In this column, I would like to use the phrase “white trash” a number of times. (That number: 12.) However, in these days of political correctness, one is hesitant to use any derogatory term that involves a race, for fear of being called discriminatory. (One wonders how one could possibly be accused of discriminating against one’s own race, but one shouldn’t wonder very hard. When dealing with political correctness, wondering only leads to headaches, not answers.)
I’m a little wary of this anyway, because in a recent column, I implied that the Broadway stages are aflame with homosexuals, which resulted in my being called “homophobic.” This is a term that has never made sense to me. Since when does making fun of someone mean you’re afraid of them? People who make fun of minorities aren’t called “blackphobic” or “Mexiphobic” (which, by the way, sounds like a menu item at Taco Bell). They’re called racists, or bigots, or people who don’t know better than to avoid telling certain jokes in mixed company. But if you make fun of gays, all of a sudden you’re afraid of them — the group that is probably the least threatening of all the groups of people on earth. I can see being afraid of Germans, what with their track record, or extra-terrestrials, what with their probes. But homosexuals? Please. There are far more frightening people around.
Like white trash, for example (also known as rednecks, hicks, Bo Gritz supporters, and the people on “Cops”). White trash scares me because of the sheer size of the group. Head down to any water slide park on a summer afternoon, and it won’t be long before you’re convinced that the world consists of nothing BUT white trash.
The government even has a department for dealing with white trash. It’s called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, but it should be called the Bureau of White Trash, because if you’ve violated laws in two or more of those areas, take my word for it, you’re white trash.
My recent visit to a water park is what really caught my attention, though. I don’t mean to say that all the clientele there was trashy; indeed, I found quite a few young ladies who were extremely hot in nature, and I was embarrassed to be seen by them every time I disembarked from a water slide and had to dislodge a major wedgie from myself. (Some of those rides, I’m convinced, exist solely to give people wedgies. I got one so bad I could actually taste my swimsuit.)
But there was also an alarming number of super-sized women wearing bikinis. Please note that it was not the size of the women that bothered me; it was the fact that they were intentionally wearing extra-revealing swimsuits, as if oblivious to the fact that not a soul on earth wanted to see them that way. (Being puffy and pasty and forcing those around you to behold your puffy pastiness = white trash.)
I also noticed a number of men whose shorts were hanging down too low, showing most of their boxers underneath. (Wearing boxers under your shorts when you go to a water park, instead of wearing a regular ol’ swimsuit = white trash.) (Making everyone look at your underwear, under any circumstances, aquatic or otherwise = white trash.)
Many of these men also had tattoos on their shoulder blades. I will not argue the merits or anti-merits of tattoos (short version: they’re stupid), but I will say this: Why get a tattoo on a part of your body that you, yourself, can’t normally see? It can only be because you want OTHER people to see it. “Dude,” I imagine the person saying. “It would totally rock if I got this picture of an eagle carved onto my back so that every time I go shirtless in public — which will be often, because I am white trash — everyone will see it and think how cool I am.”
Getting a tattoo solely for the viewing pleasure of those around you = white trash. I hope this has been informative. Thank you and good night.
At first I considered mentioning the debate over whether the term "white trash" was acceptable, and then using some ridiculous substitute for the rest of the column. But then I figured, heck, I honestly can find nothing offensive about the phrase "white trash," when used by a white person, and if I mention the absurdity right up front, I can (hopefully) ward off the angry letters I would get otherwise. (Usually, people don't complain about something if you've already complained about it for them.)
The water park referred to here is Seven Peaks in Provo. I originally had it mentioned by name, but took out the references on my own after weighing all the factors. The previous week's column had been pretty derogatory toward Wynnsong Theatres in Provo, and the theater had threatened to pull their ads from the Daily Herald. My editors had defended me to the advertising department, but cautioned me to choose my battles wisely. Since I have nothing against Seven Peaks in particular (other than their outrageous prices and lack of fun things to do, which I don't address in the column), I figured there was no sense in upsetting another local business -- especially when it was irrelevant which specific water park the white-trash sightings took place at. I suspect it's the same at any water park.
(I later found out that Seven Peaks had already pulled their ads from the Herald a while earlier for something else -- but that 1) they're big on suing people, and 2) the Daily Herald was having its staff summer party there a few weeks after the column ran. So I made the right decision, I think.)
Bo Gritz (rhymes with "rights") was a crazy Mormon or semi-Mormon who amusingly ran for president a couple times in the '90s. I don't recall his platform, but I know he was ultra-conservative and rather anti-government. His followers tended to be the kinds of people who stockpile huge amounts of food and guns in their basements, preparing for the day when the government turns fascist and comes to get them. When he first came on the scene, a lot of normal Mormons spoke of him favorably, as the idea of one of our own running for president was appealing to us. Then we learned more about him, and only the crackpot Mormons stayed with him; the rest of us voted for the Republican candidate, whoever it was.
After a long dry spell, this column was finally the one to receive some angry e-mails! One was from a mailing-list member, a group from whom angry letters are few and far between. (Generally, if someone gets on the list, it's because they enjoy the column and all its intracacies and offensiveness.) Here it is:
To whom it may concern: [I don't know who he thinks reads my e-mail for me, but OK]
Please unsubscribe me from this mailing list.
I wish to protest your depiction of people whose actions you find distasteful. To depict those who do not have "hang-ups" about there bodies, like you yourself may have, [Angry Letter Running Motif #12: "If you make fun of others for something specific, it's probably because you feel inferior to them in that area." Here, I have body shame and therefore must envy those who do not, and make fun of them for it.] as less then human, is not only distasteful, but unbecoming of a deciple of Christ. Which you profess to be. [I'd probably use the word "disciple," but OK.] Not all people are privy to the same light and knowledge that you yourself have. To hold them to standards that you hold, and they do not, is wrong and is not indicative of a Christ like attitude. True as members of the church we have been counseled to be modest in our attire, and not to defile our bodies with the adornments of the world. However we have also been counseled to be excepting of those who have not received these messages. Your recent column was, to say the least full of hate. To laugh at our weaknesses is one thing, but to intentionally try to hurt someone with your words is wrong. Your column did not "poke fun" at our foibles, but rather used hateful words and descriptions to convey people as less then human.
Again I would ask that you would take me off of your mailing list. [Don't worry, I removed him twice.]
[his e-mail address went here.]
[his name went here.]
I disagree that the column had anything to do with holding everyone up to my religious standards. If anything, it was holding people to the standards of society in general. I didn't complain that people were wearing immodest bathing suits (which would be a reflection of my religious standards); I complained that FAT people were wearing immodest bathing suits. It wasn't an issue of modesty, but one of forcing people to look at something unpleasant. Same with the tattoos. Whether or not I think they're wrong from a religious standpoint, I do think it's weird to get one solely for the purpose of showing the rest of the world that you have a tattoo. And making everyone look at your underwear: Well, that's just trashy.
The next letter was e-mailed to me at work:
Your column today, to put it as kindly as I am able, was trash. I understand from my children that the term "White Trash" has gained some popularity in these parts recently, [Yeah, it's totally a local, Utah County thing] but it is clear from your writing that you have no understanding of its meaning. Indeed, it takes a particularly obtuse intellect, not to mention demented character, to use the word trash in any context when referring to other human beings. Your example from the water slide park indicates that you eqauate obesity or tattooes with "white trash." [Again, I made it pretty clear that the obesity didn't bother me; it was the obesity combined with bikinis. I will not be held responsible for people who skim rather than read.] Did it ever cross your mind that these folks, whatever their reasons for looking like they do, may be your mental and moral superiors because they gave no evidence of looking down on their fellow men with a unmerited superior arrogance? [No.] You owe them and the readers of the Herald an apology. I don't subscribe to support your kind of trash.
Dr. Demento would be proud that I have been called "demented." In fact, that's how the famous radio personality got that nickname: He played a particularly strange song during his show, and someone commented, "You'd have to be demented to play that!" A little history lesson for you there, free of charge.
A few weeks after this was published, the wacky morning crew at 102.7 STAR-FM in Salt Lake City read and laughed at parts of this column on the air. They subsequently contacted me and, having read this and my other work in the Daily Herald, asked me to be their Friday morning entertainment/movie critic guy on their show. I had to decline, however, as I was already doing more or less the same thing for 107.5 The End.