Every day, I encounter a new challenge to the idea that things can and should be open and real.

Be it social, political, or personal, serious or trivial -- every time, I ponder the implications.

I hope you'll join me in the conversation!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Meeting Needs, Sustaining Shadows

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.


Lee Kraus said...

Great post. I had a lot of the same feelings. I have learned that ignoring is usually the best approach. We all know that giving the (loser) the attention they want will only make it worse. So, you have to think about when it is time to push back and when you ignore. Not always easy.

The EDG said...

Thanks, Lee. It is a tough balance, for sure, though I usually think people like Needham say more about themselves in events like this than they do about the people they are picking on. It's all about knowing where the line is, and I came to believe he crossed it. It felt a lot to me like the attack on the Rutgers women's basketball team a couple of years ago (mercifully I can't even remember that jerk's name) -- there are some types of hateful assaults that can't go unanswered, but heavens knows you can't deal with all of it all the time.

Bob Coffield said...

Thanks for your thoughtful follow up post. I also find it very interesting that NBC Washington has not issued any statement, retraction, apology, etc. regarding the matter. I think this event also highlights the changing of professional media where everyone (even the author of the article) is writing and commenting on blogs while the "real media outlet" stands quiet satisfied with removing the article from their website.

The EDG said...

Bob, you raise an interesting point. I for one am glad blogs are driving more media content, but it does change the traditional approach around accountability and what it is reasonable to expect when it comes to who is responsible for content, retraction, and apology.

Connie said...

I just took him to task on my blog - http://wvfurandroot.wordpress.com

But that's not why I'm writing. I'm writing to wish you and yours a Happy New Year. Please know that I've come to enjoy reading your blogs and tweets this past year. Long may you continue.