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Notes From Central Pennsylvania:  The Very Long Arm of Egalitarian Propaganda

Christopher Donovan

July 6, 2009

Life events have brought me into increasing contact with Central Pennsylvania, a vast tract of mountainous, rolling farmland stretching between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  I think it was James Carville who derided Pennsylvania as those two cities "and Alabama without Blacks in between."

There is something to that description.  It is not a wealthy area, and it is mostly white.  In many ways, it is indeed "Appalachian America," both by the mountains and the markers.  I see more Confederate flags here than in many places south of the Mason-Dixon line.  Are these the Scots-Irish of David Hackett Fisher's wonderful book Albion's Seed, the later German farmers, or a mixture?  I don't know, but I am discovering.

As I am wont to do, I take the opportunity where I can to explore.  One thing I've discovered is just how far the reach of egalitarian propaganda goes.

For instance, recently I attended a Mennonite church service.  Mennonites are a pacifistic but extremely conservative religious sect, similar to the Amish but not as rejecting of technology like cars.  On the day I went to service, I was surprised to see that men and women sat on separate sides of the church.  I certainly stuck out, despite my attempts to dress conservatively. The men looked very uniform in appearance — and very ethnically German, to my eye.  

You would think that if any group could resist the messages of modern America, it would be the Mennonites.  Yet I was surprised to hear, during a portion of the service that included comment from the men's section, that the Mennonites were keen to compare themselves to the Jews:  as suffering outsiders.  The leader (he occupied the pulpit but was not quite a preacher) did a little math, comparing the (supposed) six million Jews who died in World War II to the number of Mennonites who'd been killed for their beliefs.  What he meant to show was that the Jews suffered much more than the Mennonites, and that we should bow our heads to that.

Man after man (the women did not speak) wanted to talk about how bad Hitler was, each one seeming eager to top the other with what they'd heard of Hitler's evil.  

Now, I am not here to defend Hitler or question the Holocaust, but only to note that everyone, no matter how far removed from modern culture, seems to be caught up with "Nazi fever" and the eagerness to denounce militaristic German nationalism.  To me, that's a testament to the extreme effectiveness of Jews in their message-making efforts.

Were the Amish any different?  Our family rented a video, amusingly, from a PBS-like series on "Multiculturalism in America", about the Amish.  One Amish spokesman defended his people by saying, roughly, "We're all just people.  We are all human beings.  We may look a little different, but we're all the same."

Now that is truly amazing.  An Amish man — who presumably does not watch television or listen to the radio or even read "English" periodicals employs egalitarianism in defense of his sect.  (The series ended with an absolutely absurd train of academics talking about the Amish as adding to the diversity of America, when the Amish are pretty much the antithesis of diversity.)

I came away from the video bemused and a little disappointed.  What dangerous ridiculousness our society has fallen to.

Other notes:

* A late twenty-something white woman who, despite living in a fairly rural area, casually dismisses the idea of having children as "like having dogs", i.e., not a big deal, you're either a dog person or you're not, etc.  Despite being smart and cute (and with a boyfriend), she declares she's not interested in having children.

* A late teens white man who has his hair cut to resemble the style of Hispanic gangsters.

* The white daughter of a prominent local couple who runs off with a black man and has several children by him, and in most respects ends up living the "ghetto life":  He does not support the children, engages in criminal activity, etc.

* A middle-aged white man from a conservative (and mostly white) religious tradition who has "pulled a Madonna" by adopting what appears to be one child from every continent on Earth (except Europe, off course).

* In what constitutes a nearby urban area, several sightings of white women canoodling with or accompanied by black men and who attempt to imitate the black ghetto style in their speech and appearance.

* A campaign worker for an aspiring Republican who tells me that she works on "coalitions... reaching out to Hispanics and women."

This is not to say that Central Pennsylvania is completely lost as a racial matter, but I see all of this as examples of the seemingly limitless reach of liberal or egalitarian message-making.  It has proven effective even in the hardest-to-penetrate of areas.  In reversing this course, we have a long road ahead of us.

Christopher Donovan (email him) is the pen name of an attorney and former journalist.

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