It’s always fun when cosmopolitan progressives don their pith helmets, grab their compasses and head off study the fabled natives of the American interior -- that vast, dark blank space between NY and LA.
Anthony Bourdain, TV chef and travelling food critic with his CNN show Parts Unknown, has explored (among many others) “Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran, the Congo and Gaza.” This is Bourdain in 2008 on his Travel Channel show No Reservations, talking about prayer time in Saudi Arabia:
For a while, everything stops. Vendors close shop, and no matter where they are, people take time to pray. Five times a day, the call from the mosque is a haunting and quite beautiful reminder. Faith governs life. For a Westerner, it's a reminder of where you are. Removed from what you see on TV, what you might already think or assume, if you put all of that out of your head, in a vacuum. It's lovely and impressive.
Yes, as long as you don’t have a Bible with you (like that would ever be a problem for a CNNer!) or you want to go to the movies, or you’re gay, or a woman who wants to drive somewhere, or …
But in fairness, Bourdain is nothing of not self-aware, calling himself a “privileged Eastern liberal,” last year as he blasted the “utter contempt” of his peers for mocking conservatives as “morons and rubes.”
Bourdain, it seems, has put his money where his mouth is and kicked off his 11th season with an expedition into the true heart of darkness: West Virginia. “I pride myself on trying to show up with an open mind and an open heart in places like Saudi Arabia, Liberia, Vietnam, Iran,” he told the Daily Beast. “Why not my own country? Why not show that same respect and empathy in the heart of God, guns, and Trump country?”
Why not indeed? And he’s brought back tales to amaze the cool kids at the Beast. Turns out he had a great time firing fully automatic weapons in the backyard of a family “whose business is modifying semi-automatic weapons.” (If that doesn’t give a Daily Beastie a secret shiver of thrill and fear, nothing will.)
Bourdain is not suddenly a 2A stalwart. But he was interested in discussing it. It may surprise the Acela Corridor types that “I thought it was useful to talk to people who were unwavering in their interpretation of the Second Amendment.” His hosts were “so nice, and from what I could see, they were responsible gun owners—very rigorous about safety, training—but I feel the way I feel, and I had to be honest about that.”
Furthermore, “People were incredibly kind and generous to me, not hostile to my political beliefs, and we talked a lot about coal … and why people who come from five generations of breaking their backs in the coal mine would vote for a sketchy New York real-estate guy who’s never changed a tire in his life. The answers were a lot more nuanced than I’d expected.” (“Nuanced?” Deplorables aren’t supposed to be nuanced!)
Clearly, Bourdain is no Trump Fan -- hates him in fact -- but he is a fan of the West Virginians he met. And as cited above, he understands the way elite liberals think of Flyover Americans is wrong.
You know, the contempt with which we speak of West Virginia in the political circles that I’m inclined to vote with I think is sort of disgraceful and counterproductive and unlovely. A little understanding and a little empathy -- the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes for a few minutes -- has got to be a good thing.
Well-said, Mr. Bourdain.