Friday, July 15, 2005

Reflections of a Friday

Allow me to preface this post with the following, I spent the past week hosting an "ex" who was in town doing research for her thesis. While it was nice to spend time with an old love, it was also very straining mentally and emotionally. Following her departure on Thursday, I sat aside Friday night as "Josh Time", free from any outside intrusions.

The night began simple enough, a trip to the store for a pack of cigarettes. As I walked from my car to the store, I noticed a man running from the store, carrying boxes to a truck parked directly in front the door. Internally, I felt somthing pulling me back away from the door. Sure enough, the running man threw the boxes in the bed of the truck, jumped inside, as the drive "peeled out" and several clerks ran out of the store trying to stop the truck.

While my life was never in any real danger, I couldn't help but to think, "what if I had continued to walk and not stopped?" Would the truck have hit me? Obviously, the truck wanted to flee the scene as quickly as possible and any parking lot obstacles were fair game. It took me back to high school and the countless sermons I heard, and even some that I preached, involving some variation of the line, "...if you were to walk out these doors right now and die, do you know where you would go?"

This wasn't a spiritual reflection as much as it was a cultural reflection. The evangelical church preys on fear and guilt. It incapacitates communities all over the South and Midwest to a point where they literally choke social, cultural and economic progress.

Come with me, if you will, to the 1880's in the United States. Fresh off the the Civil War, our nation stood on the edge of becoming what we now know as the greatest nation in the world. This time period marked the beginning of a great revolution in America both socially and economically. This revolution would transform the United States from a rural to an urban nation.

The rapidity of the transition of America from a rural to an urban nation created pressures in the society that influence social, cultural and political conflicts even today. The economic revolution caused a shift in power, wealth and status from rural to urban America. The shift included a transition in values from corporate to individualistic and resulted in a culture war we still struggle with today. Moreover, the gap between the promise and problems of the economic revolution influenced the development of the modern day American notions of conservative and liberal political ideologies. Basically, this laid the ground work for what we know as "red states" and "blue states" today.

If you don't understand this division, then you cannot understand any of American 20th Century History nor can you understand the political climate of today.

Well, I still had a movie to catch, so I left the store, cigarettes in hand. I'll spare you a movie critique, but will recomend that everyone go and see "Heights" with Glenn Close--it is an amazing movie. The movie, set in New York City, caused me to yet again examine this city we know as Dallas and make comparisions to that great center of culture we know as New York City.

Originally, I am from East Texas.

Before you go any further, I recomend you first read my post entitled "Your Redneck Past." If you don't, you will miss many of the cultural references.

If you have ever driven through East Texas, you have probably noticed sporadic disruptions in your cell phone signals. Chalk it up to the majestic pine trees towering towards the sky that dot the East Texas landscape. The same pine trees have been blamed for blocking out the signals of change—politically, socially, & artistically. This was my home for the first 26 years of my life and as I grew up and built an extended network of associates, I listened as they lampooned and criticized this area.

Perhaps, my business associates in Dallas offered the harshest criticisms. Most had never been to East Texas except in passing on their way to the casino boats in Shreveport, yet they were able to offer a cultural critique and weigh a towns’ merit based on its local Dairy Queen.

I finally moved from East Texas to Dallas in February, looking for a new start to my life. I came in hopes of finding an environment conducive to engendering and fostering ones’ artistic self based on the talk of my aforementioned associates. I quickly learned that Dallas is not as big as Dallas-ites like to think and that East Texas is not as small as Dallas-ites believe.

As one local radio personality puts it, Dallas is the heart of the “chicken fried nation.” Living in the Uptown area of Dallas, I have the great privilege of observing some of Dallas’ most pretentious and misguided citizens. While I usually refrain from using a broad brush, watch as I paint this picture.

The typical Uptown resident is somewhere between the age of 25-35 and unlike any other major city in the US, these “kids” are still attached to their parent’s umbilical chord. I love standing in my parking garage and playing “Count the Audi’s” and determining how many were bought with daddy’s money and how many were actually earned through hard work (I estimate that only 10% of Uptown residents have earned what they own.) This lack of independence is sure to affect one’s emotional maturity and their attitude towards life. Uptown residents desire to make money, present an image of success, and in engage in drunken acts of debauchery Thursday thru Saturday, but these kids lack culture.

Try and stop an Uptown resident and question them about Sartre, Moliere, Botticelli, Anguissola, Gentileschi, or even Whitman or Ginsberg and you are bound to be faced with silence. Even though we live in a metro area of over 3 million people this is still Texas and the same basic ground rules apply. These Uptown simpletons subscribe to the same values and moral code as their neighbors in East Texas—but like my friends to the East, Dallas-ites try and cover their “Redneck past” as well.

In Dallas, they cover their “redneck past” with Audi’s, Mercedes, Land Rovers, with Louis Vuitton, Coach and Prada, with various hair gels, mineral waters, and imports, and to top it all of, an accent that defies logic. They don’t want to sound like they are from Texas, so they turn to a pseudo-West Coast meets Texas accent that defiles the rules of the Standard English Dialect. I feel like Professor Henry Higgins and Dallas is my Eliza, I must shape her into a lady presentable to the world.

My first week in Dallas, Bright Eyes played in Fort Worth. Lead singer Connor Oberst took a lot of heat from the local media for his remarks about the state of Texas at the show and the more I reflect on his comments, the more truth I find in them. Dallas will never be mentioned in the same breath as New York City, LA, Miami, or San Francisco, because her conservative roots will cause her to show up in boots and ruin the black tie affair.

If Dallas wants to truly bury it’s redneck past, it must be willing to cut its conservative roots and move into the 21st Century. Otherwise, she’s just the twin sister of East Texas, only with fancy clothes and a nice car.


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