Syracuse is broken. The Salt City has become a bastion of bigotry, hatred, racial strife, and social injustice.
I don't know how to fix it, but I can start by pointing out wrongs where I see them. Perhaps together we can figure out how to make it right.
Saturday, February 9, 2013
The Redneck Elite
“Prejudices, it is well known, are
most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been
loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds
among stones.” ― Charlotte
Brontë, Jane Eyre
The tavern floor is covered in snowy
bootprints. Blue-collar country men sit at the bar, sipping bottles
of Labatt's and chatting about the oncoming blizzard. They're
unconcerned. It's just one more CNY winter, nothing to
get riled about.
The door opens and a suit walks in. He
takes a seat at the far end of the bar, well away from the grizzled
locals, and orders a Scotch. The regulars, a homogenous crew of
flannels, Northface fleeces, and Carhartt coveralls, go silent. One,
a bleary-eyed mechanic with a shaved head and a nose like a rotten
potato, shakes his head. "Uppity fucking city-folk," he
mutters. He orders a round for his buddies, deliberately ignoring the
The man next to him, wearing a newsboy
cap and reeking of stale urine, clamors gleefully, "Hey, Johnny
decided to be a white man!" That's what they say when somebody
buys them a drink. Only white men are generous.
Xenophobia, the fear of foreigners, is
widespread throughout many rural areas in America, and the rural
suburbs of Syracuse are no exception. Insular communities cherish
their well-known surnames, family connections, reputations, honest
dealings, and time spent in one area. Travel outside the community is
alright, as long as you come back. Living anywhere other than the
town you grew up in is seen as betrayal. Moving up in the world
equates to snobbery and arrogance. There's nothing a country boy
hates more than somebody thinking they're better than he is, except
for maybe a black man in the Oval Office.
Where does this value system stem from?
Nas said it best, "Niggas fear what they don't understand, hate
what they can't conquer."
My father, a country preacher with no
formal education beyond Bible school, taught me a fundamental Greek
concept that has stuck with me to this day. Knowledge (epignosis)
is a list of facts, which leads to understanding (sunesis,
literally, "the flowing together of two rivers"), which
leads to wisdom (sophia),
the practical application.
conquer this fear of what we do not know, then, it seems clear that
the process begins with knowledge. Oh, if only someone would invent a
method or create a system that could give us this magical "knowledge"
are the men with their snowy boots and their 11 AM beers, their
bigotry and their snark. Without a worldview shaped by education and
experience outside their comfort zones, they craft their own
narrative: a story in which only white men buy each other drinks,
outsiders with their outside knowledge and fancy edumacation are
suspicious creatures deserving of distrust, and everybody has magical
bootstraps with which to pull themselves up... but only so far.