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True Theocons Found at NASCAR Races, Not in New York City

From THE NEW YORK SUN via Paul Seaton:

TOM Wolfe says a jarring scene he recently witnessed in Tennessee convinced him that writers who live in New York and on the Left Coast are out of touch with the rest of the country. In the upcoming book, "Telling True Stories," the "Bonfire of the Vanities" novelist says he watched in amazement at a NASCAR race last month as a National Rifle Association honcho got a rousing standing ovation, and was followed by a minister who "asked the Lord to look out for these brave drivers and these loyal fans . . . in the name of Thy Only Son, Christ Jesus." Writes Wolfe: "Anyone who introduced an event that way in San Francisco or New York would risk arrest for a hate crime. New York writers really must cross the Hudson River, and writers in Los Angeles really must go as far as the San Joaquin Valley. Most of the meaning of America lies in between the coasts, I’m afraid."

Discussions - 11 Comments

"Anyone who introduced an event that way in San Francisco or New York would risk arrest for a hate crime." Umm...I doubt it. Probably anyone who would ask God for special protection for an assemblage of drivers in silly, obnoxious, loud cars emblazoned with ads for Viagra and liquor, and the family-values fans thereof, already has an indifferent or negative, if not hateful, view of NYC or Land of the Sodomites SanFran, and a corresponding aversion to visiting such places.

Being from a "heartland" place between the coasts, in "flyover country," I am happy to report that there’s a hell of a lot more meaning to be found in such places than just NASCAR and gun obsessives (Hey, maybe we’ll see an NRA rally in Nickel Mines, PA soon?). Thankfully, because if this was the extent of "meaning" to be found between the coasts, then there’d be little reason to want to live or visit such places (aside from the state and national parks).

Craig - I agree with your first sentence. I also doubt anyone would be arrested.

But.. actually, I enjoy NASCAR races, and would enjoy visiting NYC or SF... Quite a few Dems are NASCAR fans. Don’t fall for the stereotypes. Many in my circle of friends like NASCAR, hunt and vote Dem.

And... actually... I don’t think Viagra is a sponsor any longer.

Nick - look again please, I was talking about the minister who blessed the Smith & Wesson 400 or whatever it was (although it’s possible he’s a minister w/o a neg. view of those places, of course). I understand the fans can be a nuanced, complicated lot and might also include some Dems and even a smattering of liberals, however, let’s face it, there’s a reason why Cheney was warmly received when he made his recent appearance at a race and Clinton got booed. The political marketers know their market. There’s plenty of the right-wing GOP’s base to be found at a NASCAR event. These aren’t monolithic, completely homogenous groups, I realize that. But it’s safe to make some educated guesses at the percentages, and I’d guess that a higher %age of NASCAR fans have negative views of SanFran and "liberal New York" than the overall population.

While I’ve never witnessed a NASCAR race, I have been to demolition derbies, tractor pulls (does Tom Wolfe even know about those?), motocross/speedway races, and monster truck rallies. Similar crowds, but significantly less commercial, spectacular events. I think NASCAR is more of a commercial than serious cultural enterprise (Viagra ads or no), that’s perhaps the most salient distinction. Still, there are valid generalizations to be made about the fans, some of them based upon the fact that one is far more likely to see, for example, a Confederate flag or a Bush/Cheney bumpersticker at a NASCAR race than at almost any other big public event. These days, though, with Bush’s approval numbers in the toilet, I’d guess that even some NASCAR fans are scraping off their old stickers and questioning their ’04 votes. Better late than never, I guess - if only slightly.

Additionally, Wolfe’s exaggeration about the "hate crime" charge is really over-the-top. I would find such a prayer a little bizarre and somewhat presumptuous, but unless he slid into the "And may the Good Lord see the wholesale elimination of the wicked Muslim peoples and the sodomites..." realm or something like that would I consider it to be hateful, while still falling well short of any usual definition of a hate crime.

Lastly, Nick, can you explain the appeal of NASCAR racing as compared to IMSA or Formula One? The average fan has as much hope of being able to buy or drive their own stock car (which are pretty far from "stock" at this point, right?) as they do of buying a Porsche 962 or whatever is dominant at the 24 Hours of LeMans (in FRANCE, no less!) these days, and I would have to say that IMSA and GT-type racing (like LeMans, but there are some of this type of race in the U.S. too, although the track names escape me) are just much more engaging to watch. Tight curves, shifting, long straights, etc. Just my opinion, I know.

I live some miles down the road from Thompson Drag Raceway, "Drag Racing Capital of Mid-America." I have never been there, but I know many people who have and some who go ALL season long. What I have to say about the place is based on hearsay. This is the type of place where NASCAR guys start out. Young men, because of some mysterious internal motivation, spend most of their disposable income on building these cars that then get battered at the track. I do know that the aspiration of many of the guys who drive their cars at the raceway is to be a NASCAR driver or mechanic, or something. There are worse things.

From what I understand, there are LOTS of Democrats at these events and they pray and would pray along with that minister. Isn’t that the point? I find Wolfe’s hyperbole excusable. Democratic leadership ignore and deplore those folks, even while embracing them by calling the Republican Party the party of the rich (and OH! Come on!)and saying they are for the little guy, which is what this crowd, by and large, considers itself to be. The Republicans among them are the folks who think they might be rich, or at least upper middle class, some fine day. This being America, they might.

Yes, these guys deplore NYC and S.F. types and who can blame them given the abuse they take in those places? These guys "got" how Cheney could accidentally shoot a hunting buddy and they laugh over the pitiful stupidity of the thing.

I don’t really get the Confederate flag thing, but know it is usually more a bow to a mythological American history of the South and the idea of state’s rights than a paean to slavery. So it is a protest against the enormity of the federal government: an Anti-Federalist complaint. To fly those two flags together is to say, I love America, but not necessarily the government for which that flag stands. It is a qualification. It is a lot of other things, too, I am thinking now of other people I have seen and heard, who lift that thing up for the basest of reasons.

I have been trying to sort out exactly what is meant by "Theocon." Every time I think I have settled a definition in my mind, someone else throws some new criterion in the mix. Is it typified by any person who would make a public prayer?

I watch NASCAR on occassion (and also like tractor pulls!) and saw the start of the Talladega race last week. The preacher ended his prayer with something like "Thank you God for allowing us to live in THESE United States." I about fell out of my chair, I could not believe it.

I wonder if Southern culture still thinks of the US as plural (their War Between the States and all) or if the preacher was trying to send a message? Anyone know?

Craig - Sorry I misunderstood your meaning.

As far as the appeal of NASCAR... you are right, they are far from "stock", and I don’t think the hope of driving one is necessarily a major factor for people to become fans. The best way I can explain it.. is that people are comfortable with what they know. The average NASCAR fan can list the names of drivers, their number, their sponsor, owner, sometimes even crew chiefs... Why did they become fans? Probably b/c someone introduced them to it

There is of course, also the power, the sound of the engines and the beauty of the cars.

Nick - I just wanted to be clear, and hope I got closer to that. As far as the appeal of NASCAR racing in and of itself, I’m still at a loss ("the beauty of the cars"?) I mean, even IMSA or GT-style cars don’t approach the beauty of classic road cars - Porsches, Ferraris, Mustangs/Cobras, etc. - but they come a lot closer than a stock car, I think. But to each his own, of course. These opinions are probably largely formed at the gut-level.

You would probably have to go to a race to really see the "beauty" of the cars. But, when you walk out into the grandstand and see all the cars lined up on pit road... it takes your breath away.

(it’s probably already obvious, but comment 8 was a different Craig, not me)


My name is Gena. Your are Nice. And so is your site! Maybe you need some more pictures. Will return in the near future.

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