In my last post, I hilited a letter to the editor in the local paper from my hometown, the Southwest Times Record. Adam, a friend of mine from Jersey, left some comments that caused me some thought which I thought would be best fleshed out in a blog post.
The letter in my last post was not so much an example of racism as it is a pervailing attitude of fundamentalist Christians that they have the lock on the true path to righteousness. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude is generally passed down generation to generation, and the only way to break the cycle is, in my opinion, education and exposure to the people and things they find so abhorrant. This man has likely never been to New Orleans, never likely been farther away from home than he can drive. He is a victim of an education system which does not force him to think and reason and a religion which spoonfeeds him the opinions he recites so dutifully. His opinions are not based in racism, they’re based on the fact that people in New Orleans live a lifestyle that is fun. Fundamentalist Christians believe fun is equivalant to sin. New Orleaneans have wanton sex, they drink, they do drugs, they stay out late, they live life for the now and most offensively they give not a care for the ideals and morals that organized religion was supposed to have pounded into them. Fundamentalist Christians are, were they to admit it, less apalled at the behavior of others, but scared most of all of becoming irrelevant when people who are outside their sphere of influence realize, that if you reject the idea of paying pennance in this life for a life which may not exist after death, that you might actually enjoy yourself in this life and ignore those which have chosen to throw away the only life they know for certain to exist on living for the next life.
Bringing this back to my move and Adam’s comments, I never took time to know those people. The difference between where I live now and where I’m moving to in these terms is only that I am now geographically closer to a higher number of these people, but in terms of affecting my day to day life, they just don’t. I know they’re there. In politics, they’re definitely the squeaky wheel, but 99% of people do not behave in the manor of this person, and the reason the local paper chooses to publish such letters is to allow people like that hopefully to see what asses they make of themselves. Most Christians have a bad taste in their mouth reading a letter like the one from this person, and they’re just as outcast by those members of their religion as they are by the rest of society.
Honestly, I’m not going to say that racism doesn’t exist in the south. In the places where education still continues to fail the populace and poverty still persists in alarming numbers, racism is a real problem. I’d like to try to help fix that problem, because Arkansas has more people below the poverty line than just about any other state (save maybe Mississippi, Kentucky and West Virginia). It’s one of those unfortunate statistics where we rank in the top 5 instead of the bottom 5. There’s no reason that problem isn’t solvable though.
I’d rather spend an entire life living next to people I despise and attempt to educate them in the ways that human beings should behave, attempt to change the political system to help the next generations improve, and build a life where my children will be examples to the ones who spread hate than to spend an entire life living next to people with an entirely different set of problems. I care about the people where I’m from. I identify with them, and I feel like my life will be better working with the system from within than criticizing from afar. I could instead choose to live the coastal lifestyle of not really getting to know anyone, keeping everyone at a distance, especially the ones you work with since those are your competitors, continually trying to improve my material situation (god knows everyone needs a BMW), only associating with people at the right restraunts and the right bars (because we don’t want to be seen in a dive), making sure I’m dressed properly, knowing the right people at the right parties, and trying to climb my way up the social ladder. I could be successful at that, and then at those same parties I could discuss the plight of the impoverished, how those poor people have been mistreated, while the in same breath obviously exerting my superiority over those people because I’ve been educated, I’ve seen the world, and I’m a better person. I’ll do this, all while not having gotten to know anyone truly, because I’ve been too busy worrying about myself.
Just because I’m choosing to move back near these people, doesn’t mean I can’t say bad things about them. Just because I choose to live near them, doesn’t mean I can’t shine a light on their faults. They’re certainly choosing to pass judgement on people they don’t know. I have plenty to say and dislike about a lot of people everywhere, but the end, my decision to move is all about family, friends, and being at home. There’s a reason most people die within 50 miles of where they’re born.