Photo credit: Hannah Spray

Yelling as an expression of anger is unhealthy for all involved. Yet the culture drips with life because of raised voices. Most times those are uttered solo; but in rare and beautiful moments, a crowd yells together.

For peace. For beer. For bullshit …

Now, those kinds of voices aren’t even real. Today, they’re digital and about as moving as a red trackball. So nothing beats the collective voice of a real crowd in this pretentious age of crowdsourcing and doom.

We’ll get the obvious out of the way first: indeed, Italians, Jewish folk, and plenty of Irish blokes are known for both the volume and animation of their speech. (These stereotypes exist for a reason, and link, in my view, to a dignified desperation to hold on to lost human connection and culture — rather than as a literal gauge of raw anger.)

In America, people in cities generally tend to talk faster and louder. But it isn’t the cadence of their speech that is so obvious when their mouths open up — it’s the goddamn Mason Dixon Line.  Yup — the hanging of black Americans — NOT THAT LONG AGO — still pissess motherfuckers off in the hood, though perhaps not consciously. (Additionally, cops who beat people up who don’t deserve it upsets the entire hood here; but that’s not even close to most cops, though Hollywood and the ones who do such things certainly perpetuate the stereotype.)

In my city, divided racially and struggling to come together, if you are white, you have to conduct yourself as coming to the table of life with a kneejerk — though shallow and unreliable — connection to your dark and oppressive past; just as blacks must face the world most days as descendants of victims.

Being a victim is not a character flaw, but it can be a disadvantage individually. Hey, try and act “like everybody else” and play by their obviously rigged rules as friends and family back home throw snaps about selling out, or worse, cut you off from your support network entirely.

Conversely, it’s a general inattention to decorum and respect — for elders, traditions and mores — that gets us rednecks looking for heat and reinforcements … and more transmissions to decorate the lawn.

I say “us” not because I believe in treating others that way, far from it. But by way of full disclosure: I come from country folk, southern stock. And while they speak easily, like a summer breeze on good days, when a storm rages across the field, we get to yelling for no damn reason.

That’s why it’s so fun, seemingly, for us hillbilly types to laugh and sing later. (And all the better — and therapeutic — if the joke is at one’s own expense. Hence the appeal of Jeff Foxworthy’s Redneck shtick.)

It’s a commonality among my people — telling stories when happy; spitting fire when mad — we share with most of the black folk I’ve met; at least those I’ve met whose people also are from the south. In My City, most everyone was or is from the south; or from people who were from there. We all came up from the post-war south looking for factory jobs.

The legend goes that if you messed with a Rockford redneck, someone from the south would hit the hillbilly highway in a hurry, come and see you. Same goes, generally, for those living in cities across the rust belt, linked forever by steel and folks who remained “down south.”

Today, when we’re not yelling, we’re too busy talking and telling stories because that’s what country people do — even if their people came here a generation or two ago.

We sit on the front porch mostly, while the upper crust gathers on their decks behind fences in gated communities.

In this oral tradition, I have more in common with my country black brothers and sisters than I do with those white, urban and suburban sophisticates.

Still, I personally need to turn down the volume, let go of the hair trigger. It’s a cross I bear; and of which I’m keenly aware. And while people bitch about all the yelling; I say if you are going to go for effect, yell loud and proud in your native tongue … Just be sure and say something while yer doin’ it.

About the Author

Gary Mays

Gary Mays is a veteran freelance writer, editor and investigative reporter who has worked for The Chicago Tribune, The Wisconsin (Madison) State Journal, and other, smaller but no-less- important publications.

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