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This is where Jim Webb first got my attention.

As with other ethnic groups, those inside the culture know how to read such code words, and there may come a time when the right Democratic strategist knows how to counter them in the manner that Mr. Dean contemplated. John Edwards is at his visceral best when his campaign rhetoric seems directed at doing that.

The decline in public education and the outsourcing of jobs has hit this culture hard. Diversity programs designed to assist minorities have had an unequal impact on white ethnic groups and particularly this one, whose roots are in a poverty-stricken South. Their sons and daughters serve in large numbers in a war whose validity is increasingly coming into question. In fact, the greatest realignment in modern politics would take place rather quickly if the right national leader found a way to bring the Scots-Irish and African-Americans to the same table, and so to redefine a formula that has consciously set them apart for the past two centuries.

Secret GOP Weapon The Scots-Irish vote. by JAMES WEBB

That last sentence is the single most interesting political statement I have read in my lifetime.  And this.

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Class Struggle American workers have a chance to be heard. by JIM WEBB

And this.

His problems began when he stood up to a man named A. P. Mills, a local baron who owned both the bank and the general store in Kensett.  A. P. had done alright during the hard times, even finding a way to send his son Wilbur to Harvard.  Upon his return Wilbur became a judge, and then a rather famous congressman, both for his expertise in tax law and for his antics with a South American stripper named Fanne Foxe.  A. P. Mills was a cheerful man, a true "good old boy" who still would remember my mother by name when she returned to Kensett with her children more than a decade after she had moved away.  But he was also very much a creature of his time and place, and my grandfather was not.

As my grandmother, great-aunt, and aunt all told it, my grandfather's sin was to explain to the black folk of Kensett that they were being charged higher interest rates than whites at A. P. Mills' store, thus keeping them in an even worse spiral of debt -- and also to suggest to A. P. Mills that this was not a particularly Christian thing to do.  My grandfather was pointedly warned that he was causing trouble.  By all accounts, my grandfather then told A. P. Mills to go to hell.  And A. P. Mills, along with some others who controlled the admittedly sparse purse strings of White County, showed my grandfather that there could be such a thing as hell on earth.

Within a few weeks my grandfather could not get a regular job in White County.  He moved back up to the Carbondale coal mines for a while but my grandmother, one of twelve children, got homesick, so he brought the family back to White County.  They began following the crops around the region, picking strawberries when they were in season, picking and chopping other people's cotton, and truck farming.  School for my mother and her brother and sisters became intermittent and at times impossible as they picked and chopped alongside the adults.

My grandfather, shunned by the local-powers-that-were, never backed down from his beliefs.  He had broken a hip badly in a farm accident, and an apparent bone infection eventually caused his skin to permanently split open in that area (I write "apparent" because no doctor ever treated him), bringing a steady ooze from the joint.  My grandmother kept two sets of bandages for the hip, boiling one every day while he wore the other.  But this did not keep B. H. from walking six miles round-trip to Searcy several days a week in order to debate others who gathered in the town square to discuss politics.  He argued for the rights of the black and the poor, and the unfairness of local leaders.  And in these spirited debates he was usually, as a wise man once put it, in either a minority or a majority of one.

Jim Webb, Born Fighting

And this.


Years of this kind of labor gave my mother arms and shoulders like a weight lifter.  When she met my father in Texas at the age of seventeen, his strongest initial reaction was not of her dark-haired , violet-eyed beauty, but that her hands felt as rough as the bark off a tree.  And as I myself grew into manhood and progressed through a variety of academic and professional challenges, my mother and grandmother both would seize my hands whenever I first walked into their homes, massaging the palms and feeling their thickness. Whatever else I did in life, it was important to both of them that I never lose my "workingman's hands."

I have Fischer's Albion's Seed, but so far I have only been able to make myself skim it.  There is more passion in one paragraph of Webb's writing than in the whole of Fischer's book.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Fri May 30th, 2008 at 11:57:35 PM EST

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