Yesterday, while in the car, returning from the Missouri Ozarks, I heard this from Rush Limbaugh (whose program was being locally sponsored in its entirety, as far as I could tell, by one lonely, mercenary "used jewelry" store):
[T]he lack of a moral core is as apparent and obvious in Obama as it is in anybody else who has no moral core.
We can straightaway dispense with Limbaugh's psychoanalytic reference to President Obama, which no one takes seriously any longer. Limbaugh's politico-theological reference to a "moral core" could not have been more timely or pertinent for me, though.
I was leaving a region that remains dear to my heart; an area where I virtually grew up, fishing, swimming, camping, acquiring a boundless love of nature and open spaces and minimal civilization -- a kind of genteel savagery, for a city lad; an area where immediate family still lives and where I once resided for a few years; an area to which someday I might return. What would prevent me? Rush Limbaugh's moral code.
It's a bit hard to explain and probably too easy to generalize, but it essentially comes down to this: the Missouri Ozarks (Northwest Arkansas is even worse, from what I've unfortunately seen) is a paradigm of Limbaugh's code, reputedly moral -- an anarchistic sprawl of tawdry consumerism in which thousands of local or shipped-in proles, non-union, of course, are prodigiously underpaid and ruthlessly denied benefits by handfuls of God-fearing, hyperpatriotic profit-mongers whose notion of an eternal heaven is tomorrow's receipts.
The Ozark hills are alive, through a desperate scramble for higher or sustainable margin. Jesus, just to survive another season, another day, for that matter, is I suppose a sign of God's grace, or at least temporary reprieve. As development proceeds and "progress" spreads at the irretrievable cost of a denuded countryside and depleting resources, the region is planting the proverbial seeds of its own destruction at a breathtakingly competitive pace. But not to worry about the long run, because tomorrow is enough to worry about.
The workers? On those occasions in which I have, in this space, been condescending toward or even dismissive of the Occupy Wall Street movement (is it still around?), there has, I confess, been something of the very personal in it. Such movements, to succeed, require some semblance of class consciousness and solidarity, both of which, in Rush Limbaugh's Ozarkian Mecca of what we might as well call contract servitude, are valid as pure abstractions only. The area's hourly workers shift from one low-wage, benefit-less job to another, each of them indistinguishable in its monotony and hopelessness but offering perhaps a bridge to another month's rent payment. The worker's existence is just that: a hardscrabble, abjectly alienated and atomized slog to get by. Solidarity? Pshaw. Grab the next job. And try to survive.
Bundle all of that -- the abysmal gap between capital and labor; the mindless groping for greater development and unplanned growth and an endlessly expansive materialism; the platitudinous mouthing of God and country; the relentless, downward pressures on liveable wages; the whole wretchedly dystopic reality of every man, woman and child out for themselves, out of necessity -- and one can then see what Rush Limbaugh & Co. means by its idea of America's "moral code."