Wednesday I didn’t get around to reading Harvey Jackson’s Rise and Decline of the Redneck Riviera until the evening. But I finished the book over a couple of beers, reading Chapters 13-17 (pages 212-297). My verdict on Redneck is positive; I’d give it 8/10 and recommend it to interested readers.
The sections of the book that I read Wednesday cover the 1990s up to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Jackson’s thesis is summed up by one of the descendants of Destin’s original founders “this is what you get when you exchange nature for economic well-being” (P. 216).
To Jackson, the Gulf Coast today comes from the irresistable desire of the Gulf Coast’s business community to make money. To describe the business folks, Jackson cribs far too often from a 1970s Sports Illustrated article on the Oakland Raiders’ Kenny Stabler by Robert B Jones, who described them as “raffish Rotarians, pirates with cash register eyeballs, and hard-handed matrons” (p. 295). That’s a wicked, funny, accurate description; but I got tired of reading it.
Jackson is a retired historian from Alabama’s Jacksonville State University. Fortunately, he is a far better writer than are most academics. Toward the end of the book, he heads to his beach house as the oil from Deepwater Horizon approaches “his beach.” Jackson writes this beautiful account –
“My mood darkened. We got to the bay, the landmark that told us we were almost to the beach, the place where we always roll down the windows to smell the Gulf. What would I smell this time? I wasn’t sure. Almost kept ’em up. But I didn’t. And it hit me—salt air with a delicate bouquet of decaying marsh grass. Wonderful. We arrived at the house and saw people riding bikes, walking, jogging, just like last year and the year before. So we walked across the road and stood on the bluff, looking out over the Gulf—no slick, no sheen, no slime. Emerald green near the shore, darker further out, green again at the sandbar, then dark blue on to the horizon. There were lots of people on the beach, a few in the water. Cleanup crews walked along the tide line, picking up what had washed in. You could spot ’em. They were the ones wearing long pants. And moving slowly—it was hot” (p. 287).
Riviera’s tone is bittersweet. It’s part nostalgia/history, part musing on change. At the beach, wealthy yuppies have replaced poor whites. Much has been gained, but Jackson despairs over what has been lost. Still, “redneckery” remains. While visiting a dive bar at the end of the book, Jackson observes “Behind the bar, next to the telephone, a sign answered that often-asked question— ‘wwjd—what would Jesus do?’ ‘Jesus,’ the sign reads, ‘would slap the shit out of you’ (p. 244).
Now for Something Completely Different – The Chronicle of Higher Education on Tampons in Campus Men’s Rooms
As an academic, I enjoy reading The Chronicle of Higher Education. It’s a great resource for “what’s happening” at colleges. The editorial position of Chronicle is to the left of Karl Marx and it tends to present even the worst nuttery in academics with a straight face.
Tuesday the Chronicle reported on efforts to put tampons in campus men’s rooms. Activists state that they are advocating this policy because “not everyone who menstruates is a woman.” It was a biology lesson for me – and for anyone unfamiliar with the flavor of the month in academia.
For much of the 20th Century, liberals dominated U.S. Politics. Some day, liberals may again push aside conservatives (who have plenty of problems of their own). But, the Left will have to find some way to focus on issues that resonate on main street. “Menstrual equity” is not going to help usher in a new liberal era.
The Chronicle piece is here, but I’m not sure how much nonsubscribers can see –