Dear Mike Huckabee: Please Stop Telling Me I Don’t Understand Small Towns

Mike Huckabee has been going on a bit of a whirlwind tour promoting his book Gods, Guns, Grits and Gravy. The purpose of this book, he says, is to explain “Real America” to those of us who live in cities, as though small town America is something we cannot possibly understand.

He calls certain areas of the country–the coasts and major cities–“Bubblevilles” and the rest of the country “Bubbaville.” Which, were I to live in the latter, I would find incredibly insulting. He claims that those of us who live in these “Bubblevilles” are, for all intents and purposes, living in “Bubbles” where we don’t have to understand those who live in “Bubbaville.” He seems to think that we think everyone in “Bubbaville” is stupid because they did not go to Harvard. Or something. That we don’t understand their down-home, wholesome, common sense ways.

Let’s take a look at one of the book’s positive Amazon reviews:

The overarching theme of this book is this: the elite liberals in America–those in the “Bubble,” simply do not connect with the average person. And this applies even more to what the author calls the flyover country–the “Bubbas.” The elite are simply out of touch.

GOD, GUNS, GRITS, AND GRAVY is organized around chapters having a slightly different angle around an overarching theme. For example, as the governor explains in Chapter 1, “The new American Outcast,” people who actually believe in traditional religion are ostracized by the elite liberals in America. The governor points out that the urban power centers simply do not understand these people: “As difficult as it may be for folks in the urban power centers to understand, real power for folks in the land of God, guns, grits, and gravy is having family and neighbors you could count on when you’re in trouble, a church that keeps you send it [SIC?] around what’s really important, a table we’re good food and laughter always on the menu, and the self-reliance to take care of your home and your family should someone ever tried to violate either one. I don’t know anyone I live around who is a shamed of that.[SIC]”

In other words, the folks in the “flyover” states are decent, God-fearing folks. They are most definitely NOT the hicks that popular culture makes them out to be. Rather, they are the foundation upon which this country was built. Their values represent the core values that founded America–they are not the dolts that Hollywood and Washington make them out to be.

Let’s cut the bullshit, shall we? You know us, and we know you, Bubbaville. I understand you perfectly. You see, the thing is, I’m going to wager that a very large portion of those of us who live in these so-called “Bubblevilles” actually grew up in so-called “Bubbavilles,” and are more than well-acquainted with their “decent, god-fearing ways.”

At least I am.

Until I was 15, I lived in an extremely small, extremely white, extremely conservative town in Massachusetts. A small town, which, fun fact, just made national headlines for the first time last year, when a woman was found living in a condemned house filled with vermin and three dead babies.

Although people might assume that any town in Mass would be chock full of liberal elites — trust – outside of the accent and unfriendliness, that town was indistinguishable from any small town in the deep south. It was racist, homophobic, and virulently cruel to anyone who was the slightest bit different.

You know me, Bubbaville. I’m the girl with the weird outfits and the gay best friend who called you out for using racial slurs and for bullying other kids. I’m the girl who wouldn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance because of the “under god” part. I’m the girl you screamed “n-word lover” at on the bus every day on the way home from school. I’m the girl you hated. I was Carrie without the telekinetic powers. I drank a charcoal milkshake for you, Bubbaville, and if I hadn’t left you when I did, I might not be here in Bubbleville.

I don’t live in a bubble. I am more than well aware of what life in a small town is like. I am aware of what the people there are like. I’m not saying all small towns are like Blackstone, Massachusetts, or that everyone in that town was horrid. I had a few good friends, and I was lucky to have them. But, I’m just going to say it: A lot of the time, the folks in these “Bubbavilles” are the reason people like me left. Or, you know, were chased out with pitchforks.

I don’t like the fact that Huckabee and others like him seem to like to suggest that people who live in these small towns are somehow more decent, more hard-working and more “real” than people who live in cities. I’ve met far kinder and more welcoming people in “liberal elite” areas than I ever did in a small town, and to me, that’s what real “decency” is about. Also, you wanna talk elitism? Really? Because you haven’t experienced it until you’ve lived in a small town and not fit in.

I also don’t like the fact Huckabee insinuates that if I only understood small town America that I would get the deeper nuance of why people like Mike Huckabee don’t want gay people to get married and whatnot. I would get why they cling so tightly to their guns and their bibles and why they think President Obama is a “Secret Muslin.” I would get why Mike Huckabee was so concerned about Beyoncé’s risqué lyrics but not Ted Nugent’s.

After 10 years of sociological and anthropological research, from Kindergarten to my freshman year of high school, I can honestly tell you that there is no deeper nuance to those beliefs. There’s no special secret that I’m just not getting because I live in some “bubble.” There are just some people who straight-up dislike people who are different from them, whether because they dress differently, or they’re gay or because they’re a different color or religion, and there is never going to be a satisfactory or sense-making answer to why. Other than “well, they’re assholes.”

I’m not going to judge people one way or another for living in a “Bubbaville” — a lot of great people come from “Bubbavilles,” and, just like any place else, so do a lot of assholes. But no one is going to tell me that people there are necessarily more “real” or more “decent” than people who live in other areas. That is bullshit, and it’s unfair, and quite frankly, it’s not particularly decent.