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Confederacy is an ethos


Good essay by Will Wilkinson on how distinctively rural cultures have eroded and just become Generic White Southern:

When I was a kid, the accents changed. Driving north from central Iowa through the corn toward Minnesota, the dialect would gradually get a little Fargo — a little Norwegian bachelor farmer — maybe an hour or so from the border. Past “the Cities,” you’d encounter the Oop! Uffdah! deadpan in full hilarious effect.

Likewise, heading south, the accents would gradually trend Joe Dirt as Missouri drew near. Below I-70, the twang whistled Dixie.

In the intervening forty years, these differences have become harder to hear. They’ve grown faint. Regionalized accents reflect differences in historical patterns of migration and settlement. Swedes didn’t flock to the Ozarks. Scots-Irish didn’t cluster in St. Cloud. It shouldn’t surprise us that linguistic and cultural connection to ancestral settler communities would attenuate over many decades and waves of newcomers who alter the local ethno-cultural mix. I suppose I shouldn’t find it surprising, then, that the distinctness of Iowa, Minnesota, and Minnesota’s rural white cultures have faded, too. But I do find it striking. When I tour the hustings these days, that’s what strikes me: it seems so much the same wherever you go.

I didn’t understand this when I was a kid, but the lived experience of growing up halfway between Branson and Lake Woebegone gave me my cultural bearings — supplied the contrasts that defined a distinct and salient Iowan identity. As those contrasts have faded, so have these distinct regional, rural identities. Everywhere it’s the same cloying pop country, the same aggressively oversized Ford F-150s, the same tumbledown Wal-Marts and Dollar Generals, the same eagle-heavy fashion, the same confused, aggrieved air of relentless material decline. Even the accents are more and more the same, trending toward a generalized Larry the Cable Guy twang. (Larry the Cable Guy is from Nebraska, FWIW.)

This is one of the many reasons that, during the Trump era, my home state began to feel alien to me. The distinctive texture of Iowa’s rural culture has largely washed out.

But here’s the thing… America’s increasingly placeless, homogenous white rural culture isn’t of blend of all our various regional cultures. Rural Iowans and Minnesotans sound more like rural Missourians than the reverse.

This is the bedrock on which Trumpism is built, and it would be less terrifying if Confederate Nation weren’t so overrepresented in national political institutions.

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