I recently read an article by Nina Burleigh in Salon.com called “Country Boy”. While I was stunned by the content and tone while reading it, I am even more upset after I have had time to reflect on it. Please go read the article before continuing; the entirety of her work is important.
While the intro paragraph is simply expository, the contempt begins very quickly. Despite the evident beauty of the region (which she admits later) her description of the small American town of Narrowsurg is of a ‘depressed’ and ‘harsh’ realm, oh-so distant from the lost, ‘idyllic’ existence in Paris with its superior culture and social services.
Her contempt for the town and those in it never flags. She reveals that her friends were other ‘city folk’ – who were openly contemptuous of the institution of the town (without bothering to visit or investigating them, she admits). At one point she feels the need to pause and inform the readers that the ‘Narrows’ in Narrowsburg refers to the local river narrows, not the mindset of the residents. Despite he early references to the principal and other school staff being open and friendly, the narrative shows her and her husband as deeply suspicious of the local residents, constantly fearful of maliciousness and being ‘singled out’ – even though she has no examples of such behavior. Indeed, the bucolic atmosphere of the town and its people keeps seeping through her narrative despite her best efforts to justify her own paranoia.
Her over-reaction was based upon her perception of an incident she describes. The incident began simply; a flyer in her son’s backpack with an open invitation to a bible study, obviously described as not part of regular school. How did she and her husband react? With ‘panic’! They did not send a note back; they did not call and ask, or complain, or request a conference. No – they immediately called the ACLU! The ACLU assured them that such information being made available is, indeed, not felonious, but the ACLU did call to complain about the flyer perhaps looking official (well, it did cause two grown people to immediately seek legal help).
She seems upset that the principal who had to field the call, was forced to apologize for a harmless incident, and was as aware as the author that only one set of parents in town would be so reactionary, was ‘less warm’ to her and her husband thereafter.
Her revelations of their fear of religion and the religious actually gets worse. When she and her husband discovered that their son’s kindergarten teacher was actually devout (in a conservative church, yet) they were very careful not to express their own political and religious views. Why? They feared their son would be ‘singled out’ by the same woman she had earlier described as a ‘cheery’, ‘enthusiastic’ teacher with almost two decades of teaching experience. If the teacher had been a member of MoveOn, would Mrs. Burleigh have worried about the ability of conservative parents to speak freely without fear? Somehow, I doubt it.
She also betrays a distrust of the military and veterans; her and her husband were ‘uneasy’ that 25% of the town adults were veterans and that 10% of the local graduates had gone on to military service (and this after her discussion of the economic woes of the area). She mentions wanting to ‘protest’ the Pledge of Allegiance by sitting down as her son recited it in the mornings. The only favorable mention of a veteran comes from one who expressed his desire that no child experience war. She interpreted the following silence as an acknowledgement of rebuke by the townspeople.
I assume Mrs. Burleigh has never spent any time in a Legion hall or a VFW post. As a proud member of the VFW I can tell you this – every veteran shares this desire to spare all people from war. When it is expressed by a veteran, especially on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, the proper response is silence. The silence veterans all share when remembering the sacrifices made by the living and the dead, the horror of destruction, and the desire for peace. You don’t applaud the acknowledgement of death; you don’t cheer the memory of friends who died to save your life. Non-veterans with a sense of decency who hear these things are silent out of respect and the clear knowledge that the pains and sacrifices of American veterans were given up to provide those young men and women, those children, and the author herself her freedom from slavery, terror, and death. Her sheer inability to understand this silence is almost the most self-damning thing she writes in this piece.
I said ‘almost’ the most self-damning thing she writes. The most self-damning is the very heart of the text; her attitudes toward her own son.
Her son sounds like a cheerful, outgoing sort. Based upon his mother’s writing, it seems that being exposed to the influences of a ‘traditional’ school was quite good for the young man. He also seems to have absorbed the patriotism that is so very common in America. Well, if you avoid the largest cities and college towns, that is. He recites the Pledge of Allegiance with gusto, sings ‘the Star Spangled Banner’ and ‘America the Beautiful’, and comes to love his country.
This is a major problem for his parents. His mother views patriotism as “childish” and naïve, something to be shed sooner than a belief in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and far, far more fantastical than those two mythical beasts. She mentions how she and her husband are careful to explain all of America’s faults to their son. She wistfully wishes she could believe in a land where ‘good and brotherhood’ co-exist while making it clear that Narnia is much more real than an America where such things as that could be.
Her son now goes to school in Manhattan. He doesn’t say the Pledge anymore and doesn’t favor the flag’s colors as he once did. While the small, ‘conservative, traditional’ school taught him to read two grades above his placement in the “well rated” school he now attends, I doubt that he will continue to be challenged to the same level of performance. She admits what this metropolitan, certainly large, absolutely ‘liberal, modern’ school has already expanded his horizons” now he wants an xbox, knows how to curse, and knows what the word ‘sexy’ means.
Oddly enough, his new school doesn’t even seem to have a single American flag.
See also the Colossus of Rhodey
and Alarming News
The Anchoress, Sadly, No!, Instapundit, Crush Liberalism, The Corner, Teahouse on the Tracks, NewsBusters, Clear and Present, The Urban Grind, Rebecca Hartong, and many others.