The term redneck refers to a (typically male) person having a red neck caused by working outdoors in the sunlight over the course of their lifetime. It is Offensive Slang used as a disparaging term for a member of the white rural laboring class, especially in the southern United States.
It is originally used to denote poor, white farmers, regarded as having a provincial, conservative, often bigoted attitude. The term also has some synonyms depending on the area such as: cracker in Georgia and Florida, hillbilly in Appalachia and white trash. Redneck is often used to refer to the stereotype of a southern U.S. rural lower-class person.
A stereotypical redneck has a beer belly, lives in a trailer, drives a pickup truck, enjoys hunting, and votes Republican. The term is often but not always pejorative, in the same sense as hayseed. However, many of us have taken this term as a point of pride.
The effect of decades of direct sunlight on the exposed skin of the back of the neck not only reddens fair skin, but renders it leathery and tough, and typically very wrinkled and spotted by late middle age. Similarly, some historians claim that the term redneck originated in 17th-Century Virginia, because indentured servants were sunburnt while tending plantation crops.
In the 1990s, when Jeff Foxworthy drawled "you might be a redneck ..." he wasn't just needling folks who had ever "fought over an inner tube." In one of his stand-up routines, Foxworthy summed up the condition as "a glorious absence of sophistication." Foxworthy also rejected the misconception that a rednedck has to be a Southerner, saying "A lot of people think you have to talk like this" (meaning his Georgia accent) "to be a redneck. That is not true. I've been all over this country, there's rednecks in every single state."
In recent years, the comedic stylings of Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White, Bill Engvall, Larry the Cable Guy, and Lee Roy Mercer have become popular, with the first four forming first a "Blue Collar Comedy Tour", and now a Blue Collar TV television show and film. Some of my redneck buddies don't even know what the word "etiquette" means, but they practice it.
Billy Carter was neither the first nor the last brother to embarrass a president, but he was surely the most colorful. From the time Jimmy Carter started running for president to the end of his term in office, his younger brother was never far from the spotlight.
In 1976 he provided humor and a charming contrast to his straight-laced candidate sibling. But by 1980, Billy's act had worn thin, and a major controversy over his dealings with the Libyan government cast a shadow over a Carter White House that could ill-afford another problem.
Jimmy was thirteen when Billy was born, and in some ways they grew up in entirely different families. Afraid he had been too tough on his eldest son, Earl Carter doted on Billy. The boy went everywhere with his father, and neighbors recounted how much Billy seemed to take after his daddy. When Mr. Earl died suddenly of cancer in 1953, the sixteen-year-old was devastated.
Billy later admitted he was "mad as hell" when Jimmy, who had been away in the navy since Billy was six, returned to take over the family business everyone had assumed would fall to him. After "raising hell" in school he joined the Marines at seventeen and married his sixteen-year-old sweetheart. Four years of Marine Corps discipline led Billy to conclude he was "not cut out for that kind of life," and after a series of unsatisfying jobs he ended up back in Plains, wife and children in tow, to work for his older brother.
Though their relationship was never easy, Billy took up more responsibility as Jimmy ventured into politics in the 1960s. By the time Jimmy became governor it was Billy who ran Carter's Warehouse, and he did it well. "I made more money for the business than Jimmy ever did," he boasted, by all accounts demonstrating a sharp mind, strong work ethic, and natural ability to get along with people.
In the summer of 1976, with the press gathered in Plains to get acquainted with the surprising Democratic nominee for president, Billy Carter became a star. "Yes, I'm a real southern boy," Billy admitted over drinks with reporters at his gas station across from campaign headquarters. "I got a red neck, white socks, and Blue Ribbon beer."
When asked about his family, he got off one of the best quips of the entire campaign: "My mother went into the Peace Corps when she was sixty-eight. My one sister is a motorcycle freak, my other sister is a Holy Roller evangelist and my brother is running for president. I'm the only sane one in the family."
President Carter later wrote that the press found Billy to be "something of a country philosopher," and that "he took advantage of the chance to present the other side of the Carter family -- not so serious, full of fun and laughter."
There was more to this "redneck country bumpkin" than most press accounts revealed. "He was one of the best-read people I know," remembers his nephew Chip. "If he didn't know something about subject, he would go find out about it, so that if you had an argument the next time, he would be the expert on it." Not only did Billy help his brother by running the warehouse well, but he was a political asset in conservative states like Texas, reassuring many of Carter's genuine southern credentials.
Billy also had a drinking problem, on display for all to see, that grew worse as the spotlight intensified. "Billy ended up with a reputation and then he tried to live up to it," Chip concludes. While his brother was busy running the country, Billy hit the talk-show circuit, cracking one-liners and hawking his own brew, Billy Beer. His self-deprecating wit made him popular, but it wasn't long before another attempt to cash in on his brother's fame led to disaster.
In September 1978 Billy made a highly publicized trip to Libya with a group of Georgia legislators and businessmen eager to make deals. Several months later, he hosted a delegation of Libyans in Atlanta, as they looked for a place to locate a permanent trade mission.
When asked why he was involved, Billy said, "The only thing I can say is there is a hell of a lot more Arabians than there is Jews." He also argued that the "Jewish media [tore] up the Arab countries full-time," and defended Libya against charges of state-sponsored terrorism by saying that a "heap of governments support terrorists and [Libya] at least admitted it."
President Carter tried to disassociate himself from the controversy that ensued, telling NBC News that he hoped people would "realize that I don't have any control over what my brother says [and] he has no control over me."
Billy also apologized and explained he wasn't anti-Semitic, but the damage was done. The Atlanta Constitution remarked, "If [Billy's] not working for the Republican Party, he should be." Some time after this, Billy spent seven weeks at an alcohol addiction treatment facility in California.
Once sober, Billy was no longer in demand on the talk-show circuit, so he turned again to his Libyan friends for financial help. In July 1980 he belatedly registered as a foreign agent of the Libyan government and admitted to receiving a $220,000 "loan" for oil sales he was supposed to facilitate. The press rushed to find out whether the president's brother had hawked his influence with the White House, and a new presidential scandal, "Billygate," was born. As Jimmy himself later admitted, "He was the president's brother, and therefore fair game."
On July 22, the White House issued a statement disclosing what it knew and denying that it had interfered in the Justice Department's investigation of the matter. The president also released a personal statement saying that he did not think it "appropriate for a close relative of the president to undertake any assignment on behalf of a foreign government."
While all this was basically true, a number of inaccuracies and omissions would surface in the coming days which kept the scandal alive and fueled the perception that something dirty had happened. "In truth, the White House had concealed nothing," concludes historian Burton Kaufman. "But as [it] had to keep amending its July 22 account, there was doubt cast on Carter's forthrightness with the American people."
While relatively few people doubted Carter's basic integrity, the whole thing did cast further doubts on his judgment, and what Kaufman calls his "presidential timber" in the midst of the president's uphill battle for re-election. "The damn Billy Carter stuff is killing us," complained Hamilton Jordan. It was the last thing the Carter campaign needed going into the Democratic convention in August.
If President Carter held a grudge over the whole sad affair, he didn't show it. In his memoir, he wrote that "The only one of our family who really suffered because of [my presidency] was my brother Billy." Though he managed to stay sober and out of trouble after his brother left the White House, Billy Carter succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 1988 at the age of 51.
In all my dealings with rednecks, I have to say they have a culture and code of honor all their own. They are proud, rowdy, simple, and downright confusing. It never ceases to amaze me how the smallest things in life can 'do it' for these folks. There's nothing better to a redneck than a lazy afternoon with sweet tea, hotdogs, and NASCAR.
Small things we wouldn't pay attention to really make a redneck's day. Give them a bowl of beans with a slice of tomato on the side for supper and a cold beer for dessert - and they're happy. The dogs brawling over a ham bone in the front yard really gets their blood pumping.
The redneck women are happy with a bottle of Charley perfume, blue frosted eye shadow, and Friday nights at the karaoke bar. Redneck kids will do anything for a moon pie, Pepsi, and a trip to the carnival at the Big Lots parking lot.
Even though I don't understand rednecks, they sure come in handy as neighbors. They'll fix your broken truck, send you a meal if you're sick, and they'll even buy you something at the flea market on your birthday. More importantly, having a redneck neighbor can make you feel safe.
If the sight of Billy Bob sitting on his porch cleaning his Smith & Wesson doesn't scare off an intruder, then all his dogs will. Despite their all-around friendliness, there are a few things you have to watch out for if you have a redneck neighbor.
First of all, men, don't ever look at their women-folk. They can take your simple "Howdy" and turn it into something you'd see on Jerry Springer. Don't make the mistake of removing the beer or RC cans from their yard for recycling; they can get mighty riled when they don't have anything for target practice. Lastly, don't ever underestimate their love of country music. They take it real personal if you knock Hank Jr., David Alan Coe, or Merle. Why, those men are as sacred to them as the Stars and Stripes, Mama, and the Bible.
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