Necks Red All Over

I thought the article on El Cajon was well written and from a rounded point of view (“El Cajon,” Cover Story, March 12). It was interesting to note that the area reminded Iraqis of home, so now I can imagine what parts of Iraq must be like without having to go there!

The term “redneck” comes from the fact that the backs of farmers’ necks become red from working out in the fields all day. Growing up in the state of Alabama (which is usually viewed as more backwoods, ignorant, and redneck than it really is by the rest of the country), I certainly can understand why some people from El Cajon may take offense at the term “redneck.”

When I was a young girl in Alabama, I can remember people moving there from California who would be shocked that we actually had paved roads, wore shoes, and had buildings with central heat and air-conditioning.

Redneck is a trait that isn’t located in one specific area of the country — it seems to be a way of life. Some of the common characteristics of rednecks that you can find just about anywhere in this country are jacked-up trucks; cars with useless, fake racing gear on them; low education; limited vocabulary; fear of “strangers”; ultraconservatism; and fear of change. I’m sure that if the term “redneck” could be socially defined, you would find them around the entire world.

However, I have lived in a dozen states and traveled through just about all of them and must say that nowhere else besides El Cajon and East County have I ever seen trucks with plastic testicles hanging off the back. Now, that’s pretty darn redneck! So El Cajon, you might as well embrace the term and learn to accept it.

Kathryn Estes
via email

Story Needs More Color

Regarding Bill Manson’s El Cajon opus (Cover Story, March 12): How could someone debate a city’s redneck “cred” without inspecting how this alleged mentality affects its African-American residents? Ask the local black folks what it’s like to live here, how they were received when they moved to town, how their kids feel about it, and so on.

When I first moved to San Diego in 1979, El Cajon was considered a redneck magnet (“Get out of El Cajon by sundown,” a coworker once cracked), but on a lower scale than Santee (I once lived there for several months and don’t recall seeing another black person, other than the mailman) and certainly not Lakeside, which was Klan country.

Had Manson dug deep and indulged in real journalism instead of trying to write an essay and toss himself into the story every chance he got, he would have unearthed this: The American Community Survey estimate from 2005-2007 (found on census.gov) put the El Cajon African-American population at 7.1 percent. That means you’re more likely to run into a black person in El Cajon than San Francisco. That percentage is up from the 5.4 from the 2000 census. Quite an amazing hike in a short time, especially since, let’s face it: When most people think of El Cajon, blacks don’t come to mind.

A better, more interesting angle to this story would have been El Cajon’s changing face, not some self-promoting tale that was twice as long as it needed to be. The redneck or not aspect could have easily been woven into the story. Not only would it have been fun to read, but people would have actually learned something. Gee, what a concept.

Tony Cooper

On Life Support

This is in response to the story written by Sandra Keener, on downtown, entitled “Second Worse,” from March 19, 2009. On the next page (46), when referring to an affordable housing project proposal, she asks, “What exactly is supportive housing?” Here is your answer.

Think about some of the types of people who live in affordable housing in the downtown area. Many of them are mentally/physically/developmentally disabled, struggle with substance abuse, have been on-and-off homeless, former foster kids or runaways who are now adults, etc. Most have no family nearby to help or are estranged from them, so they have little or nothing in the way of a support system. They may not have the simple skills that others take for granted; skills that are required in order to maintain their housing and the finances to pay for it.

Supportive housing helps to keep these individuals from losing their housing and ending up back on the streets again. This involves many things, such as life skills training, mental health counseling, employment skills, medical referrals, etc. The support staff goes out of their way to help these individuals any way they can. Some even help them clean their apartment if the person is physically or mentally not able to do so. They are a godsend and worth much more than the pay they receive. I believe they’re funded by the government as part of the “end homelessness in ten years” program. I am very grateful for the services they provide.

Name Withheld by Request
via email

Graphic Novel Time Waster

Once again, Duncan Shepherd wastes everyone’s time reviewing a movie based on a comic book or comic book characters (Movie Review, March 12). It is seriously doubtful that there is a single person with even the most transitory awareness of Shepherd’s reviews who would think that for even one second he would give Watchmen anything other than a black dot. Shepherd is as predictable as he is dense.

Shepherd demonstrates open disdain for the medium of comics. When others call Watchmen the most celebrated graphic novel of all time, Shepherd snidely equates the comic medium with reality TV or MMA fighting. At least Shepherd is honest enough to admit his bias.

Again this begs the question: why bother having Shepherd review such films as Watchmen or The Dark Knightwhen he’s going to automatically give them a black dot? Apparently Shepherd is some sort of fixture at the Reader, his longevity there somehow lending his spew a gravitas far beyond its merit. Not only is Shepherd’s taste in films elitist and narrow, but he indulges himself by wasting entire columns verbally maundering on about a favorite actor or some mentor who taught him how to be full of himself. On the other hand, such asides as Shepherd is given to could be said to be about as much use to the average moviegoer as his reviews are themselves.

As assuredly as the sun will rise in the morning and set at night, Shepherd will continue to pan movies based on comics. It is conceivable that some might even find comfort in this.

David A. Lathrap
Pacific Beach

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