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5/25/2009
SMALL TOWN HEROES FROM THE HEARTLAND
CATEGORY: History, PJ Media

1-11

Arlington Cemetary

My latest piece is up at Pajamas Media. It is a Memorial Day tribute to small town heroes and, more importantly, the small town values that animated their patriotism.

I also take to task elites who look down their noses at these values and citizens.

As sample:

Perhaps it is no accident then that so many of America’s fallen hailed from towns with place names that are familiar only to those who live but a stone’s throw from where these heroes grew up.

Who has ever heard of Clairsville, Ohio, birthplace of Medal of Honor winner Sylvester Antolak? Among the heroic deeds mentioned in his citation were:

With one shoulder deeply gashed and his right arm shattered, he continued to rush directly into the enemy fire concentration with his submachinegun wedged under his uninjured arm until within 15 yards of the enemy strong point, where he opened fire at deadly close range, killing 2 Germans and forcing the remaining 10 to surrender. He reorganized his men and, refusing to seek medical attention so badly needed, chose to lead the way toward another strong point 100 yards distant. Utterly disregarding the hail of bullets concentrated upon him, he had stormed ahead nearly three-fourths of the space between strong points when he was instantly killed by hostile enemy fire. Inspired by his example, his squad went on to overwhelm the enemy troops. By his supreme sacrifice, superb fighting courage, and heroic devotion to the attack, Sgt. Antolak was directly responsible for eliminating 20 Germans, capturing an enemy machinegun, and clearing the path for his company to advance.

Hundreds of other Medal of Honor winners can lay claim to a similar background, growing up in rural villages and hamlets that, in many cases, time has forgotten and the world has passed by. America’s small-town culture has been ridiculed, criticized, and dismissed - especially over the last few decades - by an elite that cannot fathom why anyone would wish to live more than a couple of miles from a world class opera house or art museum. Nor can they understand why someone would choose country quiet over the babble and cacophony of the big city.

So they disparage these simple citizens - the ones who do most of the living, loving, fighting, and dying for America - because at bottom, they are what they accuse small town folk of being: narrow-minded and bigoted.

If these elites were to open their eyes, they may discover that people who live in small towns have exactly the same values as those who live in larger cities and suburbs. American values are the same regardless of where you live. The difference is they are perhaps taken to heart in a more fundamental way in small towns than in places that boast large populations and cultural diversity. Patriotism seems more heartfelt and genuine in rural parts of the country, more a regular part of life than in urban or suburban America.

Perhaps because showing one’s patriotism has been equated with having an “unsophisticated” attitude - a lack of world weariness and cynicism that the smart set personifies - the elites accuse those of us in flyover country of possessing a dullard’s sense of how the world really works. In this context, patriotic feelings and gestures are worse than futile, they are dangerous. Outward manifestations of patriotism come perilously close to upsetting the cosmopolitan self-image held by Americans not vouchsafed the blessing of living in a more pastoral setting. Such rash displays of emotion where America is concerned are contrasted with the blasé, more refined attitudes of our betters, who appreciate the splendid opportunity to feel smugly superior to the rubes who show reverence to the flag rather than dream of burning it.

Read the whole thing.

By: Rick Moran at 9:39 am
10 Responses to “SMALL TOWN HEROES FROM THE HEARTLAND”
  1. 1
    michael reynolds Said:
    10:23 am 

    As a counterpoint: September 11, 2001, New York City.

    Big city values: heroism, cooperation, sacrifice. Big city firemen walking into big collapsing buildings. Big city EMT’s and big city cops. Big city citizens rushing toward the smoke not away. Big city workers digging through the still-hot debris pulling out charred body parts.

    And big city courage since then that has kept our biggest city calm and cool and civil.

    Flight 93? It was on it’s way from Newark to San Francisco.

    Why is it acceptable for small town folks — folks who live in towns Al Qaeda never heard of — to denigrate the city, but it’s a crime when the city sneers at the small town?

    I’m pretty sure there are some dead New Yorkers and Chicagoans and Angelenos planted in Arlington cemetery. In fact, here’s a few of the many:

    Gregory A. Wright: Boston.
    Julian S. Melo: Brooklyn
    Hai Ming Hsia: New York City
    Alberto Abad: Los Angeles
    Keith J. More: San Francisco
    Torry D. Harris: Chicago

    1. If you bothered to follow the link and read what I wrote, you would see that I say that American values are the same everywhere - big city or small town - and that today we honor all who fell.

    But that would have been too easy. So you simply take from the excerpt my complaint about “elites” and extrapolate the rest of the piece from your imagination.

    2. Does it take a national tragedy for those “big city values” to come out? My point was that small town citizens live those values every day - they are as much a part of them as the shirt on their back.

    If New York had the same spirit of community every day that they did on 9/11, the place would be a paradise.

    Also, are you saying that small town folk’s critique of big cities has the same impact nationwide as those offered by elites?

    BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…

    ed.

  2. 2
    michael reynolds Said:
    11:01 am 

    I did follow the link. I read it all, and I read that cover paragraph. After which you went on at great length contrasting supposed small town values favorably with big city elitism.

    I realize this is the GOP meme-of-the-week, elitism vs. grassroots. But it’s dumb at so many levels, starting with the fact that you guys really don’t need to work too hard to alienate the last few city folks who might vote GOP: I think your work is done there. And at the same time I’m not sure why it’s a great idea to solidify a fading demo you already own.

    Also, are you saying that small town folk’s critique of big cities has the same impact nationwide as those offered by elites?

    Yes, it has a very definite effect, by portraying small town people as both victims and saints. Whether that’s as large as the effect of the other point of view, I don’t know. My sense is that most urban people are indifferent to small towns. They make snide remarks but frankly don’t give a damn on a daily basis. Whereas small town folks make a cardinal virtue of not being city folk.

    Both the urbanites’ snide remarks and the effort of elitists like you to sanctify the small town folks have an effect: on the small towns. The overreaction to urbanites is as condescending as the urbanites themselves. It’s the soft bigotry of condescension.

  3. 3
    Postagoras Said:
    1:32 pm 

    Ooooooh, those “big city elites”. I thought it was Memorial Day… I didn’t realize that it was Halloween and we needed to trot out the symbols of fear from ages past.

    You know, it’s possible to celebrate people without needing to invent an enemy. But it’s just EASIER to write a Superman comic book when he’s going up against Lex Luthor.

  4. 4
    Andrew Said:
    6:20 pm 

    All I have come to believe after living among both urbanites and country dwellers is that most of the former don’t really understand enough about the general worldview of the latter; and that many more of the latter understand plenty about the worldview of the former.
    This is mostly due to the mainstream media and our public education racket.
    It has always seemed to me that with country folks it is more about the “we” or the “us”. City folks, not so much.

  5. 5
    Brad Said:
    6:50 pm 

    thanks for another good piece Rick. You are spot on.

  6. 6
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    10:46 pm 

    This interesting article on our nearly-forgotten American heros could use some clarification on the choice words of “elites” and “big city”. When reading this article, as a native New Yorker, I feel like the small-town resident forced to listen to how great the urban cores of America are! Frankly, we urbanites can do without these sort of homilies.

    Fact is, the only New Yorkers who badmouth the heartland are precisely the ones who come from it in the first place.(That is, the ones who escaped the farm to live in Manhattan or Brooklyn.) Never have I met a native New Yorker with anything worse to say about towns like Clairsville other than they could never live there. On the other hand, I know of many transplanted, former rural-living, Americans now living in “my” city who really do despise the kind of places that they grew up in.

    For the most part, it is not patriotism or poverty that makes rural americans sign up for the services in large numbers, its just their way of escaping their existing lifestyle. (This attitude can also be found in the inner cities, where the armed forces offers a way out of the narrow and dangerous ways of the ghetto.) In the case of “new” New Yorkers, they just chose to go to art school or do a corporate internship rather than join the army to escape places like Clairsville. Why these folks have a giant chip on their shoulder about the(ir) heartland is really beyond me, but please let’s not mix all “big city elites” up in this way of thinking!

  7. 7
    Scott Said:
    11:31 am 

    Usually you post pretty level-headed stuff, but it looks like to me you are picking a urban/rural fight here.

    Heck, I found one of the most intelligent essays ever on the liberal/conservative views of patriotism right here (a link to Newsweek), yet you seem to dismantle that, if only a little.

    Really, “dream of burning the flag”? Do you really think cities are stuffed with folks who like to go a-flag burnin’ once they get out of the latte shop? Wouldn’t we see a lot of flag-burning in Central Park, then? Only the craziest of crazies are like that. A more nuanced position might be those who think flag-burning is wrong and unpatriotic, but grudgingly admit there’s nothing illegal about it.

    I’d like to see some references to rational city-dwellers that actually do advocate what you think they are saying. People who love to burn flags… show me!

  8. 8
    Eddie Said:
    11:52 am 

    I am reminded of inner-city kids who are taken out to the country and the world of small towns for camps in the summer, eyes bright with wonder at their surroundings. I recall the thrill of small town American kids venturing on a field trip to NYC or Chicago for the first time enjoying the huge buildings and the cityscape around them. There are two different worlds in the sense of environment, but the values of both seem quite similar.

    Attempts to claim otherwise need to be treated with severe skepticism. I suppose I should ignore the plethora of urban families in city parks on pleasant afternoons, the critical mass of charity organizations cheerfully at work, the packed churches and the masses of workers trudging to work daily to support their families.

    The big cities seem to not have a monopoly on elites.

  9. 9
    jambrowski Said:
    2:20 pm 

    cannot see the tree for the leaves, cannot see the forest but for the trees…
    wonderful piece rick, i wonder if your critics above have stayed but an evening in a “small” town, leastwise a week, a summer or even a season. more than likely they, much like the big city boys I was in Corps with, use their Urbanity as a separating line or something to lord over those who are less fortunate (make me laugh), to have not lived in the big city. mind you, of course I was from flyover country, nebraska, omaha that is (CBD of +500,000 then, even greater now) and i was asked if we still rode horses, and had problems with indian’s. comes down to ignorance is all, oh well…
    thanks for giving a shout out to the small towns rick, they are shrinking, their children are leaving, and their tax dollars are being sent to the big cities, thank you ADM, thank you Monsanto, thank you clarence thomas, anti-trust what is that. by the way y’all, chickens don’t grow in the grocery store, and your arugula and wheat come from somewhere other than the magic trader joe’s, me thinks it would be amazing to see how many of y’all city folk would up and die a week without refrigeration and municipal water.

  10. 10
    michael reynolds Said:
    11:16 pm 

    Jambrowski:

    Urbandale, Iowa; Johnson City, Tennessee; Niceville, Florida; Ocean City, Maryland; Crockett, California.

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