Last week there was a bit of drama in the blogosphere about some ugly stereotyping of West Virginia. You can find all the details on one of my favorite blogs, A Better West Virginia:
(Though it was a negative event, it also led me to this blog, which is also becoming a favorite: Girl of Words, http://www.girlofwords.com/?p=3001.)
It all got me thinking about the phenomenon of people needing something badly enough to invent it, or at the very least to sustain it long past the point of its hey day. Why exactly does the general public need West Virginia to be a wasteland of ignorant hillbillies?
Who knows? My guess is it's just the same dynamic that drives this kind of thing for all stereotypes -- it creates the illusion of simplicity in a complex world, and makes it "easier" to navigate relationships and situations by discounting the uniqueness of every person and every place. It also feeds a desire to reinforce the idea that "the other" is inferior, and "we" are superior.
Frankly, this illusion means we don't have to work as hard at anything as we would if we were negotiating unique realities on a regular basis. Most of the time, I think we let this stuff go. No one has the energy to fight stereotypes all the time, it's just too exhausting. We roll our eyes, or actually laugh in the recognition of some truth at the foundation of each type, or we get angry but usually we just move on. Not so this time. There is such a thing as going too far, and Christopher Needham went too far.
I'm proud of the bloggers and others who took him to task for his hateful and untrue rant. I'm also interested in watching how we West Virginians who are focused on the future here will learn to balance keeping our nose to the grindstone with being distracted by ignorant morons who want to nail us to the past.