just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.
An irresistible historical specimen with unique overtones continues to be a curious case in the Southern United States, or the lower Appalachian region broadly, mostly to its outsiders. Particularly, the subclass of Americans — not entirely what is known as a redneck or hick, but that demographic which rides the line between them, and consolidates their values amplified by sociopolitical ideals common of the Southern ethos. The generation proceeding hardened male working class Christians, who have entered contemporary society with their fathers’ attitudes and principles in one hand, and the strange complexities of larger society facing them in the other. The result is a rebirth of that last generation struggling to be in a world that forgot their dogmas along with women needing their husbands’ signature for loans, and brushed off the relevance of their character after their collective spite against conditions which would advance their conditions of life centuries ago. I speak of those young Southern men who are in a distinctive social dimension tilting slightly to one side while one foot is in another. Trapped between the past’s lost embers and the growth of modern circles, a sort of cultural uncanny valley that becomes obvious when crossing the state line in Virgina, Tennessee or Kentucky, from my and others’ experience. The Good Old Boy, as I can most adequately identify from the conversations I’ve heard, is the passive-pronounced character trait of the congenital Southern American male, and the product of the Southern antagonism meeting current events, new issues and old covenants kept by silent rites.
Those interested in history, social commentary or any owner of two brain cells are aware of this. In layman’s words, a southern man. But over time I’ve observed a kind of subgroup in this background. More specifically, a young, relatively ambitious southern man engaged in the outside or mainstream to some extent. The offspring of the patriarchs, who also existed in this same situation a generation previous, who carry on their fathers’ attitudes into the next period of time. The subject at hand has been acknowledged and documented a few times times before. As far back as Thomas Jefferson in his Notes on the State of Virginia provided some observations on the castes of Virginian social life close enough at the time to resemble what we’re met with now. Varying factors have all been accounted for as the basis for this in different observations by intellectuals leagues above me, but I think we only glimpse at its surface in the course of critically looking at America today, and we’ve yet to look at how the class of people is fairing in a situation where their only immediate use is the beguiled labor for property owners, and to remind others that they’re a thing.
It used to be that the North and South regions held their own separate social and cultural shades, not exactly intended to maintain territorial identity, but as a matter of circumstance. The interests and class stances concentrating in vertical dispositions one century after British colonization, trades and demands segmenting and booming respective of their place on the pole, and economic institutions settling in bountiful areas all contributed to germinating what we have now. A few miles north of Hillview, Kentucky is now still the horizon of the Yankees. They rarely crossed their own invisible boundaries, and even rural and urban sectors were only slightly dissimilar. The civil war of the mid 19th century hardened the regional differences when confederacy and union were propped up, and war over ownership of people hauled from across the Atlantic was waged. But with that old quarrel over and being accepted as staying in that forgotten corner of time, the shades have progressively melded together as travel and relocation for jobs became more common. This lead to Alabama hicks and Florida crackers being found in Illinois and Vermont, spreading out considerably like they never left Dixie; with their traditions following like a stench. Truly blending the ethno-cultural contrasts into the unified American body.
Before moving into the actual notes, lets recognize an important disclosure for the content at this time. The goal here is not simply to take a razor to the whole features of the South or demean its culture, but to deconstruct a social aura that has put itself in front of me since my own inception of critical thinking around my environment, and is past due a written observation of some sort. Of course at this point all social critics have hammered at the complimentary nature of the culture with the political platforms, but rarely I think they’ve looked at the specific tinges we can find in unsuspected venues should we look hard enough with an eye for its transparent undertones.
My life thus largely spent in Southern states, with a certain fondness and optimism for this region of the continent — but with great disdain for what the culture has always embodied to varying degrees, has left me with a trove of observations and notes from family reunions, mom and pop restaurants out in the boonies, and discussions with elder patriarchs and masters of the universe, opposite to me on all spectrums. I intend for what follows to be a biased but responsible summary from my own accounts, comprising a dialog on an old but filtered breed of people meets the emboldened fixtures of the contemporary setting.
Essentially the good old boy standardizes an assimilation of the redneck to where [subtle] prejudice, contrasting judgment or distrust based on traits and non-conformity is merely a frame, and not a full basis of character in the expected setting, like a person with this trait and the other hackneyed attributes. An example would be an executive director transfered from West Virginia with a Masters in marketing and a quaint demeanor, who is particularly wary of women in hijabs. It removes just enough of the caricature and puts it in every profession or position of power for it to stand on its own.
The engagement outside the culture is the entryway into what reminds us of their existence. Those moments online where you see a 30 year-old new father from Georgia in a camouflage shirt with a Glock 26 on his hip, using emojis and dabbing or what have you. A 60 year-old patriarch signing up for Facebook (and probably snapchat at this point) with the help of his family, sharing and posting rightist political material. Obscure relatives like the cousin of an uncle’s step-sister with a specific set of life values, presumptions of social classes and reductionist outlooks on current events, with a contradictory side note that “people are too uptight”. Sticking out like a sore thumb. Blinking neon arrows exclaiming “country boy”.
From here we move onto the family, and the families that make up a broader family such as the aunts, uncles, in-laws and swarms of first, second and third cousins. Though its more of a product of families in themselves, the good old family has a propensity to exemplify what we normally think of. The sentimentality of families operating as a collective body, folding vague and distant relatives inward into a greater clan when an occasion requests, is an intoxicating and empowering sense of having been born into a magnificent tribe blessed by the good lord, of which the good old family strives to make an empire, both in informal political unanimity and inward power structures secured by firearms and various contrived narratives.
An undercurrent of patriarchal dominance is evident in the family, not as blatantly asserted as in previous decades (while accounting for varying conditions across families today), but it remains in subtle gender relations. Most opposite to adult males are seen with a very delicate tinge of weakness, in the same reductionist fashion elsewhere, just enough to be clearly picked up with attentive observation. Nowadays, the good old family has little choice but to accompany the event of women attaining status as sovereign individuals, lest they suffer excommunication from the society that grants them to be good old boys. Regardless, often coming from both sexes alike, they seem to yearn for a scaling back to when women had a “sense of place” and children fell into familial caste systems of personality to recycle the father’s ambitions.
Gentleness is not done solely out of compassion, but compassion as a necessity to secure that pre-determined inferiority and maintain a rigid family structure, the ends seen as justifiable for cruel firmness. One can reasonably contend that the best interests for the child or spouse are in mind, but the nature all around entails a bigger object. Preeminent masculine traits are injected into the child’s environment as soon as sentience begins to sprout. For the male, to set a goal to meet. For the female, to understand who is favored to really be in charge. “Man-up” and “Boys don’t [do X]” can commonly be unearthed when a male child is acting up or hurt in some way. Into the teenage years the boys may be taken hunting, fishing or the like as a last ditch effort to ensure your kid don’t grow up queer, while the girls are prepped by their mothers for child bearing, marriage and possibly to be a provider alongside the husband. All this contoured around the acceptable minimums of the society they will assimilate into.
If not derivatives of classic white power dialog far more reserved for those going above and beyond a simple good old boy, they sustain the contrasted logic of crime and punishment around ethnic minorities adjacent to the scope of power by police that we’ve seen in the decade’s wake of police violence. Furthermore, basic uneasiness in urban areas and a physiological tension in the pit of the stomach around dark skinned persons, perhaps the occasional angry annoyance at the demand for ethnic justice, is about the worst we see. The suggestion of material conditions being at fault for perceived collective wrongdoings in place of race not once presenting itself to them. And even if it did, it would be a fantastical instance of wording to think any such systems of determining contentedness would do any wrong.
Personal ownership of firearms is a core value, a true holy rite. A kind of ubermensch trait of right-wing bastardization, and precisely as important to the good old family as the firstborn child. It must at all times be proudly displayed on their hip for it to complete its intended impact, as it is often idolized in the culture: The adapted version of Dukes and Princes with daggers and rapiers hanging at their sides as they go about their business is the apparent aim. It reflects on the tribalism, the yearning for a dynasty requiring such protection, and a corresponding victim complex. It demonstrates the fetish of the manifold directions of wielding a kind of power against a perceived constant danger, crucial to upholding the justice of the tribe; up to and including acting on an idea of threat by ethnic minorities at nearly every turn. The ownership of land coincides with this tremendously, though it falls outside the confines of the good old boy nature, as they commonly reside in suburban areas or places bordering town and country.
All these combined and intersecting respectively with that distinctive regional flair, they comprise the outward attitude, and this is more or less the actual weapon of the complex when faced with an issue. As sure as one or more of the good old family members has the DRUDGE REPORT bookmarked, they ready armaments of national providence and vindication of social privilege in their righteous battle to uphold their end of a committed incongruity.
The Broader American Antagonism amounts to the mythic-sensory continuum in sociocultural tensions, namely Southern autonomy which in turn encompasses the slave trade, race relations, civil rights and perceived attacks on individual liberty by big government, all complementary to the mythic realitypossessed by Southern reactionaries, the right overall, and encapsulated by the good old boys. We define the mythic reality as a reality with absent substance, made from emotional subscription and constructed by those who want it desperately to be separate from myth. By existing, this already creates a dialog which of course creates a battle of ideas. Moreover, it is a historically integral constituent of the political dichotomy in the United States: wherein we seem to inevitably trace back and overlap near that great civil conflict we faced one hundred and fifty years ago. Needless in saying, it set the eternal stage for this nation which it will bear for the remainder of its being. It alone was only a circumstantial occurrence and a pawn to greater colonialism, but from its start it was the American social furniture to which we would apply new upholstery every few decades. Jim Crow, the War on Drugs, mass incarceration, police violence, white supremacy and silence in the face of injustice. This is the sensory reality — a reality with tangible elements — possessed by the inhabitants of the greater Union who see through the structures possessed by the complex, and wish to overcome the antagonism.
However, the good old boys also wish to conquer this obstacle, and indeed it is one to them, but from the other side. In total the strife is a game of tug-of-war with the center of the rope composed of two halves — each the goal of the respective side. Each side requires the other to be the instigator with a laundry list of reasons for the strife’s genesis. “The liberals destroyed the south’s economy after the civil war”, or “the ruination of the family” normally among them. It demonstrates strikingly that the social conflicts in the nation can always be boiled down to two defined sides, both of which came out the two factions during the war of the 1860s, always taking form in right or left.
The good old boys, commonly, are the front end, expendable footsoliders to this whole network — but not explicitly in direct service to it. They serve it by being of service to separate but connected monoliths of ideas and attitudes which raise up the complex. The attitudes, culture and enjoyments themselves are mundane and even irrelevant. But their permeation in the repository of American social outlooks is what seems to amplify them, just as much as attitudes common to the left or liberal worldviews tend to amplify and easily mark themselves.
They are victims of a mythic narrative that was inherited by their fathers, who were themselves associated in some sense to reactionary movements, the labor exploiters and religious institutions. These conjured the perfect storm for the antagonism when met with plans for reform, reducing singular grasp of society. The political, economic and social pillars of identity created the precursor to the present manifestation. Right-wing quasi-nationalism, free-market capitalism (now having evolved into a more corporatist neoconservatism) and Christian-centric morality, marking June 26th as a worse holocaust than September 11th, may as well have devised an entirely new United States situated on top of the original Union. They are the delegates in the cities and towns for the rigid and angry families in the hills and ranches, as the emerging generations everywhere continue to overcome the past.
The transformation of the good old boy complex has existed as long as the regional distinctions first became relevant and merged as part of the expansion west. The confederate solider begets the senator in favor of Jim Crow laws, who begets the DEA agent from Alabama, who begets the police officer in the urban squalor. Considering at present the impending election results of 2016, and the constant sparks of current events outlining who falls where, we are nearing a new transformation of its political implications as first seen in the media’s acknowledgement of the “alt-right”. The transformation, in my opinion, will likely be made up of individual social factions, not oligarchical circles of statesmen, returning to nationalistic, nativist and traditionalist values, and aspiring to make them conventional once more. Consequently, there will be a rise in counter-movements center or opposite to them, and the antagonism will as always take new form and carry on. Cats and dogs; Right and Left. The equilibrium is the life force of the nation.
The question becomes not what we do about the good old boys, not if they should be removed by combating their higher-ups by some anarchic anti-racist/fascist force. They are not only the symptom of deeper issues, they are equal parts the paramours of the culture in their historical region, and inheritors of their fathers’ spite against unions and equal protection under the law.
We should seek to defuse the anger and dialog by making them useless. It may take riding out the four to eight years of whichever candidate takes the oath, but inevitably how we actually solve the whole antagonism is to engage in a grand upheaval against the conditions which make the reactionary returns to supremacy seem necessary to those convinced or downtrodden by the ruling economic minority.
The result is the good old boy taking a more modest and fanciful form than one complimentary to the amplification of reactionary narratives. The gentle southerner, born in the parts immortalized by Twain and Faulkner, made melodies by Nelson, Jennings and Charles; not the son of a ranting, raving Trump supporter, doomed to carry that weight in a cozy job in the big city.