Tuesday, May 06, 2008

College senior in Northern New York challenges rural stereotypes perpetuated by fellow students

"Rural people are one of the last groups in America in which society deems to be fair game for attack," writes St. Lawrence University senior Jon Cardinal, left, in the campus newspaper, The Hill News, mentioning media representations, Barack Obama's "bitter" comment (which Cardinal says "has been misconstrued"), jokes his fellow students tell about "hicks and rednecks", and their "redneck parties, calling for their friends to wear flannel shirts and hunting hats and act as if you’re a Bible thumpin,’ Dale Earnhardt lovin,’ black person hatin,’ gay bashin,’ gun totin,’ trailer park livin,’ dumb slob. Can you imagine the outrage that would emerge if a party was held with a theme that played off of societal stereotypes of black people or Jews or women or Native Americans or other such groups?"

Cardinal continues, "You can call a rural person a dumb, racist, gun crazy, religious zealot without even turning a head. To many in our urban areas and in our wealthier communities this characterization is a no-brainer. But to those people I would advise that after branding a “redneck” an ignorant rube they look in the mirror and realize that they may be acting like ignorant elitists, unwilling or too lazy to look deeper into the complexities of our society. Because the truth is that there are just as many racists in cities and among the wealthy as there are in small towns and among the working-class – racism is a disease that plagues all of our nation. They would find that people use guns in rural areas mostly for sport whereas people use guns in cities to kill other people or to protect themselves out of fear of crime. They would realize that people are deeply religious in cities and towns alike, and that our society as a whole struggles with its acceptance of homosexuality because otherwise, we would have risen up by now and ended the injustice that says our GLBT sisters and brothers aren’t entitled to the same rights that straight people are."

Cardinal then mentions his own rural upbringing in nearby Ogdensburg, N.Y., on the St. Lawrence River, and how impressed he was with Obama's speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. "What really caught my attention was his ability to unite and to point out what we all share in common," he writes. "I hope that for the purposes of my argument here we can always remember to embrace our differences, whether they be racial, economic, gender, cultural and yes, rural versus urban, knowing that we can learn a lot from each other while at the same time recognizing all that we share in common." For the entire 1,675-word article, click here.

1 comment:

ruralchurch said...

Good post. I have enjoyed your blog.