Friday, September 23, 2005

Kansas isn't the Problem

Fire of Liberty

Lee Harris has a great contribution over at Tech Central Station which is probably one of the best pieces I've ever read that seems to knock the legs out from under the arguments that Thomas Frank proposes in his book What's the Matter With Kansas?. Harris does an excellent job in deconstructing Frank's thesis that: "the people in the red states vote for Republicans and live less well off because they are simply stupid or uneducated and easily fooled by conservative shibboleths" by turning the table and presenting a well reasoned argument against the "Death Tax" that he heard by a waitress at Woolworths in 1972 Atlanta. He put it best by writing the following paragraphs:

Not economic irrationality, but admirable ethical consistency lay behind my waitresses' Red State attitude to the proposed inheritance tax. They did not ask others to give up a right that they would not give up themselves, if they were ever in the position to exercise it. Why? Because they would have regarded it as sheer hypocrisy to prevent people from doing what they knew damn well that they would do themselves, if they were ever given the chance.

What else is this other than a recognition of a shared humanity? Even if it be a shared weakness?

Perhaps one day the critics of Middle America will begin to recognize the humanity they share with people they so quickly label as culturally backwards. Perhaps one day they might even begin to listen to them, and to learn from them, the way I did so many years ago, while eavesdropping on the waitresses at Woolworth's.

So instead of asking what's wrong with the Red States maybe we should ask what is wrong with Thomas Frank and his fellow Democrats and what they could do to improve their lot. Thanks to Lee Harris we can ask such questions.

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