I find myself, virtually daily, amused and annoyed by the dim-witted emanations of the self-imagined elite of the media and politics. Were I sufficiently foolish to believe them, I’d discover that I, merely by virtue of living in flyover country, am uneducated, crude, unsophisticated, racist, sexist, cruel, and desire the deaths of the poor, children, the elderly and the superior beings smart enough not to live in the vast cultural wasteland that is most of America where pathetic, ill-intentioned, and evil rednecks like me live their meaningless and disgusting little lives. One can almost hear banjo music…
Living in Texas, which is verging on nearly as South as one can be, I am among those for who the self-proclaimed elite hold special contempt, not only because I live in a red state, but anyone living in the South must surely be even more racist and backward than say, a denizen of South Dakota or North Dakota, wherever those frozen wastelands are.
This utter lack of human kindness and understanding of America is distressing, and is a part of the current social and political chasm that divides us. But it is not merely misunderstanding; it is, for many of the self-branded elite, arrogance and malice. Even those that seem to be willing to bridge the gap, demonstrate their contempt for those they seek to study and understand, as the HuffPost recently and comically demonstrated by announcing a multi state “listening tour” of flyover country. Lydia Polgreen, the Editor, explains:
I am so pleased to announce “Listen to America,” a hugely ambitious, cross-country project we’re undertaking at HuffPost to understand what’s on the minds of Americans and what it means to be American in 2017. Consider this an invitation to our journey.
For journalists, listening is more important than ever. Why? First, trust in the news media is at an all-time low. We want to address that head-on, and build trust in the work we do, by visiting communities that are largely ignored by national media. We’ll listen to what’s most important to them, and help tell those stories to the vast HuffPost audience.
Second, political divisions between us seem starker than ever. But at HuffPost, we believe there’s still so much that unites us as citizens. We aim to discover and highlight all that, and show what Americans have in common. As we visit 23 states, we’ll use our bus — built out as a mobile video studio — to listen and collect hundreds if not thousands of voices, and we’ll share many of them along the way. We’ll also create ways for you to make your voice heard too, even if we aren’t coming to your hometown.
Third, as journalists, being good listeners, and getting out of our own way, are at the core of our practice. “Listen to America” is an opportunity to practice this skill over and over, and discover great stories out in the field, where they live.
Notice they’re going “out in the field,” as though they’re exploring a strange, even dangerous, untraveled wilderness. They’re going to record the bizarre, unfathomable natives, and see what, if anything, they have in common with higher life forms. Who knows if they’ll find indoor plumbing, electricity, paved roads, grotesquely overpriced sandwiches with foo-foo European names, and exorbitantly priced specialty coffees?
They’re going to find a great many Americans laughing–politely–at them, Americans who think of such snobbish and uneducated people only when they’ve been insulted by them, and then, only long enough to shake their heads in pity. What must life be like for people so obsessed with hatred and anxiety? They may find Americans who work hard, take care of their families and communities, and each other, as CBS, of all organizations, reports:
When Andy Mitchell spotted a young man in a fast food uniform walking along the side of a road on a 95-degree summer day in Rockwall, Texas [a NE suburb of Dallas], he felt compelled to pull over.
He rolled down his window and offered the man, a 20-year-old named Justin Korva, a ride — not knowing how much that small gesture would impact the man’s life.
While driving Korva to work at Taco Casa, Mitchell discovered the young man normally walked 3 miles to work and home again every day. Korva said he was determined to save up money and someday, he hoped, he would be able to afford a car.
After dropping off Korva, Mitchell posted about the man’s determination on Facebook.
‘To all the people that say they want to work but can’t find a job or don’t have a vehicle all I can say is you don’t want it bad enough,’ Mitchell wrote.
And there it might have ended, with many of the elite thinking Mitchell racist and hateful, picking on the poor and black. Anyone thinking that way doesn’t have a clue about Texans.
Hundreds of people in the community saw his post, including Samee Dowlatshahi, owner of Samee’s Pizza Getti Italian Bistro & Lounge in Rockwell.
Dowlatshahi offered to put a donation box inside his pizza joint to aid Korva in his quest to buy a car.
In less than 48 hours, with some help from Mitchell, they’d raised more than $5,500.
A local Toyota Dealership lent a hand and considerably dropped the price on a good used car, and there was sufficient money left over for a year of insurance, a $500 gas card, and oil changes for two years. No one had to ask them; they heard about Korva and were glad to help. They surely got some good publicity, but they didn’t have to lift a finger for someone none of them knew. Texans are like that. Mitchell showed up at Korva’s work and asked him to step outside.
Justin, you can’t imagine all the people who wanted to help you,” Mitchell said, as several people filmed the exchange on their cellphones in the restaurant parking lot. ‘So, instead of walking to work, buddy, you’re driving this car from now on.’
Korva looked at Mitchell in disbelief, ‘Are you serious?’
‘It’s your car! This is your car,’ Mitchell repeated.
Korva gave each man a hug, wiping tears from his eyes as he walked toward the car.
Why did they do it? Why would they give so much of themselves to a young man none of them knew? Because they all know what it is to have no car in the summer in Texas. Because Justin was working to better himself, and with him, the community. Because that’s what Texans are; it’s what they do. That’s what Americans do.
I’ve lived my life in South Dakota and Wyoming, and the last 16 years in Texas. Like so many others, I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could. The story of Justin Korva is nothing new to me. I’ve seen it, in all its iterations, over and over again in South Dakota, Wyoming and Texas. Americans give of themselves because it’s the right thing to do, because their upbringing, their faith, and their values tell them to do it, and because it makes them feel good. Race, gender, none of that, enters into it. They see others in need, and if they can, give. Americans aren’t obsessed with such things as their self-imagined intellectual and moral superiors are. Such people think it’s government’s job to take care of others, using other people’s money, of course. Americans want government to stay the hell out of their lives. They’ll take care of each other just fine, thank you, and they wont pick anybody’s pocket to do it.
Perhaps the journalists on safari in deepest, darkest flyover country might try to find people like Mitchell and Dowlatshahi and Korva. Theirs are the stories of Texas–and America. Theirs is the decency too many so easily dismiss and ridicule. They’re the glue that holds our Republic together.