Reno 911’ is a very funny sitcom. Situated in Reno, Nevada, an inept accident-prone sheriff’s department attempts to keep the peace between the drug dealers, pimps, whore houses, street bums, sexual deviants, and those who live poorly in trailer parks. If the show were alive today, it would become the poster child for the ‘defund the police’ movement.
Often irreverent and always pushing the boundaries of political correctness and the FCC rules, ‘Reno 911’ takes nearly every poor person stereotype and blows them up till they pop from too much laughter. Trailer parks are always full of trash, beer-bellied white illiterate losers who are always smoking, and either drunk or naked. The show had a fetish for filming naked pot-bellied white guys running from the law. The sheriff, who is gay, wears short shorts, and the other gay character is beyond flamboyant dressed in pink lace. The pimps are nearly always black. The whores are emaciated meth addicts and as indiscriminate as Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys. Even the sheriff deputies are inept, moronic, but an appropriate cross-section of America’s racial and sexual identity mix, all behaving in classic stereotypical fashion.
I tell you of ‘Reno 911’ not to convince you to watch the TV series. Frankly, it’s not for the faint of heart or those easily offended. But rather to use as a backdrop to America’s last acceptable bigotry- the bigotry against those who live in the great belly of America- the residents of ‘flyover country.’
After first hearing the term ‘flyover country,’ I paid particular attention to what I flew over when on a cross country flight — many small towns with roads that radiate out to big fields or big circles of farmland. Five miles below is where much of what I eat comes from. From the loins of those early farmhouses were born many of our countries greatest leaders and thinkers. As we edged further south but still very much ‘flyover country,’ I imagined the lives of some of our countries most gifted storytellers. Down below lived novelists who found inspiration amongst the mangroves and bayous of the deep south. Each ‘coast’ would be proud to have contributed the creative juices that the south has.
Then there were the articles that referenced ‘flyover country’ with some derision. Down there were the uneducated, the unsophisticated, farmer types with pickups and gun racks. If you weren’t breathing in oily diesel from a tractor, you were pregnant and working at a Jack-n-Box. If without a job, you waited for the disability check while chasing raccoons from the top of your single-wide and scoring a tablet of oxycodone. That’s what those on either coast who only flew over ‘flyover country’ tried to convince you and me. They grumbled, convinced their candidate lost because those rubes down there are simply too stupid to vote for their own self-interest!
A few years ago, a book emerged from the belly of ‘flyover country’ called ‘What’s the Matter With Kansas?’ Now living on the ‘coast,’ Thomas Frank, the author, grew up in Missouri. His book attempted to explain people’s political proclivities that mostly see the underbelly of high flying jetliners and the wisdom of political power wheeled for everyone’s long-term benefit. Only voting for your own narrow interests might be good for you but maybe not so good for the country. Of course, that is a difficult concept for those persuaded towards identity politics.
Author and professor, Jessica Krug was deeply ashamed of her ‘flyover country’ upbringing. Why else would a white Jewish woman disavow growing up in Kansas and take up the identity of a black woman from the Bronx? Because it worked. She landed a teaching job at George Washington University where being a black woman from the Bronx is an important criteria for employment. A few of her students described her as ‘authentic.’
After the 2016 election of Mr. Trump, east coast political pundits took to their favorite websites to express frustration. Mr. Townsend, I assume a smart man from Detroit, wrote this in thehill.com describing the flyover country, “...overwhelmingly Republican right-wing conservative, regressive right-wing, evangelical Christian and working class, well, the loudest, most ill-informed of them are.” Mr. Townsend was just warming up. He finished by writing, “Anyone who questions the narrow vision of Middle America Christian values, being forced on 325 million people of multiple cultures, religions, no religion, and a mosaic of ethnicities, is deemed ungodly and un-American. It’s clear cultural fascism.”
Others joined in. Professor of Philosophy at UC Berkeley, Jackson Kernion tweeted, “I unironically embrace the bashing of rural Americans. They, as a group, are bad people who have made bad life decisions. Some, I assume, are good people. But this nostalgia for some imagined pastoral way of life is stupid, and we should shame people who aren’t pro-city,” he wrote in another tweet. Ah… that old Puritan attempt at manipulation by ‘shaming.’ Get with program Mr. Kernion, the term today is ‘canceled.’
Alec Baldwin, movie and TV star, also tweeted his opinion of flyover country after Trump won the presidency, “…fooled all these flyover Americans.” Clearly, Mr. Baldwin thinks himself and his fellow coast dwellers smarter than those below as he wasn’t fooled. When pressed on whether he was calling ‘flyover’ Americans stupid, he demurred and suggested that it was a ‘Hollywood’ term. Nothing safer than when suggesting a bunch of people stupid than having some company. I’d suggest he keep the plane shade pulled down as he fly's over Kentucky.
Perhaps the most notorious example of ‘those who live in flyover country are stupid’ bigots was uttered by a 2020 presidential candidate. After telling a European room full of intellectuals that the planting of seeds and the harvesting of crops was something any dummy could do, Mr. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, soon abandoned his quest to govern the rubes in ‘flyover country.’ Here is his actual quote, “I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer,” Bloomberg said. “It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn. You could learn that.”
Whenever Mr. Bloomberg flies over flyover country in his private jet, he apparently fails to appreciate the complexity of taking a crop, turning it into food, safely and quickly transporting it to his mansion in Bermuda, where his maids can serve it to him fresh. It is also possible that the computing power required to precisely plant 1600 acres of corn and installed on a modern John Deere 9RX Series tractor rivals that of his Dassault Falcon 900 private jet (they both have GPS capabilities and an auto-pilot). One piece of technology helps feed America, the other transports arrogant elites over ‘flyover country.’
Bigotry, as defined by most trusted dictionaries; is a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.
Coastal elites often point down and see fields of bigots. Mr. Bloomberg, speaking during the same conference of European elites, lamented how difficult it is to communicate with people who don’t understand why men who want to wear dresses need their own bathroom even in Rapid City, South Dakota. The way he saw it, to not understand the nuance of sexual identity, makes you a bigot. As far as Mr. Bloomberg is concerned, a different understanding of transgender dysphoria means you are unintelligent and, therefore, a bigot.
With great certainty, even obstinately, coastal elites, east coast media conglomerates, Hollywood, and many in academia hold ‘flyover country’ in contempt. They fly over frustrated that those below don’t vote for the right candidate or for their own self-interest; they clutch their guns, go to church, and perform only the simplest of jobs. As Bloomberg said, “…they lack the gray-matter.”
Today, some are telling of a coming migration. People are fleeing large coastal cities and their overpriced accommodations for smaller towns. With an Internet connection, they can work from anywhere. Some tell of how unsafe they have come to feel. They fear communities where police protection no longer exists or is ineffective. Some fear what their children are being taught. They doubt the value of an education based exclusively on racial theories.
Many are losing faith in their political leaders. Maybe they lack the intellectual rigor to solve problems and the emotional strength to make difficult decisions. They appear to quickly cave to demands of extreme groups to score some hoped-for political points or to deflect from their own policy mistakes. So they plead with the mob for forgiveness and leniency.
Suddenly, ‘flyover country’ doesn’t look so destitute. In fact, its looking safer and less consumed with hate and anger- pastoral even. Perhaps these rubes were on to something.