Tuesday, August 14, 2007

At The Truckstop

David Brooks' most recent column is about the "other America", the place where the honest, dignified and hard-working people live in. Brooks views this place as Republicana, which you must remember when reading his observations.

The story he tells this time is about stopping at a truckstop and about a conversation he had there with a trucker. Some excerpts:

Last Saturday evening, I found myself at the counter of a truck stop diner in Caroline County, Va. I was sitting next to a weathered trucker whose accent betrayed an East Texas upbringing and a lifetime devoted to tobacco products. We quickly established that we were both celebrating birthdays. He was 68.

He'd been trucking for 46 years, away from home for nine months a year for most of them. He'd run through five marriages and now traveled with a little dog.


I don't know what came first, the mystique of trucking or the country music songs that defined the mystique, but this trucker had been captured by the ethos early on and had never let it go. He wore the right boots and clothes. He had a flat, never-surprised way of talking. He didn't smile or try to ingratiate.

He has one of those hard jobs, like mining and steel-working, that comes with its own masculine mythology and way of being in the world. Jobs performed in front of a keyboard don't supply a code of dignity, which explains the spiritual anxiety that plagues the service economy.


People in other classes may define the social structure by educational attainment, income levels and job prestige, but these men are more likely to understand the social hierarchy on the basis of who can look out for themselves, who has the courage to be a fireman, a soldier or a cop, who has the discipline to put bread on the table every night despite difficulties

My condensed version of the column lets you home straight into its inner core. This is all about a masculine mystique, as applied by Brooks to a blue collar worker. The story is deceptive because of phrases such as "people in other classes", but Brooks writes about men only. Women enter as past divorces or as something that exists outside of the occupation of trucking, to be fed and protected.

The message one is supposed to take home from the column is that the Democratic Party doesn't fit these manly truckers, because the truckers don't care about money or income inequality or any of that fluffy crap. They care about something else, some sort of a masculine mystique, I guess.