Now that I have been writing about redneck sustainability for over a year, I figured it was about time to tackle a new universal definition of said redneck. So from here on out you can link this post to an wiki you may construct in dealing with this popular cultural topic.
According to wikipedia “a citation from 1893 provides a definition [for the American redneck] as ‘poorer inhabitants of the rural districts…men who work in the field, as a matter of course, generally have their skin burned red by the sun, and especially is this true of the back of their necks.'” A more concise way of saying this could simply be, “uncomplicated rural Americans.” And this indeed is the best shortened definition I can come up with. But there is no doubt something lost in the shortening.
Even a simple glance at the etymology of the word should suggest a need to refresh our understanding and use of it in modern society. It is no longer sufficient for Americans to lump the term ‘redneck’ into the same honey bucket as ‘white trash.’ Poor rural society is much too nuanced for such a disrespectful approach, and it is time that we stand up to proclaim this fact.
Language should indeed be about the communication of both ideas and tangibilities (thoughts and things), and if we have no better way to differentiate between hard-working, God-fearing rural folk and the sort that lounge about in their yard jalopy stroking their stuffed smell hound, Geech, in one hand and their mullet in the other then God help us, but our language has failed.
My simple solution for this problem is to revive the definition of redneck as referring to those who have tanned their necks red with hours of hard manual labor — for those who have chosen to live simply and by the fruit of their hands rather than opting for a more confused and faster-paced life in the city. On the other hand, we continue to use ‘white trash’ as a descriptor of the white, rural American who would rather bitch and moan about the flagging quality of Busch Beer than get off his or her lazy ass and make up a batch of home brew to rival it. Problem solved.
For further study on the slowly evolving usage of the term ‘redneck’ you can check out the 1997 book by Jim Goad entitled, “The Redneck Manifesto,” or join The American Redneck Society. Both of these resources, while helpful, have failed to take the bold steps in defining the term, thus forcing me to start the revolution here. And so for the truly impassioned I ask you to join with me in reclaiming a front loader full of dignity for the hard-working, rural American. Viva la redneck!
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