I  am writing this from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, just to the north of Philadelphia, a land of stone farmhouses, quaint bed and breakfasts and artsy types, or so it's said. I'm thinking I'm close enough to Philly itself to be in some sort of transitional zone: there isn't anything quaint about this block of US Route 1. But it doesn't matter one way or another, since I'm sporting Oklahoma plates, and by any reasonable definition of the word — reasonable for Philadelphia, anyway — that makes me a hick.

My hickdom (hickitude?) was first impressed upon me in Los Angeles, by someone who had been there longer than I had, which was about a day and a half. It didn't matter much that I'd studied some industrial-strength stuff, that I'd seen both Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring, that I could pick up on jokes about German composers: I was Tom Joad reincarnate, and I shouldn't be getting my nasty red dust all over his nice clean (and probably not yet paid for) 911. At the time, the time being 1988, I took umbrage.

Hicks, of course, are always the source of amusement for Hollywood: the most famous headline ever in Variety — "Stix Nix Hix Pix" — adorned an article about how rural types objected to their portrayal on screen. And while this was many years ago, nothing much has changed; witness the 2005 film The Dukes of Hazzard, which, according to costar Johnny Knoxville, has no plot: "You come here to see shit blown up and look at Jessica's legs." I am not keen on explosives, but there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours. Then again, the mere fact that I can defend this thing proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am a hick. (Being able to name more than one Nextel Cup driver in NASCAR would do the same; what's worse, I voted for George W. Bush. Once, anyway.)

Still, I'm not about to become apologetic. For one thing, hypersensitivity to what other people think is the single biggest hole in Democratic Party foreign-policy arguments; for another, it's far too rewarding, in a psychological sense, to tell the world to go to hell.

Especially when those non-hicks are doing their best to make sure it gets there.

The Vent

#444
8 July 2005

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