The other day on the road, which was lined with garbage and litter, I saw groves of trees being cleared, leaving poor little raccoons homeless, to build “luxury housing”…but not luxury enough to keep any of the woods it seems. That arouses several thoughts in me. The first thought it arouses in me is that of a tree-hugger. Literally. I honestly don’t think trees, especially old trees but even new trees, should ever be chopped down, cut down, or otherwise obstructed unless there’s some truly compelling necessity. Enjoying them, their sights, their sounds, their sensations, drinking in all that the forest offers mankind, should be the birthright of all, and no, the convenience of a utility company or a homebuilder doesn’t count as a necessity. The forests are a habitat for us to realize our dreams, not an obstacle to them. The mentality evinced by tree removal services can go to hell as far as I’m concerned.
The Blood is willing but the Mindset is not
It would be a much better world if our culture required us to gather in a circle around every tree we wanted to cut down, spending all day and all night singing to it, lest the spirit within the tree be agitated and wreak havoc upon the mortals. The truly weird and disturbing part is that we used to have a culture like that! The ancient Germans had their sacred groves, and the English to this day have their wassailing, yet the ethnic cousins of these very same Englishmen in the southeastern quarter of America are the very same people who gleefully bring to life the part of a villain in an environmentalist propaganda movie. Seriously, it’s literally the same attitude, denuding the landscape and spreading garbage everywhere; in some cases when called out on it they “roll coal” just to spite their critics.
People raised in more sophisticated settings might assume these characters are unrealistic, but they’re honestly not. The fact that they often are descendants of those who used to literally hug and pray to trees in the old country makes the whole matter even more horrifying.
Who’s making America dirtier?
Whatever the cause of this social problem, it’s most acute in the American South, Appalachia, and Lower Midwest. I’m not exaggerating when I say I have literally never seen a single piece of garbage littering the roads in the Upper Midwest or the High Plains. Not one! These places tend to have a much larger continental Germanic element (Germans, Dutch, Scandinavians), as opposed to a British Isles element (English, Scotch, Welsh, Irish). They also have a much larger proportion of recent immigrants.
Contrary to the lies Tucker Carlson tells his audience of drooling bigots, immigrants do not make this country dirtier. To the extent anybody is doing so it’s native-born white trash, but the Republican Party and the conservative movement, particularly the thuggish “post-liberal” element he heaps love upon, fetishize these people as some kind of reservoir of American virtue, so instead of putting the blame where it belongs they scapegoat newcomers for all their problems. Particularly galling considering that the only sort of people I’ve seen working hard in the heat to clean up these people’s trash is Mexicans.
So strong is the vortex of white-trash American culture that new arrivals from Latin America, a group not exactly famous for tree-hugging fastidious ways, act more Germanic than the actual ethnic Germanics that have deep roots in America! Such types abound in places like the South and Appalachia; the Midwest and West received much heavier immigration more recently, so their peoples haven’t had as long to assimilate to the rather low standards of America’s “melting pot”. It’s the culture that’s the problem.
The Strange Dearth of Southern Hippies
A related question: why aren’t the most heavily Germanic parts of the country the most hippie-ish? It’s often overlooked, but the Hippie movement, New Age, tree-hugging, granola girls, nature-loving, outdoorsy pursuits, and all that have a very northern European, very Germanic vibe about them. The reason for this is simple; because it is Germanic! There’s a direct through-line from the hippies back to the beatniks to the nature boys of California to the Wandervogel and Lebensreform movements in late 19th century Germany. Indeed, many of the same people involved in the latter two movements migrated to California and became “nature boys” and even hippies!
So one might expect that the more Germanic parts of the country would really go for it, including the English and Scotch-Irish types in the South; indeed the white South is actually one of the more heavily Germanic parts of America! Why don’t we see hippie communes, tree huggers, granola girls, and forest-bound wanderers stretching from North Texas to North Carolina? Or even the Midwest, places like Minnesota or Nebraska, which is the most continental-Germanic region of the country? It must be Abion’s Seed-style folkways, because nothing else really explains it.
The Ugliness of Middle America
Which is really too bad. Though that doesn’t quite explain how California in particular and the West in general became hotbeds of that kind of thing. One part of the explanation might be the landscape; it’s been observed for a while that people in hillier or more mountainous areas tend to be much more into environmentalism and conservation, probably for the simple reason that there’s something valuable to conserve, at least relative to some generic woodsy hollow that looks the same as thousands of others within a day’s drive. People in more picturesque or scenic areas value their environments more for obvious reasons.
This also correlates with Democratic voting habits and liberal political views in general, which explains the striking coincidence of most of the prettier parts of America being “blue”. Aspen, Vail, and the beaches of California are the archetypal examples. Worse still, the correlation is increasing; ski resort counties are rapidly trending Democrat. Not helping matters is how places like Denver, which offer a rich variety of outdoorsy lifestyles, are meccas for professional-class whites who have the opportunity to move to more desirable areas, a demographic that is also trending Democrat.
Little by little Blue America becomes synonymous with Scenic America, Red America becomes synonymous with Boring America. Sure, there are still many exceptions, and will be for a long time to come, but in today’s political environment a place like Crook County, Wyoming, a gorgeous area host to, among other sights, Devils Tower, voting 89% (!) for Trump in 2020 seems to cut against the grain. A place like that is less and less representative of Red America with each passing election cycle. These subliminal associations matter: which would you rather join, a party whose strongholds are picturesque, or a party whose strongholds are ugly?
The Ugliness of Middle Americans
It gets even more horrifying when one realizes there’s a strong correlation between ugly landscapes and ugly people. In large measure this is because the kind of people who populate the uglier parts of the country don’t take good care of themselves or their bodies; they don’t maintain their figures, they don’t build muscle, they don’t do their hair well, they don’t wear much makeup, and they dress like slobs. Their facial features and bodies tend to be uglier too; for a variety of reasons a dinner party in generic Midwestern small town is not going to attract anywhere near as hot of a clientele as a swanky party in Aspen. But it’s striking that the people in Boring America don’t even try to improve themselves.
Consider also that these are the same people who litter everywhere, who never travel much, who don’t make much art, who never take up any kind of self-education. If they wanted to make creative hobbies and taking care of themselves priorities most of these people could do it; a lot of them are poor, yes, but they’re not so poor as to be completely bereft of any means. Why don’t we see from North Texas to North Carolina a population of health nuts who do hardcore road-tripping across America, backpacking through the woods, reading up on all the knowledge they can get over the Internet, sketching down anything that enters their heads in their sketchbooks, or some such? None of that takes that much money, yet that isn’t a normal lifestyle among these populations. They don’t even try.
I can’t help but suspect it’s not just a lack of means driving them to subsist in these ugly landscapes but a spiritual kinship to them, as if their ugly souls seek out equally ugly environments. Which would neatly explain how perversely normal it is among such people to make their environments even uglier, by, for example, chopping down groves of woods and littering their roads with garbage.
So the party of ugly landscapes also becomes the party of ugly people. Congratulations, Republicans, that’s your new base: people who wallow in their own filth. Not that that’s even a bad thing, necessarily; there are a lot of Americans who answer to that description, and in a democracy somebody’s got to get their votes. Why not you? The likes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt did well enough when they monopolized these same demographics. Though they had a political horizon that extended beyond inflicting state violence on their enemies purely because they didn’t like them personally. Can today’s rising faction of “post-liberal” Republicans say the same? Certainly not.
Why did the white South forgive?
As an aside, it’s odd anyway that the white South is so heavily Republican, or Republican at all for that matter. The Civil War was such a trauma in Southern history I’d imagine it would take much longer than one lifetime to make the white South forget what the Republicans did to them. But even as early as the 1920s there was mass movement toward the GOP. Particularly weird is how this happened despite the white South having been a Democratic stronghold even long before the Civil War; even if memories faded completely one might expect it would just revert to type: not a monolith but still heavily Democrat. But no, there was an outright flip!
Religious revivals and changes, especially in waves centered around the 1890s and the 1970s, explain this, but one can’t help but wonder about an alternate timeline where the white South to this day is a Democratic stronghold and votes for liberal candidates even if they’re “yellow dogs”. A world where the Southern Strategy isn’t viable for conservative Republicans might consign them to minority status a la the New Deal era (though even then they attained a commanding Congressional majority (and an 8-point House popular vote victory) in 1946, without many Southern seats), but it might open up new possibilities. Who knows?
I suppose this was all really ranty and rambly, and I make it seem like the natural center of gravity of white America is some kind of cross between granola-girl Nazis and wannabe Rasputins, which might be a sign I’m just too bohemian to understand normal people, because that doesn’t describe real life at all. Though honestly I like my hypothetical version of Germanic America better than the real one! Why can’t real life be that cool? Oh well, I’ll try to do my part I guess; one can be many things that are bad, even really bad, but the longer I live the longer I feel like the only truly irredeemable character flaw is being trashy and boring.
Which describes huge numbers of people in the world today, alas. But the good news is that it’s a mentality, it’s a culture, and cultures can be changed by willpower. Be whatever you want, but always try to be classy and interesting. If you’re classy and interesting there’s hope for you.