Small Town Thinking, Climate Change, and Smoking Cigars

  • What people in small-town Oklahoma think;
  • Today’s headlines about the effects of climate change;
  • A lagniappe about Republicans who need to smoke their cigars; and recalling the assumptions of 1940s science fiction by Isaac Asimov.

We coastal elites are sensitive to dismissing the middle states of the US as mere flyover states, but really, people, you need to try a bit harder, you people who say things like these.

NY Times, guest essay by Scott Ellsworth, 14 Jun 2024: Where There’s a Trump Highway but Not Many Trump Flags

The writer, a historian who grew up in Oklahoma, visits Cimarron County, “at the very tip” of the Oklahoma Panhandle.

“I don’t watch Fox News — I thought they went way too liberal during the last election.” The speaker was Clint Twombly, a former Border Patrol agent who is running for sheriff. Standing inside the cinder-block building where the Boise City Rotary Club meets every Wednesday at noon, Mr. Twombly delivered his first ever campaign speech.

Like most of the locals I talked with, he dismissed any concerns over global warming. Instead, he said, climate change is all about “somebody trying to sell a book and make money, rather than anything to do with science.” As for the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, he said that “all in all, it seemed to me fairly innocuous.” Mr. Twombly was unaware that any police officers had died after the attack.

OK… setting sarcasm aside. The point of the essay is that the folks there aren’t necessarily Trump supporters either, despite the naming of that highway. “But voting for the Democratic alternative is unthinkable.” So what do they believe in, or know? Anything? They’re all Christian. They like “independence.” Democrats pass too many laws and don’t enforce the ones they have. They’re cooperative among one another, but seemingly unaware about how their, er, lifestyle is supported by all those outsiders they dislike.

Yet there’s also a cooperative, looking-out-for-your-neighbor spirit here that’s deep, genuine and anything but self-centered. When grass fires broke out in New Mexico in 2019, Boise City residents, on their own initiative, rushed pallets of Gatorade and bottled water, as well as clean socks and snacks, to the fire crews, Mr. Odell told me.

The people of Cimarron County are less independent than they may profess to be for another reason as well: The big farms and ranches that fuel the county’s economy depend on federal subsidies. “In Cimarron County, without the assistance of federal programs,” Mr. Odell said, “these big farms would evaporate.” Dollars paid by American taxpayers, as well as precious water pumped from the Ogallala aquifer, are what keep the farms and ranches, and everything else, in business.

I’m used to thinking about conservatives who connect via social media bubbles, reinforcing each other’s prejudices about wokeness and science and democracy, but this example seems to be about people who are completely off the map. An anthropological gem, perhaps: an example of a perfect, inbred, frontier, tribal culture, that suspects and resists all outsider influence.

There are a lot of such communities all across the nation, of course. They have inordinate voter influence given our senatorial system. But overall, they’re a tiny minority of people, compared to the multicultural societies — or society, perhaps — of America’s big cities. America is exceptional in that way — it’s a mix of all degrees of human social orders, likely more so than any other nation on Earth.


Presumably no one in that town pays attention to news outside their community.

These are just some headlines from today.


The religious simpletons interpret such news according to their ancient stories and personal prejudices.

Joe.My.God, via Family Research Council, 17 Jun 2024: Tony Perkins: Severe Storms Are “Divine Displeasure”


Lagniappe, of a sort.

Joe.My.God: GOP Pressures Johnson To Restore Capitol Cigar Room, citing Axios: Scoop: GOP smokes Johnson over loss of Capitol cigar space

Cigars?? Who smokes cigars any more? (I can’t remember the last time I saw or smelled anyone smoking a cigar.) Why, conservatives of course, never mind the ban on smoking in the US Capitol. “We desperately need a place to smoke cigars,” says Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma).

This is a lagniappe, rather than just a garden variety example of weird conservative behavior, because this recalls my reading of science fiction from the 1940s, in particular by Isaac Asimov, in which he took men smoking cigars for granted. He naively projected this behavior into the far future of his stories and novels, as I discussed in three posts. Ironically, Asimov himself detested smoking.

About his Lucky Starr young adult novels: “All the men smoke pipes or cigars.”

About Foundation: “Everyone (well, the men, since there are barely any women in this book) smokes cigars.”

And in this overview of reading Asimov’s early work:

Yet, after all these years, re-reading these stories, the first and most obvious thing to say is that many of these stories, especially those written at the very beginning of Asimov’s career, from 1939 and into the early 1940s, display crude pulp techniques that are embarrassing by contemporary standards. In particular, his characters were exaggerated and he was given to overuse of dramatic adverbs: characters are always speaking “savagely” or “viciously”; they drop their cigars (yes) to the floor in alarm; they pound their fists on the table in emphasis.

Followed by some specific examples from two early Robot stories.

Now, this is just an example of how even science fiction writers, speculating as they do technological developments into the far future, do not necessarily recognize that social standards will change as well. The latter is a much more difficult thing to do, since changes in social standards tend to be random.

Yet it’s also an example of how every progressive social trend will be resisted by some.

This entry was posted in conservatives, Culture, science fiction. Bookmark the permalink.