Redneck Nature, or Redneck Nurture?
Editorial written by on Tuesday, September 5, 2000
My family lavishes attention upon it's younger members by giving them way too many gifts on birthdays and holidays. This attention is concentrated in such lethal doses that the parents of said children often must build new additions to their homes to make room for all of the toys.
I had the honor of attending the second birthday party for a wee member of the family recently. Presents were brought in by the truckload. It was almost like one of those clown acts in the circus, where twenty of them climb out of a Yugo. The presents kept coming and coming, although no one could seem to figure out where they all came from. It seemed to defy the laws of physics.
As the presents were opened, I began to ponder an age old question: Are rednecks born, or made?
This is a two-year old boy. A verifiable tabula rosa, or "clean slate". Right?
The decorations had a John Deere theme. Tractors, lawnmowers, various levels of heavy equipment, all covered a nice manly green. This was the first clue that it wasn't a girl's birthday party.
The gifts had a distinctive tinge of testosterone. Big monster trucks. A big plastic basketball goal. A few fuddy-duddies actually bought clothing, some of it with Tommy Hilfiger logos, but most of the gifts were typical boy fare.
(A side note on the idea of buying Hilfiger for babies: it's always the mothers buying that crap. No respectable man buys clothes for a two year old, because we know they prefer toys. We also know that a kid that age will never know who Tommy Hilfiger is, because WE don't even know who he is. Much less why we should pay exorbitant prices for anything with his name on it.)
But the biggest clue that this birthday party was for a male of the species: the toy guns. Three of them. One pistol and two rifles. They all made noise, and lots of it.
Any of you readers out there with a liberal mindset are probably now cringing. "Toy guns for a two-year old? Oh, no! We need to teach them to be afraid of guns. Guns kill people!" Well, let me make you cringe further: the guns were by far the tot's favorite gift, and he played with them at the expense of all the other presents for hours.
One of the rifles was a toy shotgun, with double barrels. It made noise when you cocked the triggers, and two deep rumbles as you blasted your imaginary foes. The kid had a grand time shooting everyone in the house (in his imagination) at least once. Most folks didn't have a problem with the idea of toy guns, but you could see a few grimaces of discomfort from some of the ladies.
Which brings me back to my central question: Are rednecks born or made?
I think it's mostly a matter of upbringing. I was brought up mainly with books, tales of history, maps, politics, Star Wars toys and Archie comic books. I am now a card-carrying nerd, not much of a good redneck. I can't even spit tobacco straight. Had I been raised slightly different, I might have been a rough and tumble outdoorsman who watches a lot of NASCAR races and keeps a spare fridge for Stag beer. It didn't happen.
To reinforce that rednecks are "nurtured", would you ever, in your wildest imagination, give toy guns to a two year old girl? Of course not. We're too busy giving them baby dolls.
In fact, at the time the birthday boy was causing a big ruckus indoors by pretending to kill everyone in sight, a three-year old girl was walking around pretending to clean house. Feminists, in the year 2000, apparently still have a bit of work to do in the politically correct socialization of southeast Missouri.
It's no big secret that boys are different from girls. We like to drive fast, kill things and blow stuff up. It's genetic, and there's no use trying to change it.
At the risk of sounding sexist, the only thing most girls ever kill is maybe a credit card limit.
But when it comes to "Building The Perfect Redneck", it's up to the parents to do that. If you're going to make your offspring reflect your own Southern image, it's never too early to start training them right.
Time for a rant:
Expose them to John Deere stuff early. Make sure they appreciate country music, especially David Allen Coe. Decorate their playroom with Confederate flag memorabilia. Tell them how evil Republicans are, even though you're really more conservative than most Republicans but just don't know any better. Give them toy big rigs, to prepare them for their inevitable future career as a truck driver. Make sure they value football and basketball over math and science. Make sure they never see any vehicle besides a truck or SUV before puberty. Teach them how to chew tobacco before they can spell their own name. Beer fits in a baby bottle, you know, so why not start that early, too? Take them hunting before they can write cursive. (Indeed, a seven year old relative recently shot his first squirrel. With a real live shotgun.) Teach them the numbers of all the top NASCAR drivers before they can count to ten. Convince them that the first day of deer season is a school holiday.
Making sure his favorite color is "camouflage"? Priceless.
Toy rifles and pistols at the age of two? I'm just thankful it wasn't a real gun. Maybe that will be next year, when he's three.
It's never too early to start, you know.