It is a balmy November noon in one of the less fashionable trailer parks in Palestine, TX. On the front porch of a circa 1977 single wide trailer, a rusty screen door slams open, knocking over a mountain of beer cans with an overflowing ashtray balanced precariously at the top, a remnant of last night’s bacchanal. Joe Ray McWhirter, fresh out of bed and ready to start the day, emerges.
Joe Ray is a sight to behold. A threadbare Dallas Mavericks ballcap is crammed upon his head. A pitted-out t-shirt depicting SpongeBob Squarepants in a cowboy hat (a size too small) stretches out across his colossal beer gut. Over this is draped his Methuselah-length scraggly beard, rife with Cheeto crumbs, cigarette ash, even the occasional mouse dropping. Overall straps drape his back, while the overall legs are cut off just below the Daisy Duke level. Camo-colored flip-flops adorn his feet. A myriad of tattoos covers his body, with female cleavage, the logos for .38 Special and Brooks & Dunn, and the words ‘JESUS SAFES’ being especially noticeable.
Today is a special day. On Fox’s NASCAR broadcast this afternoon, Troy Aikman is scheduled to be a guest announcer! Joe Ray ain’t missin’ that, dawg. This is what makes owning a 120-inch LCD Samsung flat screen TV such a pleasure, even if such an electronic marvel cost him what it takes him to earn in a month, working part time at the bottle depot like he does. Such a gala cannot commence without an ample supply of provender, however, which will necessitate a trip to Mr. Walton’s Mart two blocks away.
Joe Ray stumbles down the steps to his ride, currently chained to a makeshift hitching rail made out of the handlebar of a rusted out lawnmower (the lawnmower itself is buried half a foot in the ground). His ride is a golf cart, fitted out with a grease-clogged 6.6 liter V8 Duramax engine, mag wheels, 8 track player, and a rather amateurish and incomprehensible pinstripe design on the driver side door. In place of the regular seat, a small La-Z-Boy recliner has been installed. The horn used to play the General Lee’s Dixie call until rats made a nest in the steering column and chewed up all the wiring. Bumper stickers bedeck the body’s open space, offering opinions on everything from supporting the troops to breast inspections to why voting Bush/Cheney 2004 would have been a good idea. Joe Ray thinks this is all very pimpin’, y’all. Who says American ingenuity is dead? Beats anything you’d see in North Syriastan, that’s for dern tootin!
Joe Ray unhitches his cart, starts it up in a pall of grimy smoke, backs off his front lawn, and prepares to kick serious ass.
Rednecks. Derided by most, admired by some; what is undeniable is that for over 150 years, this group has represented a distinctive, and undeniably white, subculture. Given its earthy origins in the antebellum agrarian South, its detractors like to jeer at its boorishness, lack of refinement, and narrow-mindedness, while its supporters laud its tenets of self-reliance and lack of pretension, as well as its underlying Christian ethos. And, as political correctness and its hatred for all things white and traditional grows ever stronger in society with each passing year, it is understandable why so many beleaguered whites would want to associate with a culture that seemingly embraces their identity. Given his rural background, your humble scribe himself has been derisively called a redneck more than once, and he still wears that mantle proudly.
However, as with most other things pertaining to our folk, this subculture is in a serious state of deterioration. Modern rednecks, by and large, seem bound and determined to live down to the low expectations of people like Barack Obama and Janeane Garofalo. Doltishness reigns supreme. Watching a video of some drunken yahoo nearly blowing his foot off with a 12 gauge shotgun while his buddies chortle Beavis and Butthead-style in the background does not build racial rapport in anybody. At least, I sure hope it doesn’t.
The question remains, though…precisely what happened? And is this an outlook on life that is worth salvaging? If so, what needs to be altered?
The origins of the redneck are, of course, well known. Consisting of white, agrarian Southern families, usually of humble means, this group first attracted serious attention from the urban North during the Civil War. At that time, Confederate regiments of backwoods boys were dealing blow after shocking blow to the Union Army, which most of its partisans were assuming would have a relatively easy time imposing national hegemony on the secessionist states. These setbacks provoked a vengeful spirit in the North, and the resulting horrors of Reconstruction largely fell on the backs of this same Southern yeomanry. In the wake of dire economic straits, coercive and insulting attempts at racial integration, and the spectre of Federal troops patrolling the local lanes and byways, anger and resistance began to build in this selfsame yeomanry. Already a self-sufficient people, apt at finding ways to fend for themselves (which New York and Boston society would snicker at as being proof of their “unsophistication”), now was added an ever-strengthening pride in their racial identity and determination to carry on their lives in the face of continual belligerence from the Washington, D.C. leviathan. This was a task that was made considerably more bearable by the population’s fervent Christian faith, which sustained them and allowed them to extend their hospitalities to their own kind. And, given these people’s proficiency with firearms, the D.C. leviathan eventually had no choice but to give way.
What is less readily understood is that, given the large concentration of people of Irish and Scottish stock in the South, redneck culture carries a distinctively Celtic air about it. In the book Redneck Heaven: Portrait of a Vanishing Culture, author Bethany Bultman draws numerous comparisons between the ancient Celtic tribes and their modern redneck counterparts, including both groups’ clannishness, flamboyant yet practical dress, love of drinking, preference for rural communities, and ferociousness and courage when enraged, the last being augmented by both groups’ embedded confirmation in the soul’s immortality. Her sentiments are best summed up in the following quote:
Most Celtic scholars wanted nothing to do with my theory about a common Celtic-redneck culture. Before he hung up on me, one professor in Wisconsin scoffed, “About all we know is that the Celtic tribes sacked Rome in the fourth century BC and then turned around and left. They spoke the same mother language, they were skilled at farming, fighting, and making things with metal; they fought to prove superiority, never to conquer, because they hated cities and outsiders; and they ate a lot of pork!”1
Indeed, there is also a theory that the term “redneck” originated in the British Isles themselves. The website Scottish History Online declares:
The origins of this term Redneck are Scottish and refer to supporters of the National Covenant and The Solemn League and Covenant, or “Covenanters”, largely Lowland Presbyterians, many of whom would flee Scotland for Ulster (Northern Ireland) during persecutions by the British Crown. The Covenanters of 1638 and 1641 signed the documents that stated that Scotland desired the Presbyterian form of church government and would not accept the Church of England as its official state church.
Many Covenanters signed in their own blood and wore red pieces of cloth around their necks as distinctive insignia; hence the term “Red neck,” (rednecks) which became slang for a Scottish dissenter. One Scottish immigrant, interviewed by the author, remembered a Presbyterian minister, one Dr. Coulter, in Glasgow in the 1940’s wearing a red clerical collar — is this symbolic of the “rednecks”?
Since many Ulster-Scottish settlers in America (especially the South) were Presbyterian, the term was applied to them, and then, later, their Southern descendants. One of the earliest examples of its use comes from 1830, when an author noted that “red-neck” was a “name bestowed upon the Presbyterians.” It makes you wonder if the originators of the ever-present “redneck” joke are aware of the term’s origins – Rednecks?2
Such hardy ancestry would prove to be vital for the rednecks’ survival. Uprooted from the soil to toil in the textile factories and coal mines, robbed blind by banksters during the Great Depression, herded into the military in every war from World War I to Vietnam, and withstanding more derision for standing firm against ever more draconian integrationist measures, the culture nevertheless survived. In its ferocious determination to maintain its identity, it also began attracting admiration from non-Southern whites, at first grudgingly, but then more and more heartfelt.
Then things began to (you’ll pardon the pun) go south in a hurry.
By the 1970s, it appeared that every vestige of redneck influence in America was on the verge of elimination. The urbanization of the country was complete, with Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Richmond becoming the new Southern power centers. Racial integration was proclaimed a rock-solid reality, with a new generation of sensitive liberal politicians gaining power in Dixie. Affirmative action was upheld by the Supreme Court. Gun control movements gained momentum. Sodomites and feminists were on parade everywhere. It appeared there was no room for the yeomanry left in the new, hip social order.
And yet, a funny thing happened. In the mid seventies, for the first time ever, the power brokers in Hollywood, Washington, and Madison Avenue figured out that there was still in existence a sizable white rural demographic just hankering to be exploited! Any lingering doubts about the power of this base seemed to evaporate in 1976, when America voted in a “good ol’ boy” for president by the name of Jimmy Carter. (He was such a good ol’ boy that he allowed David Rockefeller’s nascent Trilateral Commission to gain a stranglehold on his administration, but you weren’t supposed to notice that.)
All of a sudden, redneck chic was the happening thing, daddy-o. Every jackass on the road seemed to be yammering away on his CB radio, whether he needed one or not. Feet were clad in Tony Lama boots. Lynard Skynard and other southern rockers received lucrative record deals, while country artists like Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton topped the pop charts and made guest appearances on The Muppets. Carter’s stupid hayseed oaf of a brother Billy became a “hero” to many and hawked a skunky beer with his name on the label for a few years. Movies like Smokey and the Bandit and Urban Cowboy were huge hits and, thanks to the latter, the new yuppie subculture wanted to go down to Gilley’s in Texas and ride the mechanical bull before heading out to the parking lot to do a few lines. If you were on a budget, you stayed home and watched Dukes of Hazzard or B.J. and the Bear. In the face of its inevitable extinction, the redneck culture seemed to be experiencing a renaissance.
By the early 1980s, the craze was dying down, but the lesson was not lost: there was some serious gelt to be made from these dumb racist hillbilly goys! By 1990, Jeff Foxworthy was telling all of us that if you sleep with chickens or keep a John Deere transmission in your kitchen to open beer bottles with you might be a redneck, and pithy sayings like this were making him rich. Line dancing to “Achy Breaky Heart” was cool, and so was Billy Ray Cyrus’s mullet, apparently. The Blue Collar Comedy Tour began. Bass Pro Shop began opening franchises everywhere. And so on and so forth, up to the present time.
And therein lies the problem. For the past forty or so years, the redneck has not taken the lead in championing his own culture, but has allowed outside influences to usurp that culture and dictate to him what it’s all about and what it stands for. He has become yet another media follower, no different than some airheaded teenybopper girl who allows the cover of Teen Beat to do all her critical thinking for her.
This has resulted in a pathetic parody of the former contrarian agrarian in Rebel gray.
Today’s self-described rednecks, by and large, are constructs of an environment hostile to their very existence and which, consequently, expects nothing but the worst from them. They are largely town and city dwellers, or are at least unduly influenced by modern urbanization. Hence, they have largely lost the hardiness and self-sufficiency that sustained their forefathers through times that try men’s souls. Rather than grow their own food, they scarf down pre-packaged sludge that came out of a filthy Mexican factory or eat at the Golden Arches five times a day, seven days a week. And their health reflects it: it is hard to imagine lasting a week in the Appalachians or the marshes of South Carolina when you weigh five hundred pounds and are confined to a wheelchair with an oxygen tank. In place of practical yet comfortable attire with touches of cultural ornamentation, they loudly proclaim their”‘uniqueness” through caps and t-shirts with corporate logos or obscene sayings on them. Their gaudy wardrobe becomes almost Babylonian in its pointless ugliness. Such a pointless cacophony extends to their choices in home and auto décor where, for example, randomly-welded together hubcaps are used as lawn decorations merely because “it’s so REDNECK, y’all!!!!” They assume crassness to be the same thing as lack of pretension. In response to the emptiness of a life lived pretending to be the salt of the earth, they drink to an excess which would have embarrassed even their ancestors, who were not adverse to a nip on occasion themselves. When that fails to heal their soul, they turn to the meth pipe. After all, if you cannot find peace of mind, might as well do even crazier redneck antics, right?
Even more disheartening is the modern redneck’s almost giddy determination to celebrate willful ignorance. Sure, the classic redneck was not known for being extensively educated, either, but it was not considered something in which to revel. Instead, it was hoped that it could be corrected using what limited means were at hand. No longer. To give an example, in an age where, like it or not, the internet is becoming the primary means of obtaining raw, unfiltered information necessary to help our people survive, the typical redneck’s mindset toward this medium can be summed up in the following meatheaded lyrics from Alan Jackson’s song “I Still Like Bologna”:
I got a laptop
That sits on a desk
I don’t use it much
Except to check
On some ole car
I kinda like
That music thang
You just download ’em
And you can save about
That’s ever been made.
But I still like bologna on white bread now and then….
An inspiring credo, isn’t it? Perhaps we can take some solace in the fact that this song came out in 2009, only peaked at #32 on the country charts, and more or less helped to usher in the decline of Mr. Jackson’s career.
In his 2007 article entitled “Deer Hunting With Jesus,” Fred Reed summed up the redneck’s intellectual vortex in a very prescient manner:
Rednecks….are dumber than dirt. They’re not bad people. You can heist a brew with them and talk about NASCAR and gobble wings and, with a little effort, come away liking them. But they don’t know squat. They are easily suckered by real-estate scammers and corporate con artists. The level of genuine illiteracy in America is much higher than most think. Add people who can barely read, and therefore don’t, and have never read a book in their lives, and you get a disconcerting number. . . .
Everything comes from television, mostly Fox News, and from Rush Limbaugh. They don’t have passports, may not know what one is, and seldom leave the county where they were born.3
In accordance with Mr. Reed’s point about Fox News and Limbaugh, a willfully ignorant redneck population has also resulted in this demographic being among the most complacent a body will ever run across. They can be counted on to consistently support establishment Republicans (grudgingly, they’ll tell you, in the case of Mitt Romney – but they enthusiastically supported him against John McCain four years ago), to “support the troops” unequivocally (Google “NASCAR” and “military” together and you’ll find a very symbiotic relationship between the two organizations), to wave the Stars and Stripes (bet their Reb ancestors would be thrilled with that!), and to ardently back the government’s ever-more draconian attempts to reign in an increasingly vague conception of “terror,” never dreaming that someday the federal guns could be turned on themselves.
“Ah,” you may be thinking, “but the modern redneck still loves his firepower, and he won’t allow himself to be disarmed for anything!” True, but if his brain has been washed to the point that he cannot understand the means taken to enslave him, let alone offer resistance of any sort, what does it matter to a tyrant if he is armed or not? Plinking at beer bottles and gopher hunting excursions are not likely to keep the Powers That Be awake at night!
Such a mindset also extends into the realm of the redneck’s Christianity. Reformed theonomy of a kinist nature is beyond his pale. Instead, he embraces charismatic evangelical mega-church preachers with their own TV shows who have chosen to serve mammon rather than God. Such preachers are able to implant their insidious anti-biblical agendas into his mind because he shows such preachers deference better suited to a dead idol than to the Holy Trinity. Should you be unfortunate enough to engage in a theological debate with him, this becomes painfully obvious: “Well, if y’all would jest LISSEN to Pastor Hagee, y’all would unnerstand why we gotta s’port l’il Israel ‘gainst all them forces of hay-ell comin’ to ee-radicate dem!”
Finally, we come to the most devastating tragedy of the modern redneck’s existence, one that has become especially prevalent within the last decade or so: given his predilection towards non-critical thinking, he has allowed himself to become deracinated. He will espouse the value of guns, beer, Dodge trucks, his dog, and the Tea Party all day long, but he will bend over backwards to ensure you that he does not promote white pride, that he loves his black and Jewish brethren, and that he would willingly be friends with them were there any available in his neck of the woods. (His vituperation of Muslims, however, being currently in line with official American and Israeli policy, is tacitly tolerated.) By his own words, then, he willingly concedes defeat in the culture wars, yet continues to dress, drive, eat, and act the way a redneck is “supposed” to and claims this gives him an identity. One of his heroines, Sarah Palin, had it wrong: this sad state of affairs is the true putting on of lipstick on a pig.
It gets worse, though. After all, if you have no inherent pride in your own heritage, why wouldn’t you usurp someone else’s? Yes, there is a growing trend towards incorporating black hip-hop culture into redneck media in order to give it more “edge.”
Don’t believe me? Go to Youtube and look up “Kuntry Boy Swag” by Big Smo and his band Kinfoke. You will be treated to the sight of an obese white moron with gigantic earrings and baggy pants gesticulating like Easy E and rapping about what a good ol’ boy he is in front of muddy ATVs. The video currently has 5,831 likes to 367 dislikes and contains such supportive user comments as “Listen here shut the **** up and enjoy the music you don’t like how we roll in the stick where the camo come’s out and the law goes DOWN then pop open a ice cold bud and watch us mudding and blazzing that ‘KOUNTRY’ music and a little rap we all have a little N****r in us! :) No need to reply to me if you don’t like what i said cause i’ll just laugh at you! :))”
And thus, we have come full circle: from a white regional culture spawned from its Celtic roots to a bunch of foul-mouthed, loutishly multicultural mooks. Hegel would be so proud.
As I have hopefully demonstrated, redneckism is in a state of postmodern chaos and ennui, both of which seem to be the prevailing trends for the world as a whole. But is all truly lost?
No. There still exists a small cadre of true rednecks who live as independently as they can and raise their families to follow the same tenets, trusting in God to keep them going when their own best efforts fall short. They may not have university degrees, but they are survivors.
What differentiates them from the wannabe rednecks? Very simple. They walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
They grow their own food. They thoroughly comprehend the potential in a good rifle or shotgun. They have curious minds and constantly strive to educate themselves, if from God’s natural order and the vagaries of human nature rather than from some Mao-worshipping professor at Stanford. They are interesting to talk to! They ask a lot of embarrassing but necessary questions. And they certainly don’t get bent all out of shape whenever someone tells an ethnic joke in their presence.
Until the fraudulent rednecks wake up to this reality, it is best to leave them to their pathetic antics.
Joe Ray has returned from his shopping excursion. As one piston on his engine has been firing irregularly, it has been five hours since he first ventured forth. Still, he counts the trip a success. Behind his seat is a myriad of snack food bags all ending in “ies,” two cases of Lone Star beer, a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, and six or seven DVDs from the five-dollar bin (Joe Ray is a little piqued that he could not use his food stamps to pay for these last items, but it’s all good, bubba). As he has missed the NASCAR race, he is planning on inviting his girlfriend Peaches over for a movie night as soon as her pole-dancing shift at the local bar is over in a couple of hours. The one Red Dawn knock-off starring The Rock and Ving Rhames he has purchased looks especially promising.
Self-reflection is not one of Joe Ray’s defining characteristics, but as he parks his golf cart, he can’t help but be grateful that he lives in the greatest country on the face of the planet, that Jesus loves him unconditionally, and that it is impossible to get any more redneck than he himself is. Big Smo sure had it right: country boys got the swag! Or maybe it was President Reagan who said that. Whatever.
Joe Ray piles his goodies on top of the beer cases, picks up the works, and heads inside to begin a very fulfilling evening.