Originally Posted by tixe
There is a difference in being made fun of by the people on the other side of town or in the next state and being a national joke. And too often, we are a national joke. The result is that we are often viewed a certain way when people find out where we are from. In a recent job I experienced this often, particularly from residents of states that were far away and who had likely never met a West Virginian. Assumptions are made; programmed reactions set in.
This can get very, very old.
When I was in high school (in the seventies), there were still researchers who believed that people from the Appalachians were genetically inferior. Seriously. Our history textbooks featured pictures of poor West Virginians who could possibly be helped by LBJ's "Great Society" programs (again, this was the seventies, proving we needed new textbooks
), and until very recently, any report on the national news from West Virginia was certain to feature the most stereotypical person available.
Excellent post. What offends me, and makes me sensitive to such ignorant comments such as the one Rose made, is the damage that those type of comments and jokes can do to the people of this state and their aspirations, especially when thrown out to a national audience as somehow truthfully depicting our people and their culture and abilities.
Part of my reaction also depends upon who the person is, and his or her attitude and motives in making the comment. For example, earlier this week I spent the day with a representative of an insurance company I do work for. During the course of our discussions he mentioned a dental malpractice claim he was handling. I asked if the claim was against a W. Va. dentist. He replied: "No, we don't write dental malpractice coverage in your state as we didn't think anybody there had any teeth." Well I laughed out loud, because (1) I knew it was good natured teasing, (2) his joke wasn't being broadcast all across the nation, (3) I knew that the insurer did write coverage in W. Va. because I've defended several of their insured dentists and (4) he's an Ohio State fan, so he's obviously hopeless anyway.
When I mentioned the joke yesterday to one of my partners, another West Virginian, he told me that he understood that toothpaste was invented in West Virginia--if toothpaste had been invented somewhere else it would have been called teethpaste.
So yes, you can joke about my state, depending upon how and when you do it. As the title character said in "The Virginian" when called an S.O.B., "when you call me that, smile."