Former President Bill Clinton warned a group of top Democratic donors at a private Saturday meeting not to underestimate the passions that gun control stirs among many Americans.
“Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,” Clinton said.
“A lot of these people live in a world very different from the world lived in by the people proposing these things,” Clinton said. “I know because I come from this world.”
Clinton said that Republicans have been struggling in presidential politics since 1992 — noting that 2004 was the only time a Republican has won the popular vote in more than 20 years. But, he said, the party has been successful in energizing its supporters for midterm elections.
“You have the power to really democratize America,” Clinton said. “You can do it on immigration reform, you can do it on these economic issues. You can do it on implementing the health care bill.”
But, Clinton warned, the issue of guns has a special emotional resonance in many rural states — and simply dismissing pro-gun arguments is counterproductive.
Clinton ought to know about all these things. He was born and raised in Arkansas. It doesn’t get more southern and rural than Arkansas. Clinton also should know what its like to be vilified and hated. I remember well how hated he was by the right wing of the Republican Party–hated so much he was accused of murdering his friend Vince Foster who had committed suicide.
Enough on straight politics. I am a hybrid but I mainly grew up in the south and just wanted to share a few thoughts that grew out of Clinton’s words to the wise. Northerners often make the mistake of dismissing southerners in general as rednecks and pastoral people who tend to use bad grammar, have unique diseases dealing with lack of nutrition, marry their cousins, hate blacks and love their dogs more than their children.
Only the latter is true and I can vouch for that. Pat Dog (the English setter)got to ride in the front seat and was allowed to hang his head out the window, thus allowing dog slobber to blow in on us kids in the back seat. We howled and complained to our mother vociferously. She said he got to sit up front because he had better sense than us kids. If we challenged this remark, she said when she pointed and said “look at that” Pat-Dog looked in the right direction. She said we looked everywhere but where she was pointing. Pat-Dog continued to ride shotgun for many years after that.
Sometimes we marry our cousins but not close cousins.
Southerners have a class system the same as everyone else. It is just not as dependent on money as in the North. Blame the Civil War. The rich will be poor and the poor will be rich existed for many years. The social order was turned upside down and took several generations to shake out. It is ill-advised to judge a southerner by his or her perceived fortunes. It’s just not a good gage of class.
Southerners (and westerners) tend to group by interest, especially the men folk. I never understood, as a child, why my city manager grandfather went off bird hunting with rough necks that picked their teeth and didn’t have indoor plumbing. My grandmother looked askance and made catty remarks…however…I knew I was not to repeat them. Those with whom you hunt and fish really don’t have to be your social equals. Those folks had to have shared values, however. Some of those values centered around your bird dog and your gun.
I don’t live as a southerner. Sure, I eat black-eyed peas on New Years day and have a picture of Robert E. Lee in the living room (it was a gift!) and know much of the lore, but I am not really a southerner. I have lived in Northern Virginia too long. That isn’t really southern. Go to Warrenton, or Front Royal. It becomes apparent. It would be a mistake for those who want to make changes in the gun laws to rely too heavily on rhetoric and what they perceive as common sense. Those things have nothing to do with what you will be up against. Gun mentality is part of culture, at least in the south. It is not to be questioned. It is understood. There really isn’t much to say about it. The platitudes from the NRA are really Yankee. Southerners don’t use those bumper sticker slogans when talking with each other. They don’t need to.
And fair warning–the westerners and the southerners will gang up on everyone on this issue. Just don’t trivialize the gun culture.