November 13, 2008

"People like their independence and freedom here. It’s sort of the redneck ethic."

"A lot of people haul their own water and live off generators and candles out here. Back to the land."

"Here" is in St. Johns, Arizona, and the speaker is Wendy Guffey, a substance abuse counselor, quoted in a NYT story about the 8 year-old-boy who stands accused of the pre-meditated murder of his father and another man. Does the "redneck ethic" relate to the boy's story?


There are also some quotes about the the boy as an individual: His mother is quoted saying that the boy sounded "distant" over the phone and speculating that he was abused. Sister Angelina Chavez, who taught his religion class, says he "took his religious faith very seriously" and “I just don’t know what happened to him spiritually, emotionally." A friend is quoted saying, "He’s a nice kid. He’s normal."


Mark O said...

I have had my neck reddened driving a tractor and riding a horse. How quaint. How so authentically odd.

And then just to imagine that we both like our independence and freedom. Quaint. Unprogressive.

Away with you all.

Robert Cook said...

As dismaying as is an eight year old's murder of his father and another adult man, more dismaying, and contemptible, is the possibility that the boy may be tried as an adult.

We might as well throw away all legal precedent regarding juvenile crime, as well as all studies that show that children and adolescents do not think or process information the same way as adults. We might as well discard the flattering image (to some) of ourselves as "a Christian nation,"(sic), and admit to being savages, possessed of no more capacity for mercy for children than we would have for a feral animal or criminal adult.

former law student said...

Does the "redneck ethic" relate to the boy's story?

Depends if the two men "needed killin'" or not.

Was the boy molested by either of the men? In any event, was there another adult in his life to discuss things with?

Donna B. said...

The reference to a "redneck ethic" is a sly attempt at guilt by association. If the community weren't composed of so many rednecks, this wouldn't have happened.

Interesting that the article mentions a 12 year old in Bisbee murdering his mother, because Bisbee is SO not redneck. It's hippie wonderland and bird watcher's paradise.

Oh, and redneck doesn't mean a sunburn on the neck, that's a farmer tan.

Redneck refers to the red scarfs worn by Scottish covenanters.

dualdiagnosis said...

Oh, now I see. This explains everything.

john said...

"Low slung houses." Kinda like the way they wear their sidearms. lol.

It's fun when msm city slickers venture into quaintland and attempt to discover the essence of what they can experience in 15 minutes or so (or more likely, a phone call from Phoenix).

Maybe with a few more minutes spent there, they would have mentioned that brothers Mo and Stewart Udall were born and went to school in St Johns, that it was founded on the bank of the Little Colorado River by Mormons sent south by Brigham Young, that stream diversions and artesian wells kept the town if not prosperous, then survivable. That it is the seat of Apache County although it is more than half on the Navajo Nation.

That situated on the slope of the Colorado Plateau they can see nearly a hundred miles on a clear day, past Painted Desert, and Hopi Buttes to Black Mesa. Or that the biggest employer now is the Salt River Project power plant.

Or that a lot of people, not on city water, have moved in on former ranch land in between the checkerboarded State trust or BLM sections, some upslope enough that to find water they have to drill 1000 feet or more and spend upwards of a $quarter million for a well, and so choose to keep a poly tank in their pickup trucks and bring in water to pump into a roof cistern 150 gallons at a time. What they save in well costs they put into solar panels.

What they call a redneck ethic is really more of a mixed bag, with holdover hippies, school teachers, construction families, artists, and hunting guides.

And there we have an 8 year old, a child, who did a horrible thing.

Matt Eckert said...

There must be some way to blame this on Sarah Palin.

reader_iam said...

“I don’t believe he did this,” said the mother, Erin Bloomfield, 26, who has shared custody of her son with his father, Vincent Romero, 29, since the couple divorced six years ago. She said she talked to the boy every week and visited an average of once a month, driving the 20 hours to St. Johns from her home in Mississippi.


“There was a distance with me after a while,” she said.


reader_iam said...

Does the "redneck ethic" relate to the boy's story?

I don't see it myself, at least so far.

former law student said...

Redneck refers to the red scarfs worn by Scottish covenanters.

Maybe this was true 400 years ago. Not within the past 100 years.

The protagonist in Warren's All the King's Men addresses the electorate as "Friends, red-necks, and fellow hicks."

reader_iam said...

By the way, from what's been written elsewhere, Tiffany and Romero got married just this past September.

Anyone else finding the whole mom interview a little fishy?

SteveR said...

There must be some way to blame this on Sarah Palin.

I thought it was another post about Sarah when I saw the title. And who knows perhaps there's a few folks thinking a well timed abortion could have prevented this tragedy.

Oligonicella said...

reader_iam --

"Anyone else finding the whole mom interview a little fishy?"

If not the interview itself, her pat response. Add the constant insinuations and yeah, I agree.

Geoff Matthews said...

Robert Cook,

The primary purpose of the law is to protect society from criminals. Given what we know about residivism rates, what makes you think that this lad is reformable?

I would not be opposed to locking him up for life, solely because it appears society needs protection from him.

Eli Blake said...


I used to go to St. Johns twice a week for work, and I got to know a good cross-section of the people there (my job involved working with all kids of people.)

Yeah, there are a lot of independence minded people there but it's also a typical small town, with a people who really think of themselves as a large extended family. And they are not 'rednecks.' Both the Mormon and Catholic church are very strong there, and a lot of the social life in the community is centered on the church, but you will find a fully integrated community among at least three cultures (whites, native Americans and Hispanics like the Romero family.)

Granted, it's been a few years since I was going there regularly but I still don't think that St. Johns is all that different from most of the small towns in America-- self-sufficient yes, but hardly a 'redneck' community (and if you don't believe me-- check out the election returns from last week-- St. Johns is the county seat of the county that Obama carried by the widest margin of any in Arizona.) Whatever verbage I'd use to describe St. John's, "redneck" is not on the list.

chickenlittle said...

St. Johns is the county seat of the county that Obama carried by the widest margin of any in Arizona.

So it's still a lack of water and good people, huh ;)

Eric said...


You'd lock up an 8 year old for life? Is there any indication a child that age even understands the gravity of what he's doing? That seems extremely... er, extreme.

Freeman Hunt said...

NYT Journalist Speak:

Flyover country = redneck
Churchgoers = redneck
No tall buildings = redneck
Low population density = redneck
Guns = redneck

redneck = violent, stupid, uncivilized, gauche hick

So to them, of course some woman's use of the word "redneck" is relevant to the story. Headline:

Predictable: Redneck Boy Murders Rednecks in Redneck Town

Freeman Hunt said...

Is there any indication a child that age even understands the gravity of what he's doing?

Is there any indication that they don't understand the gravity of murder? Murderers of that age are not at all common, therefore it seems that children of that age generally do understand the gravity of such an act.

Triangle Man said...

Elitists use redneck as an epithet, rednecks use it as a term of endearment.

Robert Cook said...

Geoff Matthews:

What makes you think this (or any child) is NOT reformable? What makes you think the child needs to be reformed? As yet, we have no idea what motivated the boy to kill these two men, (assuming he did...we don't know how valid the confession is). Why would anyone think a child, who is not yet the adult he or she will become, who we know lacks the impulse control and awareness of consequences to actions that adults possess, is a threat from whom we must all be protected?

We are far too punitive a society and the result is that, rather than feeling our efforts have made us safer, we seem to grow ever more panicked and bloodthirsty, ever more eager to apply more severe and all too often permanent punishment to ever increasing categories of offenders.

I'm not in favor of simply letting the boy go, assuming he's guilty, but of trying him and applying a sentence (if he's convicted) that is just vis a vis his age and mentality. "Trying him as an adult" implies that, if convicted, he may be sentenced to prison for life. No matter what he's done, this seems grotesque and barbaric.

Donna B. said...

fls, not knowing how the name originated means not know who to apply it to today.

Rednecks and hillbillies are descendants from Scots and refer to religious and political alliances. That the names have also become attached to a demeaning stereotype is unfortunate.

It was a reply to mark o who mistook it to originate with outdoors work. Would you call a sun-burned California grape grower a redneck?

Titusistyetyeverytyetye said...

I like my freedom and independence here.

I guess I have the redneck ethic.

I never knew.

I wouldn't want to do a redneck though.

As I have mentioned I enjoy very exotic, foreign hog.

But I don't care for redneck hog. I am afraid it may smell. Also, I am concerned about showering, dental and nail trimming policies of my trick. Is the redneck concerned about proper bathing techniques?

I go back to Deliverance and a youtube video of these rednecks who were voting for Hilary. They were on a three wheeler, drunk and I couldn't understand a word they said. They had approximately 10 teeth between the three of them.

I have standards.

Titusistyetyeverytyetye said...

Also, I am concerned about the inbred factor in the redneck.

I don't want to have a child that comes from an inbred family.

john said...

Titus, you don't have to worry about having a child. You see .. "enjoying hog" is ..

never mind.

marklewin said...

Although in all liklihood this has little to nothing to do with the case in is an interesting bit of cultural psychology.

Some cultural psychologists have proposed a theory that in 'cultures of honor, insults are viewed as highly offensive public challenges which must be met with direct confrontation and physical aggression. The theory suggests that differences in the degree to which honor becomes a central part of the culture rests utlimately with economics-specifically, the manner in which food is obtained. In herding economies, one's entire stock could be lost suddenly to thieves. Cultivating a reputation as willing to respond with violent force, when publically insulted-presumably deters theives and others who might steal one's property. Some studies, for example, have found that in the U.S., Southerners and Westerners (historically using animal herding for subsistence) were more likely to endorse violence for the purpose of protection and in response to insults. Furthermore, the homicide rates in the South are higher than those in the North, particularly for murders triggered by efforts to defend one's reputation. In analog experiments using northern and southern participants, Southerners tended to write down more aggressive words than northerners who had been insulted.


walter neff said...

You know you are a redneck if you think an Althouse is where you go to take a dump.

Oh wait, that makes Michael a redneck. Sorry.

Donna B. said...

marklewin -- very interesting. How do non-Western honor traditions hold up under this theory?

marklewin said...


Support for the theory is not limited to the U.S....similar trends regarding insults and evoked aggression are observed in other countries....herding economies tend to accentuate a culture of honor relative to more settled agricultural communities.

Lem said...

Does the "redneck ethic" relate to the boy's story?

There is seething outrage in the redneck community over these allegations ;)

The blue wall of silence surrounding the this case lead me to believe young man is getting set up ;)

Siskel & Ebert review Sling Blade

Eli Blake said...

Yeah, John got it right. He describes well what I described less poorly several posts later.

The point being that I doubt if very many residents of St. Johns would consider themselves to be 'rednecks.'

And as for the kid, clearly there are some issues. Since we know nothing yet about what they are, it is a bit premature to be jumping to conclusions (that means that we shouldn't be sentencing him yet until we even know what the whole story is.)

And I imagine the story would have been the same if this same boy in his same situation had been living in Phoenix, or New York City or Mississippi or Vermont. It just happened to be in St. Johns.

Synova said...


I find it far more likely that it's not the fact that thieves can steal your stuff that makes "honor" or at least "reputation" (not at all the same things) important, but the fact that a person is less tied to a particular location. What guarantee does anyone have when dealing with them? The farmer with his plowed fields has to stay. You don't have to trust that he's honest. In fact, even if he's *dishonest*... you know where he lives.

If someone gets in a snit with a farmer and insults his or her integrity, the farmer can still do business.

The wanderer, on the other hand, has only his or her reputation.

An insult to that reputation is devastating in a way that can't be shrugged off. You can't do business. You can't get work. You can't *sell* your herd or flock if people consider you dishonest. You can't pasture your herd or flock on common lands if you have a bad reputation.

Oh, certainly, a reputation for responding forcefully to threats from thieves means that thieves might leave you alone,.. but having a good *reputation* means that you can get support from others to fight them and retrieve your property.

Also... The South is not a herding culture.

Geoff Matthews said...

You'd lock up an 8 year old for life? Is there any indication a child that age even understands the gravity of what he's doing? That seems extremely... er, extreme.

It's certainly less extreme than patricide and a double murder.

This boy killed two people who were in separate parts of a home. I have an 8 year old. He knows that it is wrong to hit people. He certainly knows that it is wrong to kill people. A mind at that age that does not know that murder is wrong? I do not want such a mind to be free during my lifetime.

What makes you think this (or any child) is NOT reformable?

We aren't talking about a kid who cheats off of his neighbor's paper. He killed two people. Yes, I'm giving the adults the benefit of the doubt that they didn't abuse him (see, there is less evidence pointing to that than pointing to the boy being a murderer). I don't want to put other people at risk for this notion that everyone should be given a chance to show that they've been reformed. Let him be reformed in prison, but don't put other people at risk so that you can prove it.

Of course, I also want prison rapists to be subjected to capital punishment, so yes, I am a harsh person. But I like to think that I'm less harsh than this boy because I've never killed anyone, much less my own father.

AlphaLiberal said...

non-Rednecks, OTOH, hate freedom and independence.


Mark O said...

This is a great day for me. Until now I always thought that being called a “redneck’ by my betters was a bad thing for me. Now, thanks to someone who thinks all things, including the former epithet “cracker,” originate in Scotland, my red neck has been turned into a farmers tan. As if. Ah, the debt I owe to city kids. Bill Cosby famously said that an intellectual is someone who reads books to learn how to do what other people just do. But, I digress. And, with that I undoubtedly lost my protagonist, but these are IQ exams. Follow along, kids.

The silly idea I had that perhaps someone could see the contempt in the article for just other people was lost and even I, a poor, Dutch cowboy can see the error of my ways. I shall now wear my red scarf proudly and await more scholarly exegesis of the profoundly irrelevant.

Lem said...

There is no way this kid kill anybody.

Synova said...

Yes, I'm giving the adults the benefit of the doubt that they didn't abuse him (see, there is less evidence pointing to that than pointing to the boy being a murderer).

Is there actually any evidence that the boy did it other than his confession?

But still... why give the adults the benefit of the doubt?

If you're going to give people the benefit of the doubt, why not give it to all parties involved?

Lem said...

The NYT is looking for "In Cold Blood" to revive its sorry ass.

Geoff Matthews said...


Why should I give the boy the benefit of the doubt when he said he did it, he was there, and he had access to the weapon?

As I said, there is more evidence to identify the boy as a double murderer then there is to paint the boy as a victim of abuse. There are some children who are sociopaths, who cannot experience empathy. I would think that killing two people at this age is a sure sign that this boy is one.

Maggie45 said...

Donna B, the 12 year old is actually from Douglas. The court is located in Bisbee, which is the Cochise County seat.

Synova said...

There are some children who are sociopaths, who cannot experience empathy. I would think that killing two people at this age is a sure sign that this boy is one.

And yet... no evidence beyond that.

No one in his small community saying that he had trouble relating to others. No child-hood friends saying he was weird. No nun describing him as troubled.

No evidence whatsoever that he's a sociopath *beyond* killing two people... and not random people either. And not his step-mother. Just the two men who both lived in his house.

And that could easily be proof, not of a failure to feel emotion, but extreme anger.

Which makes him not a sociopath at all.

I don't know why you're so reluctant to even withhold judgment over something that we have NO evidence about... but it seems very odd to me.

Geoff Matthews said...

It's odd that I have no sympathy for murderers?

You're making a lot of assumptions based on the absence of evidence. I'm making assumptions based on actual evidence. If it turns out that someone broke in, killed these two men, brainwashed the boy to believe that he did it, I'll whole-heartedly support his freedom and the counseling he'll need to recover. But all the evidence, at this time, points to him as the perpetrator. If it holds up, he should spend the rest of his days in prison.

teisho said...

.... redneck it IS !! sorry folks. inbred squatters - soon to be on american idol.