This land was made for you and me.
–Woody Guthrie, 1944
For what it’s worth, almost everybody in Arkansas who can find Massachusetts on a road map was appalled by state Rep. Nate Bell’s grotesquely inappropriate Twitter post. (Of course not everybody can, but that’s a different issue.) At the height of the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers, the Mena Republican informed the world, “I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?”
Reaction from New England was swift, often witty and rarely polite. “Go put on a pair of shoes and fry me up some squirrel, Gomer,” my pal Charles Pierce wrote on his Esquire blog. In a post entitled “Bite Me,” he urged readers to remind Bell “that God loves him as he loves all mouthy hicks.” Joe Koehane, the Boston-bred columnist, was less circumspect: “Might want to take a flight up north and try saying that in person, you waterheaded, little-d**k hillbilly a**hole.”
Note to Nate: Anybody who thinks Boston’s a city of Perrier-sipping pantywaists has clearly spent no time there. It didn’t help that in photos, Bell looks less like a Navy Seal than a guy who’s never personally assaulted anything more lethal than the buffet table down at the Squat n’ Gobble Barbecue Shack. Many Bostonians speculated that his fondness for big guns originated in less-than-robust manliness. Southerners are sometimes surprised to learn that when provoked, New Englanders remember the Civil War too—particularly the Irish.
Back home, Arkansans long sensitive to being caricatured as ignorant hayseeds urged Bell to resign. My sainted wife, a lifelong Arkansan (apart from our three long-ago years in Massachusetts), summed things up wearily. “Oh my God,” she said. “He’s just pathetic.”
It’s merely ironic that “redneck” remains the last socially-acceptable ethnic slur in American life. Fools like Rep. Bell help make it so. It’s a wonder the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce or the Parks & Tourism people didn’t have him kidnapped and transported to Mississippi.