Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fully Framing Farmers

Maybe I’m getting older, but this year seemed a down one for super bowl commercials. Budweiser turned in a few clunkers featuring a man who may or may not have been Stevie Wonder*. Go Daddy decided that tasteless was not enough and just went for straight out stupid. And Audi, along with Hyundai and others, simply recycled previously aired spots. The one commercial that did manage to stick with me, however, was a “Dodge Ram: the pickup truck for farmers, for America” spot.**

*Update: he was. And who better to represent a New Orleans voodoo master than a son of Saginaw, MI?
**Let’s not even get started with the USO/Oprah/Jeep commercial.

The erstwhile member of Detroit’s big three spent two minutes making like a presidential hopeful in January and kowtowing to the fictional archetype of the farmer that exits only in two or three households and a trove of John Cougar Mellencamp records. The commercial featured a pro-farming political speech from the Carter era, playing the spoken words over still shots of (what we are supposed to believe passes for) everyday farm life. The opening line from Paul Harvey’s speech sums the whole thing up pretty nicely:

“And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.”

I’m not here to pass judgment on Dodge’s spot (thought some have pointed out similarities with an earlier YouTube video). They can try to convince you to buy their cars pretty much however they want. Far more damaging than unscrupulous capitalism in this case is the false idolization of those who by their blood and sweat feed us are just like the rest of us and try to make as much money at their job as they can.

Farmers aren’t particularly productive, resilient, or independent people. As a group, they take over $8 billion annually in government handouts. They push inferior energy products and call for tariffs on competing (and possibly better) alternatives. They drive down food prices abroad, suppressing production capacity in foreign countries and they just don’t really care.

And farmers certainly aren’t caretakers. They spray the land with fertilizer, spray it again with pesticide, and then wonder why their soil blows away. They extract everything they can from the land until it has nothing more to give they poison the water.

So what are farmers? Maybe not scum, but certainly no better than your friendly lawyer or Halliburton executive. Nowadays farmers are just a great way to trash the earth, grab a piece of the political pie, and maybe, just maybe, sell some trucks.

I know it’s not in The Bible or anything, but I’m pretty sure that on the eight day, God made a sandwich.


Keep it civil.