there are differences of opinion on various issues, but that: (1) the tone of the debate has gotten so nasty and derisive; and (2) people who have different views have started to avoid each other to an extent that I understand was not the case even 15 years ago. I criticize myself for these tendencies as much as anyone else, because neither is constructive.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure what to do about it. Sort of a collective action problem, do I make my own life miserable in the service of a principle when it’s highly unlikely that others will do the same?

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