#17: DISPATCH FROM DUMBFUCKISTAN

In a country as divided as ours, especially under the pressure of approaching climate calamity, it is easy for myths to grow about the places we aren’t and the beliefs we don’t share.  That has been particularly the case over the last ten years around here, when a goodly portion of the rest of America headed off in a direction markedly at variance with our own.  The local result has been the legend of Dumbfuckistan, a kind of reverse El Dorado on the other side of the Sierras where the wrongheaded and shortsighted apparently hold sway on all fronts.  Say Dumbfuckistan out loud and everybody here knows what you’re talking about.

It came up during my lunch with Nestor at the taco palace back in December.  He and I talk every now and then about climate disturbance.  So far, Nestor’s half of a PhD in Anthropology had earned him six months fixing cars after his grant ran out and he’d been looking for something new to do.  I scheduled our December lunch after he left me a message that he wanted to catch up.  He said he’d finally figured out what to do.

We started our conversation with what a strange winter this was looking like and eventually got to once again hashing over “the changes” that seem to be brewing.   Nester pointed out that getting enough agreement to reverse our carbon saturation while there was still the possibility of holding the worst of it at bay was almost impossible to imagine.  I agreed that it was at least extremely daunting.  The participation and consensus required for meaningful change probably demanded a “super majority” of political agreement.   Maybe seventy percent or even more—no small task for a country in which bitter deadlock at fifty one percent is the most we’ve been able to muster.  And just that much seems to have consumed all our political energy.  Still, I thought it was possible.  More than that, necessary.

“But,” Nestor interrupted, “what about Dumbfuckistan?”

“Dumbfuckistan?”

“Yah,” Nestor continued, “Dumbfuckistan. That big stripe down the middle of the country.  Dumbfuckistan.  They’ll never go for it.  How do we ever get them on board?”

“You never can tell,” I said.  “I’m from Fresno and I figured it out.  People change. Their eyes get opened.  Their hearts get moved. They learn the hard way.  The trick is providing the option that will evoke that rethinking.”    Perhaps, I suggested, we needed to learn more about just who the Dumbfuckistanis were and what they want before we give up hope.  Maybe there was a common cause we could share lurking somewhere in their life.

Nestor jumped on that last statement like he’d been waiting for it since he walked in.  “Strange you should mention that,” he said, then he segued right to the decision he’d mentioned in his message.  “I’m going to Dumbfuckistan.”

“You’re going to Dumbfuckistan?”

“I’m an unemployed anthropologist, but I am still an anthropologist.  So I’m going to do what anthropologists do.  I’m tired of fixing cars.  I broke up with my girl friend.  I need a little adventure and I feel like exploring.  I want to pursue some new truths.  And what do we really know about the Dumbfuckistanis, anyway?  I’ll study their culture, like the Margaret Meade of the Republican Republic.  At the very least, I will add to the body of collective knowledge.  And who knows?  This kind of interface could open a profound reconciliation of the middle of America with its edges. It really could.  I’m headed east in my van.”

I told Nestor I’d be interested in what he might find out and he  promised to send me an email after he got there and had done some preliminary field work.

The email finally showed up last week:

“Truedog,

I have now spent enough time with the Dumbfuckistanis to have made some sobering observations.  Frankly, a number of my assumptions about the suitability of this work have been severely challenged and I’m afraid my vision is flagging somewhat.  But if you put yourself in my shoes for a moment, this recession of hope makes more sense.  Consider the rituals and practices I have thus far encountered inside Dumbfuckistan, having only scratched the surface. My entire list is actually four times this long but you’ll get the drift with just this partial sample:

1. Dumbfuckistanis think the gun is the most important tool ever invented.    Unarmed is widely considered a state only slightly better than cancerous.

2.  They assume almost everything on either coast is either hopelessly tainted or the product of a conspiracy ultimately aimed at installing socialism, taking their guns or making them have an abortion.

3.  They think climate change is a hoax manufactured in order to install socialism and, of course, to take their guns or make them have an abortion.

4.  They like having our armies actively plying their trade around the world, prefer that as many people as possible be frightened of us, and favor attacking first, then sorting out the details later.

5.  They consider Fox News fair and balanced.

6.  They hate government when it subsidizes anyone else but them.

7. They have a personal relationship with Jesus and are very suspicious of anyone who doesn’t.

8. They think the world is 5,000 years old.

9.  They hate bureaucrats but cut bankers and hedge funds an enormous amount of slack.

10.  And they don’t think there’s anything for us to discuss.

Truedog, this feels hopeless and more than a little scary.  The more I learn, the worse it gets.  I’m afraid I need to put Dumbfuckistan as far behind me as I can, as soon as possible. I’ve had it with Crisco, cheese whiz, and Wonder Bread.

Nestor”

I, of course, emailed right back:

“Remember, Nestor, we were all Dumbfuckistanis once upon a time.”

Nestor then fired back a response:

“Maybe so, Truedog, but I’m selling the van and heading to Paris while the getting is good.”

I haven’t heard from Nestor since.

 

 

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7 Responses to #17: DISPATCH FROM DUMBFUCKISTAN

  1. Freidrich says:

    Whoa man – ease up a bit on the hostile narcissism. Not everybody can be as positively brilliant as you, the Wizard, Arnold, and all other card-carrying members of your elitist circle of Coastal Cognoscenti. A friend of mine suggested that I check out your blog. So I read through most of the entries and the first thing that hit me is that this blog isn’t grabbing anybody. If a blog is supposes to inspire dialog, intellectual exchange, or even call-and-response, the TrueDog isn’t exactly getting the job done. Your weekly screeds aren’t eliciting more than an occasional reply. Perhaps the readers are in such awe of your intellectual prowess that they view themselves as disciples of a great prophet and therefore feel intimidated and unworthy of engaging a superior mind. Or perhaps people have read a few entries and concluded that they represent nothing more than an angry Grandpa ruminating to himself in the corner, “shhh, don’t bother him, maybe he’ll shut up.” Or perhaps, readers concluded early on that the entries are just a full-fledged turn-off – utterly unpersuasive and uninspiring, and yet another illustration of how nobody in the country, whether on the left, right, or in the center, is capable of fashioning an argument without resorting to extreme arrogance, bloviating bombast, and even prejudice (that last entry about Dumbf—istan was a travesty).

    I find myself straddling the line between the last two categories. My first thought was to call up my friend and simply have few laughs at your expense. Honestly, some of your entries are so damn contrived that I found myself laughing out loud. They read like a high school senior trying to imitate Thomas Friedman of the NYT. Then I recalled that he told me that you were once a very good writer of books, and I thought to myself , ok, if that’s the case (I trust my friend’s judgment), let me write something directly to the TrueDog in an effort to wake him and his readership out of whatever collective self-congratulatory stupor they find themselves in currently. If nothing more, it’ll stir up this blog!!!

    First thing I would ask is, “what’s your purpose here?” If your purpose is simply to let off some steam, entertain an adoring group of friends, family, and sycophants, or ingratiate yourself even further with the uber-progressives of NY, Northern California and Boulder, Colorado, then you’re probably doing a fine job and you can ignore my commentary entirely. But if you’re actually trying to persuade readers of something – cause people who currently don’t agree with everything you believe in to see the compelling logic of your arguments and to change their minds about something (and that something seems to be climate change, global warming, etc.), then you are failing miserably. Furthermore, if you’re trying to use this blog to launch yourself to a grander stage, then you’re also failing and you should catch yourself soon because the blog entries are becoming more and more amateurish and therefore potentially detrimental to whatever literary aspirations that you retain.

    Now let me try to offer some constructive commentary.

    1) Normal people, especially those who are not firmly in your camp, do not respond to pedantic lecturing on the right way to think. Do you really believe that there are more than 4 individuals outside of your circles who are going to get jazzed by someone writing on the “practice of being human”? Tone it down, buddy boy.

    2) Normal people do not want to hear about your genius friends and wizards. For those of us who do not have regular run-ins with the smartest people in the world, it is a major turn-off. If you want to authenticate or punctuate your positions, you should cite articles, studies, published interviews, etc. — information that just might be available to those of us who don’t have the luxury of living amongst the country’s best, brightest, and oh, the wealthiest.

    3) Get out there and do some actual work. Reading your blogs, one gets the impression that you’re some kind of roving local guru who has these extraordinary happenstance interactions with the all-knowing just by watching football games and going to the grocery store to pick up a packet of lentils. C’mon man, you can do better than that. Here’s a suggestion. Climate change is your big baby. Ok – I’m generally with you on this. But, I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure that the other side – talking about the scientists and academics who believe that while global warming is real, the factors are not exclusively man-made or even reversible — are utterly wrong. I’d love to see the TrueDog interview one of these people. Would love to hear about the exchange, the point-counterpoint, the arguments and rebuttal. Now that sort of entry would have the potential to be convincing. Here’s another suggestion. You wrote in that last entry somewhere that you were from Fresno. There have to be some factories there, no? You want a carbon-free world. So why don’t you go out to some of these factories and ask the owners what they think about a future where they ran their factories on alternative energy exclusively. What are the costs and benefits that are involved for them? Many of us are eager to live in a world where we burn a whole lot less oil and gas, but we have some concerns about the impact of that sort of change on those who actually produce goods and meet payrolls. Or go out and talk to some of the big power companies in your area and see what thoughts and opinions they have on the topic.

    4) Submit drafts of your blog to someone that you know that doesn’t believe that you’re the embodiment of moral enlightenment and an unerring disseminator of immutable truths. I’m wondering if you’re in touch with anyone that fits the bill. Were you to do that, you’d avoid sending out entries like your last one that are borderline disgusting in their display of arrogance and prejudice. Consider the following. Some Tea Party extremist who believes that the root of America’s social ills is found in urban culture – the mores, beliefs and behavior of those who live in America’s inner cities – decides to go out on an anthropological mission similar to the one undertaken by your friend Nestor. And when the mission is over, he sends out a missive to a blogger which enumerates the rituals and practices that he encountered. The list is similar in tone and structure to the one that appears in your latest blog entry in that it’s wholly derogatory and denigrating to some large group of people. Except there one big difference. In your blog, the target group is living somewhere out there in America’s great middle. Let’s cut through the bulls—t. You and Nestor are talking about stupid white people, so in the moral calculus of modern-day progressives, that makes it all ok to lump them all together, right? But that Tea Party extremist presumably would be talking about blacks and Latinos, so therefore, it would definitely not be ok, and we would all immediately castigate the extremist and the blogger who published his “anthropological” findings as racists and hate-mongers. I hope that you can see the hypocrisy inherent in that last blog. I think I’m safe in assuming that you’re no fan of racism. Yet you’re using the same line of reasoning to demonize a class of people as a hard-core racist.

    5) Find a way to buy-into what’s going on around you, especially if you want to have even a remote chance to plug into some of the younger generation. Most of your blog reads like this: the world is coming to an end, we’re about to implode, the good days are gone forever, the culture is decadent (hmm, how did that happen, I thought that you baby-boomers fixed everything when you changed the world), and the only chance we have for survival is to swallow the dictates of the TrueDog and the Wizard – quick, turn off the heat, get on the bicycle, and from this point on, kids, its legumes only! Wow, what a downer. Who the hell wants to follow those guys into the desert? Look man, I essentially agree with the thrust of what you’re trying to express. But I force myself to face the reality of demographics and technology – two potent unstoppable forces which are driving most of the phenomena that we find so daunting and at times, offensive. And like it or not, you have to tie your arguments somehow into the trends, and, this is key – you have to find in those trends reasons to be hopeful – reasons for optimism. Otherwise, your musings…well…don’t make me bring up that grandpa metaphor again.

    6) Finally, climb down off the high horse. We’re all struggling to understanding what’s going on around us. Nobody has the answers. There was one line from one of your early entries from Professor Sue which I found particularly insightful and worthy of cutting and pasting into my file of memorable quotes: “I think everyone in America shares an unconscious, often hidden, and largely unarticulated conclusion that we f—-d up, the glory days are over, the country is in deep sh-t, and there’s no way out. We know in our bones that we’re falling apart and the rest of the world is moving ahead.”

    How true – how true. But as the events unfold and the deep sh-t deepens, most of us are not looking for meaning from intellectual demagogues. Sure, we should all be nervous and we need discourse both to cope and to spur us to action. But discourse entails discussion and balanced commentary. Stridency is permissible when it’s moderated with some humility. Never lose sight of the fact that if your aim is to bring people into the fold, you can’t berate or belittle them.

    TrueDog, you’re a smart dude, that’s clear. You can write, that’s clear. You’ve written books, so it’s clear you know how to work diligently. So stop smoking your own dope, stop listening to and jotting down everything the Wizard and the Genius have to say, read over what I’ve written a few times, and then get down to some real work.

    I have high hopes for you!

    • Sumner says:

      Hey Freidrich, how’s it going over there in Dumbfuckistan buddy boy? I’m guessing the waters luke warm so it will be a while before you realize your frog is boiled.

  2. Sumner says:

    Hey Freidrich, how’s it going over there in Dumbfuckistan buddy boy? I’m guessing the waters luke warm so it will be a while before you realize your frog is boiled.

  3. Hey Freidrich, to quote a hostile critic of hostile narcissism; “Whoa man – ease up a bit on the hostile narcissism.” Whew, I mean really! Send a link to your blog so we can see what some one so full of advice is up to. It’s been a long time since I’ve read something as full of unproved self-importance as your long comment. Here’s something you could do. You’re not entirely sure some of the moderate climate change deniers are completely wrong. You don’t even have to interview them. Post some of what you think is reasonable on your blog and tell us why you think so, and why the enormous majority of climate scientists think they are wrong. Present both sides and parse it out for us. We all want to know: is it our children we have to worry about, or only the fourth generation out? Looking forward to seeing your work product.

  4. paullake says:

    Hey Freidrich, I think your right, the first question is ,” what’s your purpose here?”
    What does your crystal ball of demographic and technological trends tell us about
    perceptions of truth and arrogant persona.

  5. James Hirst says:

    The first response from Freidrich expends alot of time and energy in ad hominens and snarky criticisms to complain about just that…. snarkyness. When you use words like “Coastal Cognoscenti” Freidrich, to complain about elitist opinion you give yourself away. This is a ‘put up’ piece long enough to make me think you get paid by the word…. How about a critique based on the content of this post, not on these straw issues,…… because guess what!…. there is a “Dumbfuckistan” and I’ve been there and it’s all among us and it’s a willful ignorance based on fear….. Why wouldn’t there be one, since our long history of boom and bust, cheap energy, cheap credit etc has led us to a sprawling mess and a need for deep change that has scared us into deadlock….for now……What we need is more Jeremiahs and more thinking like # 17, the sharper the better.

  6. Pingback: #17: DISPATCH FROM DUMBFUCKISTAN | The Ruth Group

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