Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Red-State Revanchism

Yesterday I returned from my weeklong expedition to Oklahoma. It was a great trip on all counts. The weather, which is usually brutal this time of year, cooperated and was actually more comfortable than New York has been at any point this summer. But most importantly, I was able to spend plenty of quality time with my family, who never fail to make me utterly veklempt with their limitless love and positive energy. Nothing recharges my batteries like spending time with all of them.

I also attended my cousin's wedding on Saturday, which was quite the big-time affair. A beautiful church ceremony was followed by a reception in the Kerr-McGee suite at the University of Oklahoma football stadium. The soiree could not even be dampened by a power outage, which left much of the suite in darkness for the balance of the evening. While this surely rankled those who had spent a year planning music, dancing, etc for the event, it certainly spawned great memories for all who attended. Particularly memorable was the groomsmen's Top Gun-style rendition of the Righteous Brothers' classic "You've Lost That Lovin Feeling" for the first(and only) dance.

During my stay in Oklahoma City and on a quick trip to the town of Ardmore (where my mother grew up and where some family still resides), I also was exposed to a first-hand taste of life in a red-state. Paired with the omnipresent pro-Bush bumper-stickers and yellow ribbons, there was plenty of brown food. Oklahomans never met an animal or vegetable they wouldn't bread and deep fry. In fact, my lunch on Sunday consisted entirely of a platter of varying shades of brown preceded by an iceberg lettuce salad slathered in blue cheese dressing and bacon bits. My first meal in Oklahoma was also a salad. But one had to wade through quite a bit of cheddar cheese, hard-boiled egg, ham, turkey and all matter of other stuff to reach the holy iceberg grail.

But there was more to be experienced than just brown food. There is a unique religious, social and political culture to be understood in a state like Oklahoma. For many who live in the Blue States and have spent minimal time in the Redzone it's a pretty simple equation: white religious nuts and shotgun-wielding hicks. And indeed, that's a pretty simple depiction. Of course, such a view is largely based upon the kinds of stereotypes that Blue Staters supposedly abhor. They tend to celebrate diversity as they define it, and such definitions rarely include born-again Christians or brown food eaters.

From what I have seen in Oklahoma and other tenures in the Redzone, most folks seem committed to faith and family (football usually comes next). They seem to have very clear values and priorities. Of course, Christianity represents the bulk of faith in this part of America. And while it is publicly observable and referenced, it doesn't generally seem offensive or overbearing to me.

For example, at my cousin's wedding a woman came up to me and said "Are you Sim from New York?" When I replied that I was, she said "We've heard so much about you. We've been praying for you." Hmmmm. OK, I'll admit to being a little startled by the statement. First of all, "Who are you?" Second, "What are you praying about?" Third, "Is my situation really that precarious that I need some stranger half a continent away praying for me?" Fourth, "Gosh, and I didn't even get you anything!!" But once I recovered from the initial shock, I took it a little more in-stride. What she was really saying to me was that she loves my aunt and uncle, and by extension cares about me and wishes good things for me. And hey, who couldn't use someone, somewhere praying for them? I mean, I'm not sure but I don't know if anyone in NYC is praying for me. Like reality checks, I'll take prayers whenever and wherever I can get 'em. But interestingly and predictably, once I delved below the surface I made a startling discovery. This woman is originally from Lebanon. Some nuanced Blue Staters might be very surprised to learn about her views on the prosecution of the War on Terror, which can best be summarized as "Peace through Strength." And while on the subject of ethnicity, it might be surprising to a number of the arrogant folks residing in New York and San Francisco to discover the large number of Asians (primarily Vietnamese) who call Oklahoma home.

Although this religious component might make some people (even me, sometimes) a little uncomfortable, it reflects the values of the people. And while one can see examples of ostentatiousness, etc. it strikes me that most folks seem to have their priorities right, something I cannot say about New York. Of course, I am speaking in generalities here. But New Yorkers seem deeply entrenched in the rat race, competing against one another in zero-sum games of all stripes. The focus here is much more on what you have versus the guy next to you. By raising your profile, you put the other one down. In the workplace it is often more about playing the politics to pave your path than it is about team or organizational wins. Negativity often reigns supreme here. While I don't deny that faith and family are big values in New York, they compete or are in conflict with self-actualizing values far more often. It's all about the individual. In a place like Oklahoma, there appears to be more of a positive, communal and giving culture.

On the political front, I was deep in the heart of Bush country. I saw a lot of FoxNews on TV screens. Interestingly, much of my family has historically voted Democratic. But over time, they have moved to the right. There was a time where I was more conservative than any of them. But in the last election, they uniformly voted for Bush and I voted for Kerry. They can't comprehend my criticisms of Bush. But at the same time, most of them aren't as politically involved as I am. They are far more focused on raising families or building careers. But the fundamental strand of conservatism which runs through all of them seems to be wrapped around the notion of minimal government intrusion. That is a value we share. But a close look at the Bush agenda does not show much progress in terms of reducing the size of government. Perhaps their interest in that issue extends only insofar as it means less taxes. And in terms of the Global War on Terror, they are strongly behind Bush. On Sunday, I was speaking with two of my great uncles. These 80 year old vets who fought in the South Pacific during World War II confidently and passionately argue that we need to stay the course in Iraq. While they clearly had concern about the mounting death toll, these members of The Greatest Generation recognize that what is worth doing is worth doing at high cost. Meanwhile, my Gen X and Gen Y cohorts often wonder if there is any cause worthy of such sacrifices.

In upcoming posts, I'll revisit this issue of the red-state mentality. But for now, I'm off to grab some grilled scallops served over grilled arugala and a balsamic reduction.

No comments:

  • Better Living: Thoughts from Mark Daniels
  • Evangelical Outpost
  • One Hand Clapping
  • Camp Katrina
  • TPMCafe
  • Dodger Thoughts
  • Boy of Summer
  • Irish Pennants
  • tabletalk
  • Fire McCain
  • My Sandmen
  • Galley Slaves
  • Michelle Malkin
  • myelectionanalysis
  • Iraq the Model
  • Mystery Pollster
  • A Bellandean! God, Country, Heritage
  • Right Truth
  • The Fourth Rail
  • Counterterrorism Blog
  • Just One Minute
  • Broken Masterpieces
  • Kudlow's Money Politic$
  • Econopundit
  • Tapscott's Copy Desk
  • The Blue State Conservatives
  • Palousitics
  • Christian Conservative
  • Outside the Beltway
  • The Belmont Club
  • Froggy Ruminations
  • The Captain's Journal
  • Argghh!!!
  • Chickenhawk Express
  • Confederate Yankee
  • Reasoned Audacity
  • Taking Notes
  • ThisDamnBlog
  • Three Knockdown Rule
  • Dogwood Pundit
  • Dumb Looks Still Free
  • Unfettered Blather
  • Cut to the Chase
  • Alabama Improper
  • Austin Bay Blog
  • Michael Yon-Online
  • The Trump Blog
  • A Lettor of Apology
  • GM Fastlane Blog

  • Powered by Blogger

    Listed on BlogShares Who Links Here