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The Stony Lonesome: Stereotypes

If I were a big game hunter, one place I would absolutely not ply my trade would be a zoo. It wouldn't be an honest day’s work. Not at all sporting, completely unfair, and unthinkable for a hunter of any integrity whatever. I mean, the animals are just sitting there with all the magnificent defenses they've evolved rendered moot. You can't just go shoot them.

If sportfishing was my metier, it would not be cricket for me to dip a line at the aquarium and then stuff and mount my catch as if I'd finagled him from the open sea. It's just not done.

If I fancied myself a ladies' man, I could not very well take pride in the notches on my bed post if they were all acquired via the paid services of a professional escort, am I right? Of course I am. And so, in the same vein, as a person with a sharp ear constantly out for inanities and absurdities on which to hang my rants and diatribes, I simply cannot in good conscience mine the overflowing lodes of ignorance, delusion, illogic and fatuity that typify the output of neoconservative pundits and politicians. It's too easy, it's not sporting, and their collective nincompoopery is so thoroughgoing that any particular gem abstracted is rendered valueless by dint of its source. As in: "What?! Oh my God, you're kidding! That's completely insane! WHO said that? Oh, Ted Cruz? Oh, okay, nevermind. That checks out."

However, every now and then you get one that's just too good to pass up. Bill O'Reilly (a man characterized by both Bill Maher and Jon Stewart as a "worthy opponent"), speaking on the Greek financial crisis, had this to say in explanation: "It's a problem of no ambition… what we've got over there is basically a taverna culture, a lot of guys sitting around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes."

Yes, Bill, you've nailed it exactly. As usual, you have in your acutely sensitive and perceptive way summed up the essence of Greek civilization. Just a buncha guys sittin' around, sippin' and puffin'. It's not like the Greeks ever contributed anything of any lasting or meaningful significance to history, right?

And what about the French, with the baguettes and berets, the striped shirts and pointy mustaches? What's that all about? It's no wonder they can't compete in American football. How about the Italians, zipping around on their Vespas, saying "Ciao!," pinching girls' bottoms and gesticulating madly as they talk. Hopeless. Then there's those poncy Brits, right? Just tea and crumpets, tea and crumpets, all day long, pip pip cheerio. Don't even get me started on the Germans, running around in their lederhosen and dirndls, all humorless and ruthlessly militaristic, watching their scheisse videos. And the Swiss, of course, always being on time to their jobs at the chocolate factory and yodeling into Alpine dells. The Dutch we have skating down the frozen canals in a hashish fog, festooned with tulips, blockheaded Swedes, stupid Poles, morose Russians, drunken Irish, etc. etc. It's so very convenient and efficient to reduce people and cultures to their essences. That way you can claim anything about them or their respective countries without having to do any of that pesky thinking, which is— come on, let's be fair to these guys — hard. Nobody likes to think if it can possibly be avoided, and no one wants to delve into complex notions of humanity, personhood and culture when it's so much easier to just slap a label on it and call it a day.

Like for instance Lake Countians. Everyone in Mendocino knows that their neighbors to the east are all ignorant, inbred hillbillies. Their wine is inferior, undrinkable plonk, the women are all diseased slatterns, and it takes a quorum of Lakers to a mass a full set of teeth. The entire population lives in trailers and does what rare washing and bathing as they do in their stinking, fetid lake. They all cook meth for a living and subsist on a diet of moonshine, doughnuts and corndogs. The literacy rate hovers at around 2%. The mayor of Kelseyville is a carp. Clear Lake receives foreign aid from Haiti. These are articles of faith among Mendocinans. We don't need to travel to their borders and pollute our lungs with their putrescent atmosphere. We know, and that's enough. Just as we know that we, as Mendonians are inherently superior to not only the unfortunate denizens of Lake County but also to Humboldters and Sonomans. Our physical beauty, perspicacity, athletic prowess and collective sense of style is legendary. To use an analogy from the South Asian subcontinent, we are the Brahmins to Lake County's untouchables. We are God's chosen people, if you really want to know the truth. Well — some of us are. It's a sizable chunk of geography and there are some far-flung precincts where folks might not be exactly living up to the standards of the county. In Laytonville, for instance, it's said that some folks might have cast a little bit of a wider net than is generally considered socially acceptable in their search for sexual partners, species-wise. Not that the Laytonvillians are bad people per se, they just maintain closer relationships with their livestock than the more civilized residents of the county might deem appropriate. Some wags might speculate that it's simply difficult to distinguish between kine and Laytonville women, given their robust natures and stalwart dimensions, but I say they're simply biting off a larger chunk of life and refusing to be hemmed in by antiquated standards of propriety.

And down Covelo way, it seems that their per capita instances of knife wound treatment down at the emergency room far outstrips the rest of the county and indeed most of the rest of the country. A casual onlooker might attribute this statistic to the inherently violent nature of Covelans and their free and easy way with edged weapons, but mightn't it be that in Covelo there just happens to be a greater proportion of people who need stabbing, and the Covelans, with their can-do attitude, are going out and getting it done?

In the Manchester/Sea Ranch area, a significant subset of the population is afflicted with a genetic anomaly resulting in body hair dense and luxuriant enough to be called a pelt, and finger and toe nails long and sharp enough that you might be forgiven for calling them claws. Now, I'm not saying these good folks are werewolves, and I'm not saying they're not. What they are is members in good standing of this rich and diverse tapestry of life here in Mendocino. So they're not perfect, so what? Are the people of Philo perfect with their gigantic ankles and buggy eyes? Certainly not, but that doesn't prevent them from being productive and capable members of society.

And I'm not saying that the people of Boonville have an alcohol problem, but I hear the kids down at the elementary school are trading around AA sobriety chips like POGS. So do we think any less of them for it? No. Just as instead of criticizing the people of Westport for being too stupid to find a way out of town when there's only one road in or out, we fly them in supplies. It's the neighborly thing to do. We Mendonites are nothing if not supportive of our less blessed brethren.

In Talmage, were it not for the intercession and benevolent solicitude of all those 10,000 Buddhas, the citizens of that tiny hamlet would have immolated themselves in meth lab fires long ago.

Now that I think about it, not many people are living up to the standards of perfection I contrived for the county. In fact, besides myself and a few select members of my entourage, the people of Mendocino appear to be overwhelmingly… human. Possessed of failings and qualities in equal measure, rarely perfect but never irremediable, each one different and yet still the same. And I suppose I would have to extend that to include Lake County and call them just folks. While I'm at it I might as well make the bold claim that Americans in general should reasonably expect not to be subjected to unfair generalizations about their character because of where or how they live. What the hell — Mexicans, too. British, Dutch, Italians, Mauritians, Micronesians, Ainu, Yanamamo, Maori, and Maltese. The whole famn damily I'm just going to go ahead and deem human and equal. Call me crazy but I say that the unbelievably complex and arcane niceties of global economic machinations and their effect on states cannot be explained by one man's childishly naive characterization of an entire culture based on a scene from Zorba the Greek.

Bill — your opinions may be utterly nonsensical, but you do deliver them in a thunderous manner and you are very tall.

PS. The BBC recently reported that Greeks work an average of 2000 hours a year, compared to the 1371 averaged by the allegedly hyper-industrious Germans. Plus, the Germans take an average of four more weeks of leave than the Greeks. I managed to find this out without access to phones or the Internet or newspapers. Fox News — the last bastion of utter ignorance in an increasingly connected world.

One Comment

  1. Rick Weddle August 2, 2015

    re: stereotypes…

    Bingo! This Washburne person hits the nail squarely, with enthusiasm and style once again. He echoes the wisdom of my Hawai’ian wino-savant pal, Uncle Eddie Ishimura. He didn’t talk a lot, but when he did, between beers, Uncle Eddie said a lot. Sitting by the fire, talking story with an assortment of folks at Isaac’s barn in Halaula one night, Uncle Eddie offered, ‘Everybody same…everybody diffrint.’

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