Modernity, Capitalism, and Nostalgia in Ohio’s Amish Country

Examples of the types of “down home” shops that populate the village of Berlin, in Ohio’s Amish Country.

If there’s one thing Americans embrace and reject in equal measure, it’s modernity. In the world’s most mega-capitalist society, modernity has always accelerated at an absurd pace, as the demands of the profit-driven marketplace have continually spurred ever-more complex technological innovations that have repeatedly caused massive social and political disruptions in American society — all in the name of efficiency, of course.

There’s a place in north-central Ohio, however, where the pace of modernity — at least on the surface — seems to have slowed down a bit, if not ceased altogether. Holmes County is the heart Ohio’s Amish Country. The most notable residents of Holmes and the surrounding counties are the various factions of Amish and Mennonite peoples. In fact, Holmes County contains the largest contiguous Amish settlement in the world. Depending on their doctrinal and cultural traditions, Ohio’s Amish people seem to reject the trappings of modernity — with its endless work, slave-like reliance on technological gadgetry, and soul-melting stress.*

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Bibles, Bubbas, and Hucksters: Mike Huckabee’s “Real” America

The cover to Mike Huckabee's book. "God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy," a concise history of alliteration for rubes.

The cover to Mike Huckabee’s book. “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy,” a concise history of alliteration for rubes.

Much like the distant European Pleistocene past, when modern Homo Sapiens co-existed with their brow-ier Neanderthal cousins, there are currently two species of humans in twenty-first century America: “Real” and “Fake” Americans. While many noted anthropologists, such as Dr. Sarah Palin of the University of Boonedocksville – Alaska have devoted their studies to understanding how and why these two species of Americans exist, few scholar-scientists have understood the phenomenon of bifurcated modern American humanity better than that foremost expert on U.S. political alignment: former Arkansas governor (and last-remaining Ted Nugent fan), Professor Mike Huckabee.

Dr. Huckabee holds the distinguished title of William Jennings Bryan Professor of Rubeology and Bumpkin Studies at the University of Arkansas’ Barney M. Fife School of Political Science and Aw-Shucks Gol-Darnnit-isms, where he has twice received the Jed Clampett Award for excellence in provincial numbskullery and right-wing boilerplate.

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Charlie Hebdo and the Modern Scourge of Religious Fundamentalism

A makeshift memorial for the slain Charlie Hebdo journalists.

A makeshift memorial for the slain Charlie Hebdo journalists.

There are few things more dangerous in the modern world than pissed-off zealots drunk on the potent, backwoods hooch of religious fundamentalism. We received yet another reminder of this fact on January 7, when Muslim fanatics opened fire on the workforce of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve people and injuring many more. The two main douche-canoes suspected in the Paris terror attacks were identified as Cherif Kouachi and his older brother, Said Kouachi. Their motivation appears to have been a revenge-attack in response to Charlie Hebdo’s habit of publishing uncompromisingly satirical cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed and generally mocking radical Islam in a manner that only the French could pull off. You see, visual depictions of Islam’s founder are forbidden under Muslim religious laws, so, yeah, guns; murder; terror, etc.

And, just to add some good ole’ fashioned anti-Semitism to the mix (because you can seemingly always blame the Jews for something!!!), two other suspects followed the Charlie Hebdo attacks by taking hostages in a kosher supermarket in a traditionally Jewish quarter located outside of Paris. A man named Amedy Coulibaly (a career-criminal with a bad case of Caliphate-itus) and a women named Hayat Boumedienne (Coulibaly’s former squeeze), apparently decided to bring about the second Muslim Conquest of Europe by shooting people in the frozen-foods section. Continue Reading

Pumpkin Flavored History

Pumpkin

It didn’t used to be like this. Only five years ago, I swear that pumpkin-flavored stuff was still a bit of an anomaly. Oh, you could get a pumpkin spiced latte at Starbucks, and your standard pumpkin pies and pastries lined bakery sections everywhere, but now it seems that the very minute autumn begins to peek out from summer’s sweaty, smothering armpit, the pumpkin conglomerate unleashes a now ubiquitous barrage of pumpkin spice-flavored everything. Its fall and you must eat pumpkins! There’s even a pumpkin pie flavored vodka, because Russian alcoholics enjoy the fall season too, dammit.

So what’s the deal with everything being pumpkin flavored? Well, as with so many things these days, it all goes back to the 19th century. Pumpkins function as big, squashy symbols of idealized rural life, and rural nostalgia has always been popular with Americans. For a people stuck in the high-tech, urbanized twenty-first century world, pumpkins invoke more simple times and landscapes dotted with small family farms untainted by modernity’s impersonal touch.

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The Legend of Small Town U.S.A.

smal ltown usa

“Main Street” is one of those apple pie invoking, corn-cob pipe toking, patriotism stoking, nostalgia choking symbolic themes in American culture that lacks a clear definition but with which most Americans are intimately familiar. I’m not talking about the actual street called “Main” that runs through your particular town or city. Rather, I mean the idea of Main Street U.S.A., also known as Small Town U.S.A., or, in recent political terms, Real America. You know what I’m talking about: its the America defined by a lily-white demographic, at a least a partially agricultural economy, Mom and Pop stores (no Targets allowed!), old guys sitting on porches, lots of churches, and a penchant for traditional values, whatever those might be.

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