Friday, August 01, 2008

It's in the blood

Following the tragic shootings at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church many folk have posited reasons and rationales for the motives of a madman. (Talk radio, lack of mental health services, and so on...)

John Dolan, writing at Alternet, suggests that it's something in the blood. That maybe it's something about being the descendant of those brave pioneers, the Ulster settlers.

maybe, just maybe, heartland Americans aren't such wonderful people at all. What you see in these posts is the oldest, deepest and meanest strain in American culture: the Ulster America founded by violent sectarians who moved westward again and again, from Scotland to Northern Ireland and then to the southern United States, then again westward into the American continent, to find a place where they could hone their hair-trigger intolerance without fear of interference from warmer, more humorous people.

Reading that, some part of me wants to slash his fuckin' tires.

And while I can recognise some kernel of truth in his statement and even take some pride as being part of a culture that's the oldest, deepest and meanest, he destroys his own argument by implying that the Scots-Irish are somehow not warm or not humorous. Not funny? How can he say that? Has he not seen the Jeff Foxworthy "You know you're a redneck if..." sketch?


On a serious note, I've rarely met warmer, more side-splittingly funny people than those steeped in the Ulster tradition in America. Tennesseans, and in particular those Tennessee boys who keep their humor powder dry, coming out with those corking, cutting one-liners are absolutely without par in the funny stakes. The gals are hilarious, too - though men you may not know this - sometimes they're only at their best outside mixed company.


On a more serious note, what a bunch of racist hooey. Sadly, it's we humans who are savages.

I never found that the Unitarian Universalist approach appealed much to me, but their statements of purpose seem to me to be a noble attempt to overcome that savage side of human nature (from Wikipedia):

"We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part."
And I've no doubt that UUs in general, and the Knoxville congregants in particular (many of whom must be also Scots-Irish to some greater or lesser extent) would completely reject Dolan's flippant, easy aspersions.

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