Elvis, the great White Trash
All hail the King:
“Elvis had achieved what no white trash
working-class male had ever dreamt possible: he was at once cool and sexually
transgressive and a “country boy”. No longer a freakish rural outcast, as in
the past, Elvis was a ‘Hillbilly Cat,’ something many teenage boys wished they
The King in American-style democracy
should be White Trash… that’s simple numbers. Of course, communism is not mere
“majority rule” democracy (which is actually “mob rule”) but elevates all
together, realizing that harmony is produced by adding black ink to a white
Cultural sidebar: The author notes that popular early television shows like
“The Beverly Hillbillies” and “The Andy Griffith Show” were mainly based on
caricatures of White Trash, but also contained characters who were positive
White Trash figures, like the star of the latter.
More importantly, these shows “…tapped
into suspicions that modern America had failed to create a genuine melting pot;
the cultural distance between rural and urban life, between rich and poor, was
And this cultural divide remains the
main divide in Trumpian America because when was it ever resolved? Crucially,
it’s the 1960s which mark the true entry of White Trash into the American power
Finally giving White Trash, not just
Blacks, the vote
The passing of the 24th amendment in
1964 – the banning of poll taxes – is rarely brought up, despite being one of
just 27 amendments to the US Constitution. What’s given far more press is the
Voting Rights Act of 1965, when Blacks who were finally given the right to
vote. Giving Blacks the vote is correct, of course, and gives one a nice
feeling that America has become a moral society.
So why is America not more openly proud
of the 24th amendment? Because America ignores class, of course.
The author demonstrates that poll taxes
were always used to disenfranchise White Trash as well. It’s much more
well-known that prior to the post-Civil War introduction of poll taxes you had
to be a landowner to vote in the US, but from 1865-1964 countless Whites were
denied franchise, especially in the South.
If you insist on focusing on
racial/identity politics you cannot explain, much less appreciate, the
significance of the 24th amendment. So we can use the elimination of poll taxes
as when White Trash, when all Trash, truly began the WTR. I’m getting a little
misty here – sniff, sniff – for when the WTR turns into the ATR: the American
Trash Revolution (i.e. communism).
And it should not be thought of as a
coincidence that giving Trash the vote lent democratic support for major
socialist-inspired successes like Johnson’s “Great Society” programs. The civil
rights movement meant: “Whites could no longer speak for people of color. Men
could no longer speak for women.”
And now that White Trash truly had the
right to vote, even in the South, politicians had to address them. Address them
only with policies, but also changing their image to win their vote.
Saxophone-playing Bill did this; fake
cowboy Dubya did this; Trump did this.
By the end of the 1980s “white trash”
was finally reclaimed as a class having cultural value. In 1996 a man was
charged with a hate crime for using the epithet “cracker”, while “redneck”
became a badge of pride.
This was, of course, part of the PCR:
“A larger trend was turning America into a more ethnically conscious nation,
one in which ethnicity substituted for class. The hereditary model had not been
completely abandoned; instead, it was reconfigured to focus on transmitted
cultural values over inbred traits.” (Emphasis mine)
And this is the failure of Trumpism:
Because It lacks the modernity and unity of socialism, it is merely an updating
of the totally discredited ideologies of eugenics, racism, Darwinism. “White
Trash versus the world!”
Of course, the moneyed White
conservatives funding Trump also rely on a false and imagined economic history:
“The same self-made man who looked down on white trash others had conveniently
chosen to forget that his own parents escaped the tar-paper shack only with the
help of the federal government.”
It is only via the promotion,
application and enforcement of communism that people finally learn it is
morally wrong to resent government programs which uplift the poor.
Again, a book on class but no Marx?
Only in America….
Because no book review is “objective”
unless it contains criticism….
Nearly 125 of the book’s 460 pages are
just the footnotes: This strongly implies that the author is primarily a
technocrat in her worldview.
This is a book by a major publisher and
not an obscure university press – 27% of the book should have gone towards
ideological discussion instead of anal facts us average readers will never
bother to pursue.
Despite the Communist Manifesto being
written in 1848, the revolutions of 1848, and the fact that Marx worked as
journalist in New York, the first reference to communism does not occur until
about 1861, just prior to the outbreak of the civil war. As previously stated:
4 references to socialism in a book about class seems willfully blind.
The author’s lack of political
intelligence to accept and promote Marxism implies the acceptance of the
contrary view – capitalism and racism.
And there is proof of this: Isenberg
decries capitalism’s eugenics-filled and racist worldview and yet the title of
her otherwise-fine epilogue is, “America’s Strange Breed”. (Emphasis mine)
It is not ironic but sad and
bewildering that she uses this term to title this section, because the epilogue
is otherwise rightly filled with condemnations of outdated genetic human
branding of “breeds”.
But without communist class solidarity,
one will always rest upon divisions: national, ethnic, religion, skin color –
Of course communists don’t believe in
breeds. In Cuba nobody has improved more than Blacks (except women) after 1961.
Russia was the first empire founded on affirmative action. Iran’s Supreme
Leader is ethnically Azeri and Iran has the largest Jewish population in the
Middle East outside of Israel (with their own parliamentary representative).
“The sad fact is, if we have no class
analysis, then we will continue to be shocked at the numbers of waste people
who inhabit what self-anointed patriots have styled the ‘greatest civilization
in the history of the world.’” (Emphasis mine)
I don’t’ see what’s sad about it? Class
analysis is, by the author’s own admission, a freeing perspective. She clearly
has some sort of bias against it, and that is to her own detriment.
And yet despite clearly not being a
Marxist, the author is not interested in religion’s role in White Trash, either
positive or negative? The only examination of lower-class Christianity is not
until the 1980s and the Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakker televangelism scandal. What
about all the storefront holy-rollers, Pentecostal snake-handlers, etc.? Why
only the sensational Bakkers and not the radio-era evangelists? Ignoring
religion is the author’s right, but it should be all or nothing, I would think.
A far more major fault is that the
author – who teaches at Louisiana State University and lives in Virginia –
focuses way too much on Southern White Trash at the expense of both Western and
Northeastern White Trash: “(Teddy) Roosevelt would have agreed: the distinct
culture of the West did not translate to the South,” but this is certainly not
true of America 115 years later.
Television and the internet have
created a situation where the “country twang” accent is a clear class
delineation from coast to coast. Someone who speaks with a twang certainly
lives all over the rural areas of so-called “blue states”.
Finally, the author, perhaps due to the
lack of sympathy for humanity instilled by communism, vacillates too often
between sympathy for White Trash and a clear abhorrence of them. She recounts
way too many stories of a sensational or titillating nature about hut-dwelling,
violent, unstable, dirty White Trash peasants.
If just a portion of these boringly
scandalous stories had been replaced by proper ideological-based condemnations
of the system she has studied, her book would have profited the reader much
more both intellectually and socially.
Great book overall. Now all we need is
to get this White Trash painted red!
(This book review is paired with an
editorial which uses the author’s insights to analyze the role of White Trash
in the election of Donald Trump.)
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief
correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has
been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Cuba, Egypt,
Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals,
magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television.
Courtesy The Saker
2008-2013©copyright, All Rights Reserved. Vijayvaani Publishers.
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