What happened to our American diversity?
0 comment Friday, May 2, 2014 |
Recently on one of the History channels, in between the obligatory Hitler episodes, was a program about 'hillbillies.' The program, the beginning of which I missed, was titled 'Hillbilly: The Real Story'.
The program was hosted and narrated by country singer Billy Ray Cyrus of all people, and focused on Appalachian history and culture. It did deal with some of the stereotypes: moonshiners, feuding clans, and snake-handling churches, for example. It was fairly interesting; I learned a little about the history of NASCAR, for example. Another segment of the program had to do with the history of violence, and occasionally actual warfare, between coal-miners and mine owners in West Virginia. The 'Battle of Blair Mountain' is apparently covered in depth in this book and it seems worth reading, although the subject matter is grim.
The Battle of Blair Mountain covers a profoundly significant but long-neglected slice of American history - the largest armed uprising on American soil since the Civil War. In 1921, some 10,000 West Virginia coal miners, outraged over years of brutality and lawless exploitation, picked up their Winchesters and marched against their tormentors, the powerful mine owners who ruled their corrupt state. For ten days the miners fought a pitched battle against an opposing legion of deputies, state police, and makeshift militia. Only the intervention of a federal expeditionary force, spearheaded by a bomber squadron commanded by General Billy Mitchell, ended this undeclared civil war and forced the miners to throw down their arms. The significance of this episode reaches beyond the annals of labor history. Indeed, it is a saga of the conflicting political, economic and cultural forces that shaped the power structure of 20th century America.''
These are chapters of history which are not dealt with much in our educational system, although they may be taught more today than they were when I attended school. That era was a troubling time in our national history.
The History Channel documentary seemed to make much of the culture of the West Virginia miners, and the fact that they were largely of Scots-Irish descent. The suggestion overall seemed to be that those of Scots-Irish or Ulster Scots descent are more warlike by nature. Now, isn't that stereotyping? I thought there were no innate differences based on ethnicity or genes. But then again, discussion of innate differences is taboo only in the case of minorities; white people can be stereotyped with impunity.
The documentary states that the term 'redneck' originated with the red scarves or bandanas worn around the necks of the coal miners. I had never heard that explanation given before, and I was somewhat skeptical.
This website, dealing with Scots History, has a different etymology for the terms 'hillbilly' and redneck, tracing the terms to Scotland or Ulster.
HILLBILLY (Hillbillies)
The origin of this American nickname for mountain folk in the Ozarks and in Appalachia comes from Ulster. Ulster-Scottish (The often incorrectly labeled "Scots-Irish") settlers in the hill-country of Appalachia brought their traditional music with them to the new world, and many of their songs and ballads dealt with William, Prince of Orange, who defeated the Catholic King James II of the Stuart family at the Battle of the Boyne, Ireland in 1690.
Supporters of King William were known as "Orangemen" and "Billy Boys" and their North American counterparts were soon referred to as "hillbillies". It is interesting to note that a traditional song of the Glasgow Rangers football club today begins with the line, "Hurrah! Hurrah! We are the Billy Boys!" and shares its tune with the famous American Civil War song, "Marching Through Georgia".
The origins of this term Redneck are Scottish and refer to supporters of the National Covenant and The Solemn League and Covenant, or "Covenanters", largely Lowland Presbyterians, many of whom would flee Scotland for Ulster (Northern Ireland) during persecutions by the British Crown. The Covenanters of 1638 and 1641 signed the documents that stated that Scotland desired the Presbyterian form of church government and would not accept the Church of England as its official state church.
Many Covenanters signed in their own blood and wore red pieces of cloth around their necks as distinctive insignia; hence the term "Red neck", (rednecks) which became slang for a Scottish dissenter*. One Scottish immigrant, interviewed by the author, remembered a Presbyterian minister, one Dr. Coulter, in Glasgow in the 1940's wearing a red clerical collar -- is this symbolic of the "rednecks"?
Since many Ulster-Scottish settlers in America (especially the South) were Presbyterian, the term was applied to them, and then, later, their Southern descendants. One of the earliest examples of its use comes from 1830, when an author noted that "red-neck" was a "name bestowed upon the Presbyterians." It makes you wonder if the originators of the ever-present "redneck" joke are aware of the term�s origins - Rednecks?
*Another term for Presbyterians in Ireland was a "Blackmouth". Members of the Church of Ireland (Anglicans) used this as a slur, referring to the fact that one could tell a Presbyterian by the black stains around his mouth from eating blackberries while at secret, illegal Presbyterian Church Services in the countryside.
Another Ulster-Scot term, a "cracker" was a person who talked and boasted, and "craic" (Crack) is a term still used in Scotland and Ireland to describe "talking", chat or conversation in a social sense ("Let�s go down to the pub and have a craic"; "what's the craic"). The term, first used to describe a southerner of Ulster-Scottish background, later became a nickname for any white southerner, especially those who were uneducated.
And while not an exclusively Southern term, but rather referring in general to all Americans, the origins of this word are related to the other three. ''
Scroll down the page for an explanation of the Mexican term 'gringo.' It's all rather interesting.
As for the origin of the word 'cracker', which is now a widespread epithet applied to whites in general, not just poor Southron whites, this page gives a number of conflicting explanations. Your guess is as good as mine as to which is the true origin of the word; what is not in doubt is that the word is used pejoratively by those with anti-Southern biases, or more broadly, with anti-White feelings.
I am inclined to believe in the Scottish or Ulster origin of some of these terms, given the prevalence of this heritage among Appalachian people.
The 'Hillbilly' program also touched on the traditional music of the Appalachian region, from which developed bluegrass and eventually modern country music, although the latter has strayed considerably from its roots. This web page outlines the development of American country and folk music from Ulster and Scottish origins:
The Appalachian mountain people, where Scots-Irish culture is so strong, have maintained a folk song culture for several centuries. Leading balladeers and folk historian from the early 20th century Cecil Sharpe related how he discovered nearly every one he met in the mountain region, young and old, could either sing or play an instrument.
The ballads which Sharp collected in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Carolinas and North Georgia were in the traditional vein, with Scots-Irish influences a very dominant strain.
Popular Appalachian folk songs and times like The Girl from Knoxville, Barbara Allen, The Irish Washerwoman, Haste to the Wedding, The Virginia Reel, The Green River March and Turkey in the Straw are in that tradition. The music of the American frontier was primarily vocal, through the singing of hymns and folk songs. In the very early settlements in Pennsylvania from the 1720s, the fiddle provided the musical background for the reels and jigs which the Scots-Irish enjoyed.
In the austere, and at times lonely surroundings of the frontier, music was the source which brightened the lives of the settlers.
Fiddle styles varied from state to state, even within states. Individual fiddlers differed in the way they held the instrument, the emphasis which they devoted to noting and the manner in which they bowed.
Some fiddlers stuck resolutely to the melody, while others improvised freely or employed their own prepared techniques -all a very Scots-Irish trait! Richard Nevins, in his Book Old-Time Fiddle Classics, notes that since fiddling was a Celtic art, modern aficionados strain to establish a direct link between Celtic styles and Appalachian in renditions.
Nevins maintained it is likely all the countless variations in southern fiddling are traceable to seven or eight different styles brought over to America by the predominant Celtic-cultured immigrants from various sections of the north of Ireland, southern Scotland and, to a lesser degree, parts of England. While yodelling has its origins in the Swiss mountains, many performers of a Scots-Irish background in states like Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, were adept at raising the tone to a falsetto head voice.
Gospel music was very dear to the Godfearing Scots-Irish and many colloquial hymns, later adopted in mainstream Christianity had origins in the Appalachian region, Methodist evangelical hymns of Isaac Watts, John Newton and John and Charles Wesley struck a chord with those moving along the Great Wagon Road to the frontier.''
Here I will digress for a minute and note that a few years ago, it was claimed, surprisingly for some people, that Gospel music came from Scottish roots and not from 'African-American' traditions, as has been claimed since the 1960s. The connection to Celtic roots is obvious to anyone familiar with the traditional singing styles of Scotland and Ireland; the free-flowing, ornate style which involves bending and 'worrying' the notes is a prominent feature in Scottish and Irish vocal traditions, whereas it has no counterpart in African music.
This article explains how Yale professor Willie Ruff made the connection between Scottish a cappella hymn singing and black gospel styles.
I believe it; it's obvious to me, although political correctness insists that blacks influence whites, whites copy blacks, but never vice-versa.
But to return to the article on Scots-Irish influences on country and folk music:
Bluegrass music is strongly linked to the Scots-Irish folk of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee and leading Nashville performer Ricky Skaggs is very proud of his roots. "My family on my mother's side were Scots-Irish - they were the Fergusons who left Limavady and East Donegal in the 18th century. They eventually moved to Kentucky, where I grew up with a real taste for bluegrass music, which has its origins in the north of Ireland and Scotland. To me traditional country music had a value in it, a wholesomeness and warmth that some of the other kinds of music don't have. It's our heritage, our roots, it's everything that we're about," says Ricky.''
The above article mentions British ballad collector Cecil Sharpe who traveled the Southeast during the early 20th century collecting folk songs. He noted that many of the centuries-old English ballads which were dying out in England were still preserved in the Appalachian region.
Although it's often claimed that the Appalachian people were mostly Scottish or Ulster Scots, the ballads Sharp collected included many English ballads too, indicating that there was considerable English heritage in the American South.
I tend to be somewhat skeptical of the claims that the culture of the South is mostly 'Celtic'; I think this is an exaggeration, and it downplays the English genetics and culture which also contributed to the American South. I sometimes wonder if the slighting of English heritage is a politically-motivated tendency; the Scots-Irish had an age-old animosity towards the English and there is a grudging attitude toward England that is deep-rooted among Americans of Scots or Irish heritage. In my family tree we have a few Scots-Irish or Ulster Scots ancestral lines, however, little information exists tracing some of these lines back to their origins in Scotland and Ulster. Our English and Welsh roots are far better documented, for many centuries.
Still, there is no separating out the strains of British Isles ancestry in the South; the different cultures have all played a part, and mingled together to make up a rather colorful whole. Unfortunately, the stereotypes still live on. Stereotypes, as I've said, do tend to have a basis in fact, and there is that strain of Southron culture which includes moonshining, and the reckless streak which makes NASCAR popular, and which makes Southern men good warriors. Even now, the South contributes more men (and these days, probably women) to the military than other regions of the country.
The Southern Military Tradition
The South is overrepresented among military recruits. It provided 42.2 percent of 1999 recruits and 41.0 percent of 2003 recruits but contained just 35.6 percent of the population ages 18?24. How�ever, other regions also provide a higher proportion of enlistees. The states with the highest enlistment propor�tional ratings by far are Mon�tana (1.67), Alaska (1.42), Wyoming (1.40), and Maine (1.39). (A proportional rating of 1.00 means that a state?s enlistee and general popula�tions ages 18?24 are exactly proportional to their respec�tive national populations.)
In addition to confirming the strong Southern military tradition, we also found an exceptional ten�dency for lower than average military participation in New England. The West was underrepresented among 1999 recruits, but its 2003 proportion was equal to the population. For example, the East North Central Census region, conventionally known as the Great Lakes states, had a proportional rating of 0.86, which rose to 0.93 after September 11, 2001. This implies a lower than average interest in joining the military in the region compared to the nation, but it may reflect other variables as well (e.g., relative health and fitness of potential recruits).''
There's no doubt there are regional differences; we have not all been homogenized and blended away yet, although our elites are working night and day to effect that homogenization.
This is something that I've given considerable thought to lately: why is our government seemingly bent on eliminating regional diversity, while preaching to us about the benefits of Holy Diversity on an international, interracial basis? What on earth was wrong with the American diversity we had a few decades ago, in which each region, each state, each little corner of this country, had a recognizable and unique quality? Traveling was then a source of pleasure and the variety which existed made travel fascinating. I vividly remember the first cross-country trip with my family, in the days before freeways existed, when we meandered through many little towns and hamlets and sampled the local color. America was once rich in American diversity. Texas was Texan with its own culture, which was a part of the South; cross the Sabine River into Louisiana and you were in a very different place. Each state had its own history and character. Now it's all freeways, convenience stores (run by Third Worlders), motels run by people named Patel, Mickey D's, and Wal-Marts, from sea to shining sea.
While we are 'celebrating the diversity' of the Iraqis and Burundians and Hmongs who now reside in our little heartland towns, the unique character of those towns becomes monotonously similar all over the country, and in fact, all over the Western world. Small-d diversity, our old American diversity, which included canny down-East Yankees, independent Texans, lively Louisiana Cajuns, laid-back Californians, taciturn Northwesterners, Norwegian bachelor farmers from Minnesota, and hillbillies from Appalachia, has been homogenized and replaced by a disconnected, random collection of strangers, united only by consumer culture.
Still, there is a small remainder of our real American diversity that has not yet been stamped out by the diversity kommissars, so we would do well to savor it and enjoy it and truly celebrate it while we can. Enjoy our NASCAR races and bluegrass festivals and fais-do-dos, and Highland games and rodeos and county fairs before it all vanishes into the one-world memory hole.
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