Identity and Exchanges: Small town USA

An example of patriotism in rural America

Blue Lives Matter is a countermovement in the United States advocating that those who are prosecuted and convicted of killing law enforcement officers should be sentenced under hate crime statutes. It was started in response to Black Lives Matter after the homicides of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in Brooklyn, New York on December 20, 2014

                                                                                                                                From Wikipedia

« Make America Great Again » or MAGA (/ˈmæɡə/) is a campaign slogan used in American politics popularized by Donald Trump in his successful 2016 presidential campaign. Ronald Reagan used the similar slogan « Let’s Make America Great Again » in his successful 1980 presidential campaign. Bill Clinton also used the phrase in speeches during his successful 1992 presidential campaign and used it again in a radio commercial aired for his wife Hillary Clinton‘s unsuccessful 2008 presidential primary campaign. Douglas Schoen has called Trump’s use of the phrase « probably the most resonant campaign slogan in recent history », citing majorities of Americans who believed that the country was in decline.

                                                                                                                                    From Wikipedia

If you ain’t got two kids by 21
You’re probably gonna die alone
At least that’s what tradition told you
And it don’t matter if you don’t believe
Come Sunday mornin’, you best be there
In the front row like you’re supposed to
Same hurt in every heart
Same trailer, different park
Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay
Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane
And Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down
Mary, Mary quite contrary
We get bored, so we get married
Just like dust, we settle in this town
On this broken merry go ’round
And ’round and ’round we go
Where it stops nobody knows
And it ain’t slowin’ down
This merry go ’round
We think the first time’s good enough
So, we hold on to high school love
Say we won’t end up like our parents
Tiny little boxes in a row
Ain’t what you want, it’s what you know
Just happy in the shoes you’re wearin’
Same checks we’re always cashin’
To buy a little more distraction
‘Cause mama’s hooked on Mary Kay
Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane
And Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
We get bored, so, we get married
Just like dust, we settle in this town
On this broken merry go ’round
And ’round and ’round we go
Where it stops nobody knows
And it ain’t slowin’ down
This merry go ’round
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
We’re so bored until we’re buried
Just like dust, we settle in this town
On this broken merry go ’round
Merry go ’round
Jack and Jill went up the hill
Jack burned out on booze and pills
And Mary had a little lamb
Mary just don’t give a damn no more

Small Town USA by Justin Moore, lyrics

A lot of people called it prison when I was growin’ up
But these are my roots and this is what I love
‘Cause everybody knows me and I know them
And I believe that’s the way we were supposed to live
I wouldn’t trade one single day here in small town USA
Give me a Saturday night, my baby by my side
A little Hank Jr. and a six pack of Light
An old dirt road and I’ll be just fine
Give me a Sunday morning that’s full of grace
A simple life and I’ll be okay
Here in small town USA
Around here we break our backs just to earn a buck
We never get ahead but we have enough
I watch people leave and then come right back
I never wanted any part of that
And I’m proud to say I love this place
Good ol’ small town USA
Give me a Saturday night, my baby by my side
David Allan Coe and a six pack of Light
An old dirt road and I’ll be just fine
Give me a Sunday morning that’s full of grace
A simple life and I’ll be okay
Here in small town USA
Oh yeah
I wouldn’t trade one single day
I’m proud to say I love this place
Give me a Saturday night, my baby by my side
« Sweet Home Alabama » and a six pack of Light
An old dirt road and I’ll be just fine
Give me a Sunday morning that’s full of grace
A simple life and I’ll be okay
Yeah, I’ll be okay here in small town USA
Oh yeah, small town USA

Song analysis

Find the English translations in the song analysis of the following words:

le besoin de ..= ……………………..

l’ennui = ……………..

racines= ……………….

subir des pressions = ……………

travailleur / assidu = …………………….

appartenir à = …………………..

louer / faire l’éloge de = ………………….

ne pas se sentir à sa place = ………………………..

se fondre / s’intégrer à = ……………………..

affirmer = ……………………….

insinuer= ……………….

décrire = …………………….

Economic issues

People’s hardships in rural America

A report by the Washington Post online

This report focuses on (= se concentrer) on the difficulties met by numerous Americans over the last years regarding the increasing unemployment rate (taux) in rural America.

Michael, a Wilmingtonian testifies about (= témoigner à propos de) the evolution of the town after DHL, a parcel and express mail service, closed down (it probably relocated (= délocaliser) the company) and made its employees redundant ( = licencier) ; the firm laid off 7,000 people. (to lay off= to make redundant)

You can use the verbs « fire » and « sack » in informal English and when it is not for economic reasons.

In slang, lay me off ! = Leave me alone !

This company closure (= fermeture) had many impacts on its workers’ lives :

-They were devastated / shocked / stunned /overwhelmed / dumbfounded / traumatized / distressed

– some couples split / broke up / got divorced / got a divorce

– some families lost their houses / they were dispossessed = evicted= expelled from their houses (= exproprié)

– Houses were worth nothing (perdre toute sa valeur) / they lost their value on – in the real estate (= immobilier) market

– Many unemployed people gave up = abandonner / they called it quits (= jeter l’éponge) and decided to move to another place to get a chance to get a new job.

As for (= quant à) Michael , he did not give up (= to abandon) and started a small-scale (à petite échelle) business, making custom knives (couteaux artisanaux) in his backyard.

He acknowledges (/ækˈnɒlɪdʒiz/) (= to admit) that he is broke (= in debt / insolvent / in the red (slang) / short of cash …) but he succeeds in paying his mortgage (= home loan / « house payments)

To conclude, he says he ‘s doing okay / he’s fine/ he does well / he copes well = bien s’en sortir.

Social issues

Here are the characteristics of the “redneck,” a stereotype of a particular kind of poor white Southerner that dates back to before the Civil War:

Redneck is an insulting term for some lower-class and working class southerners.

People see rednecks as racist, hot-headed, too physical, violent, loud, mean, undereducated—and proud of it. The stereotypes follow: Rednecks do not speak correctly and are proud to be brutally honest about their feelings about nonwhites. Rednecks like to fight to solve their problems, preferring to beat someone at a street dance than to talk about the problem and solve it diplomatically. Rednecks come to the dinner table barefooted not because they have no shoes, but to specifically mock rules. Redneck women smoke cigarettes, chew gum, and wear curlers and put on makeup in public. The redneck rebels against education and against standard English, refusing to speak as others would have him or her speak. Rednecks hunt proudly, take baths only occasionally, and work on old cars in their front yard. Rednecks are characterized by excess; they eat too much, drink too much, smoke too much, play too hard, and live too hard. All these things differentiates the redneck from the poor white.                                                                                                                                    Abridged from https://www.facinghistory.org/mockingbird/redneck-stereotype

The setting

– Owsley County, Kentucky (/kɛnˈtʌkɪ/), the poorest white county in the USA.

Why such poverty ?

– Most of the population ( 98 % of the population of Kentucky is white) live in tiny (= minuscule) towns where work is provided by a few big companies.

– With the economic crisis, a lot of factories closed down or relocated and Kentucky, which was part of the manufacturing belt (now called the Rust Belt) was hit hard by the recession.

– The other jobs available in the county are mostly farm-centered and that’s it (= c’est tout).

In this county, there is a big disdain for big cities in the counties and a distaste of traveling / commuting. Moreover, they don’t have the money for it (= they can’t afford travelling= ne pas pouvoir financièrement) and they wouldn’t want to if they had (no curiosity for lack of education).

By the way, the local education is mediocre. So people are stuck in their backward (= arriéré) communities.

Here the little boy is posing for the picture in a trailer which looks derelict (= délabré), shabby (=minable). The atmosphere is sad = cheerless and the kid looks depressed = dejected = miserable.

The character’s social background :

– poverty-stricken = défavorisé : his family probably lives below the poverty line.

– He lives in a white-only environment

– He may be living in a single-parent family with his mother who is jobless and lives on the dole (= vivre des allocations chômage)

– The other adults around him must be unskilled for lack of education ( there is a high rate of high school dropouts = décrocheurs and a low rate of bachelor degrees = licence) and they only get low-paid jobs / positions.

– There is a shorter life expectancy (= espérance de vie) :

– drug epidemic : opioid (/ˈəʊpɪˌɔɪd/) addiction

– obesity (junk food)

– alcoholism

This boy is part of a category of Americans called « Hillbillies » (=bouseux) 

They are said to be coarse = gross = rude (grossier) / uncultured = uneducated (inculte) / backwoods (arriéré) / hick (plouc) by urban Americans.

This boy and his community feel abandoned by politicians who did not manage to improve their living conditions and forgotten by the rest of the country. They resent (= éprouver du ressentiment face à) this situation and Donald Trump used this resentment (= rancoeur) and frustration 4 years ago to win the presidential race. Unfortunately for him, Trump did not win them over (= rallier à qqn) for a second term.

Writing a letter