Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Real Bubble...

...is the bubble of militant ignorance.

I've lived in Red States very nearly all my life. I was born just outside Seattle, in a trailer park, but we left there when I was three to move to New Orleans, to another trailer park.

Graduate school in Arkansas. First job in Idaho. Second job in North Carolina. Third job -- this job -- back in Arkansas.

I've never been more than middle-class, and very often I've been poor. (My parents are doing quite well these days, but that money doesn't often make its way to my pockets.)

My point, and I do have one: As Historiann notes in her post here, it's a fashion lately to claim that liberals and progressives know nothing about Real Americans (TM). We live in a Blue State Bubble, this theory goes, apparently in Big Coastal Cities. We only meet other Rich White Progressive Liberals Like Ourselves. So we have no idea what Real Americans (TM) are like, and therefore we have no idea why they would vote for Trump.

This bullshit isn't really new. Charles Murray touted something like it, with his ridiculous quiz back in 2012, in which we discovered that if you go fishing or drive a pickup you're working class and a Real American (rather than just a Southern person of any class).

But as someone who lives in Red States, among Red State voters, and who has lived in a Big City as well (sort of a coastal one also, though not the coast most people mean), I'm here to tell you that while people living in Bubbles is a phenomenon, it's not the Bubble those who spout this theory usually mean.

Let me tell you a story about one of my young students. This student wrote an essay for my freshman comp class -- off-topic, which meant they didn't fulfill the assignment, but it was an instructive essay nonetheless. The essay was narrative, a story about how this student and their cousin saved up their money for two years, in order to go get an apartment in Little Rock (Little Rock!) and find jobs and go to school there. But in the end they didn't go, because their grandmother talked them out of it. Little Rock was a big city, and big cities are too dangerous.

That was how they ended up going to school at my university, and living at home.

Now there's nothing wrong with my university, mind you. But who is living in more of a Bubble -- people who leave home to go live in Little Rock, or (heaven forbid!) New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Seattle -- or people who stay home with their families, and never live more than a few miles away from those families? Who never travel further than a few hundred miles from home? Who tell me what their church says about a certain political subject, rather than what the evidence says?

When I first came to Arkansas, I taught a literature class in Diverse Cultures. One of the cultures I chose was Jewish Literature, and I had students in there who sincerely believed that Jews didn't exist anymore -- that they were only in the Bible.

But someone who lives in New York City, where just walking down the street you will meet people from a dozen different cultures and religions, countries and ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and genders and professions, speaking ten different languages, yes, that person is living in a Bubble.

And me! teaching in a university, where half the professors are conservatives, and from various religions as well as a number of countries; where my students are returning adults, veterans, Evangelical Christians, Asians, Muslims, immigrants -- where I spend my days discussing and evaluating ideas, and teaching others to evaluate ideas -- I'm living in a bubble.

Not the militantly ignorant jackholes who haven't read a book or evaluated their positions on one single thing since -- well, fucking ever, so far as I can tell.

Who elected Donald Trump because, apparently, they didn't know that the ACA was in fact the same thing as Obamacare, and because they sincerely believe the bullshit lies Trump tells and because they sincerely believe that Christians are persecuted in America and that immigrants are taking their jobs and who when you point out the problems with their positions retreat into whining demands for special treatment -- how dare we question their behavior? Why, they're the Real Americans!



Anonymous said...

Little Rock, huh? Didn't one of the candidates spend some time in Little Rock? Weren't there some scandals in Little Rock when she was there? Weren't there a few dead bodies associated with the scandals? Maybe Gramma knows a thing or two after all.

Anyway, I think you missed the point. The bubble refers to bloggers and pundits and others with a public forum. The students aren't pundits or bloggers. BTW, we don't know who the student voted for.


delagar said...

Bless your heart.

Anonymous said...

You're making a very good point about rural people living in a bubble. Some of them are my relatives. But it's equally true that the messages they get thru much of the media does condescend to them, in so many ways. And the message coming from late night TV, some of the more vocal advocacy groups, and even some Democratic candidates don't leave them any room to be who they are: constitutionally conservative (but not right wing); older; slow to get on board with really new things like gay marriage (though most are fine with gay people per se); and very likely were Obama voters in 2008 and 2012. So don't we want to reclaim those voters for the progressive side (which they don't see as "progressive" but "for the regular people)." And when media personalities call them haters for not being as enthusiastic as they could be about transgender rights (yes, this happens) or having reservations about late term abortion being tantamount to a war on women (yes, this happens too), here's what I see: not all people on the coasts and in big cities are in a bubble, but some of the loudest ones certainly are.

delagar said...

Anonymous: While I believe it is possible that some conservative people believe they are being abused by "the media" in the way you describe, I am speaking of those who deliberately stay within their bubbles -- the militantly ignorant.

See, for example, AYY up there, who apparently still believes that Hillary Clinton murdered people in Little Rock. I know we're being told that we're supposed to reach out to the poor tender feelings of the white working class, but seriously now.

I'll also add that there are plenty of people in the rural and small town South and Midwest who are not like AYY -- very nearly half of us are informed and progressive. We don't just tolerate gay people and trans people as long as those people stay in their place*, we accept and embrace them. We trust all women to make their own decisions about their bodies.

And yes, lots of us who feel that way are over 40.

*This happens to my child and her trans friends all the time. "I don't mind gay people being gay, if they would JUST KEEP IT TO THEMSELVES." Yeah, you can be gay or trans or whatevs, just keep in in the closet.

Anonymous said...

I guess we're talking about 2 different sets of people. But I'm focused on reclaiming the ones that are reclaimable, and that won't happen if we scream at them about how transphobic and sexist they are and how unlimited immigration is always a good thing and how can they think otherwise? I think we only get them back if we are willing to hear them, not to confirm their prejudices but to realize that a few decades ago we had the same ideas as they now do.

delagar said...

Who is screaming at these well-meaning conservatives you speak of?

You seem to be speaking to a straw-progressive. As I've stated more than once now, I live among and know many conservatives, many working class people, and many Red State progressives. I even know many people like AYY up there. And my child and I both know many people like the ones I mentioned in my previous comment, who think both liberals and LGBT people should just keep it to ourselves.

I scream at none of them, about anything. I'm an educator. I educate.

nicoleandmaggie said...

We blocked a troll who I'm guessing has no idea that we never get his comments anymore. I find that kind of amusing. I hope he's still sending us several messages a day! Actually, I hope he's had an epiphany and found something better to do with his time than to harass women on the internet.

We do Scalzi rules for our comments section (except that we allow digressions). Keeps the quality of discussion high. And we definitely do not allow anonymous commenters. They usually have the worst comments. Bless their souls and all, but we don't have to provide a platform. As a staffer for one of my Republican senators told me this week, if you get enough people saying an opinion, it becomes fact. (I wrote that down, read it back to him, and asked him if I could quote him on that and he said yes.) So we don't want all those poor people murdered by HRC-- let them stay alive-- it won't have happened until enough people believe it did.

Just popping over here to grab this excellent post for tomorrow's link love. Keep fighting the good fight!

delagar said...

Thanks, N&M!

Anonymous said...

I did mis-speak myself, Delagar. I didn't mean that you or I scream at our relatives. I mean that some portions of the media do, or offer platforms to those who do. I have seen this screaming and condescension come out of my TV. And there was, in fact, an ad for the Clinton campaign that played frequently in my media market (Illinois), that called any organization that opposed gay marriage a hate group. Given that 15 years ago most Democrats opposed gay marriage, I find that ad to be hypocritical. And we have to understand that cultural attitudes can and do evolve in a positive direction, but not if those who are behind the curve are vilified. Yes, fight hard against any attempt to take away the civil rights of any group, but don't turn people who are confused and slow to change into permanent enemies.

delagar said...

With the caveat that some of those who are speaking against LGBT people and against progressives *are* hate groups, I'll agree with you.

I didn't see the ad you're talking about, but it is important to call hate groups hate groups. We do have Christian Dominionists, white nationalists, Neo-Nazis, and members of other real, actual hate groups in this country. We also have "white moderates" who have over the past few years ceded a lot of control to those groups.

Some of these groups are about to be appointed to positions of power in our government, or are giving advice to those who are about to be in power in our government. It's important to recognize that.

D Shannon said...

"But who is living in more of a Bubble -- people who leave home to go live in Little Rock, or (heaven forbid!) New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Seattle -- or people who stay home with their families, and never live more than a few miles away from those families? Who never travel further than a few hundred miles from home? Who tell me what their church says about a certain political subject, rather than what the evidence says?"

It sounds a lot like my mother. She never lived more than 20 miles from her birthplace. Our longest vacation trip while I was growing up was less than 300 miles (she did go almost 600 for my sister's graduation, however). We have a major city less than 90 minutes away, and she refuses to go there.

(For the record, I can't go there either, since my medication keeps me from driving and bus service is so bad that any trip there requires two nights in a hotel. I do go on charter bus trips to large cities, but my mother doesn't. She says there's nothing to do in New York City.)

While she doesn't rely on the church to tell her what to think about political matters, she can repeat what she hears on talk radio and Fox News just as well as any parrot can.

As for the Little Rock story - I've got one that's even worse. While in college, I developed an interest in engineering, which my school did not offer courses in. I succeeded in transferring into Cooper Union in NYC, which was tuition-free at the time. You can't get cheaper than that. My mother would not let me transfer because, and I quote, "the Russian Mafia might get you." I never did get to study engineering.

delagar said...

Good Lord, D Shannon.

That does sound *exactly* like some of the stories my students have told me, though.

D Shannon said...

I don't know if it's exactly the same. I would think that most of the anti-big city people would think the big threat is from people who don't have pink skin.

However, Cooper Union on the border of NYC's Little Ukraine neighborhood, so that could be why she thought of "Russian Mafia" first. Strangely, she didn't have any problem voting for the candidate with ties to both Russia and the Mafia.