America’s culture has always been one of the topics I’m most interested in. When we deal in the concept of culture we are thinking about a broad swath of issues that include cultural mythology, sociology, psychology, political science and economics. The study of all of these fields are intertwined in ways that are not always apparent and yet represent a convoluted and interconnected system that affects all the lives of those touched by the “American Empire”.
For many years I’ve been thinking about the term “Heartland”, how it is used in the media and the connotations of its use as representing a certain conservative cultural propaganda. This is constantly being spread by those representing that I call the Corporate/Military/Intelligence Complex. Let us not confuse the spread of this message with any concept of then central conspiratorial planning of some sinister group. To be sure, part of this propaganda is financed by people of the Koch Brothers ilk, but I don’t link that to some “evil” conspiracy, rather it represents beliefs of people whose life experience seems to justify their beliefs. People who are born to wealth and privilege would naturally view their world through a lens quite different than those for who life has always been a struggle. That the perspective of that lens one is born to, which gets spread inordinately by those “to the manor born,” is to be expected because that’s where the money lies.
In my lifetime the concept of America’s heartland originally referred to the agricultural center of the country. States like Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, etc. “The Midwest”. The connotations were that these rural, agriculturally driven States somehow represented the “purest” of American values and the best of the American ethos. As the years of my life went by there was an addition made to the theory of “Heartland,” that added in the States of The Bible Belt and became associated with deeply held conservative beliefs as espoused by the Republican Party. The coastal areas like New England, New York, Pennsylvania and their “West Coast” doppelgangers California, Oregon and Washington, were seen as somehow less representative of American values and American tradition. As the American societal scene passes before me on my widescreen TV, whether in reality shows like American Idol, or the now ubiquitous overarching popularity of the NFL, I see more and more this representation of “Heartland” values and the falsehood of what this propaganda is succeeding in selling to us all.
All of us have seen commercials for either Ford, Chevy or Dodge Trucks. They are hawked to us by strong male voices, with “western” accents depicting pictures of “real” men, doing real “manly” things, connoting that “real” men, with “real” values drive pickups. This is an appeal to what I call “heartland” values and I suspect that none of those “men” depicted, ever miss Church on Sunday, or would vote for “gay” marriage. The two best selling vehicles in America last year, as they have been for many years past are the Ford “F” Series Pickup and the Chevy Silverado. The message is that in “The Heartland” the real men drive pickups and have conservative values.
The highly popular “singing contest reality” shows like “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice” also have pushed the notion of “heartland purity” and “heartland values”. There is an emphasis put on country music singers that come from small towns and who hunt. The Christian Values held by these contestants is extolled and it would seem that many are professional “Worship Leaders”, whatever that may be. Now the fact is that I’ve always loved what is called “country music”, but to me that represents bluegrass, Allison Krauss, Hank Williams (not Junior), Dolly Parton, Woody Guthrie, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Not the slick “homogenized” country sounds of Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.
Here’s the rub as I see it. National surveys have proven time and again that “heartland” America as illustrated by the Red States and the “Bible Belt” lead this country in only the moral hypocrisy of the publicly religious. These States have the highest divorce rates, the greatest political corruption and the least sense of communal values. They pretend to be the bastions of our national ethos and in truth are merely the fortresses of our most politically cynical and corrupt.