God Made a Farmer? The Rest of the Story.

Via elephant journal
on Feb 4, 2013
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god made a farmer harvey ram super bowl

“You know what the news is, in a minute you’re going to hear the rest of the story.”
~ Paul Harvey

The below mini-essay was left as a comment from one “Amanda” on my blog about the best Super Bowl commercial, last night. We’ve asked the author if we might share and credit, and will update when we here back. But for now, here ’tis, it’s already on the other blog, but this is too beautiful and true and sad and important not to share more widely.

One final note: this represents the kind of web 2.0 give-and-take that comments offer—not merely anonymous insults and trolling, name-calling and degraded opinion-festering…but real beauty and feeling. ~ Waylon Lewis, ed.


I grew up in a small town, about 15K in population if you counted every cow in the valley.

Every morning a little red light on the automatic coffee maker would pierce the darkness at exactly 6:00 AM (which felt like the middle of the night to me), and I’d hear my dad walk in the kitchen, pour his first cup of coffee and turn on the radio. Paul Harvey‘s voice thus wafted into my bedroom regularly, and, along with the smell of fresh brewed Folgers, became a thread in the fabric of my childhood. I didn’t know anything about Paul Harvey’s politics, but I loved the way he owned a pregnant pause.

Did Dodge sell trucks on the strength of Harvey’s voice last night? Probably not to farmers – those who are left likely declared themselves Chevy or Ford men 50 years ago. Probably not to those of us who consider ourselves “farm-friendly” either—we’re buying hybrids or bikes and hoping someone else can drive when we actually go visit farms. Nope, that ad was probably targeted at suburban middle America, those who might need a Dodge Ram for Costco runs or to trailer their “toy haulers” to the lake. The ad “celebrated” farmers in the same way that other Super Bowl ads “celebrated” military families by waving the flag and tugging at our collective heartstrings, even as they gloss over the real pain and effects of war-making.

(Not that it doesn’t work, I choked up during Jeep’s “Whole Again” ad…

…and cheered every single time Harvey said, “God made a farmer”!)

What was a revelation to me about the farmer ad was that in memorializing and purporting to celebrate farm families and their way of life, the ad highlighted the fact that they’re gone. We all know the short version of that history—Earl Butz said get big or get out, and they did. And during that painful transition, rural America emptied out into the cities, giant companies took control of the inputs to, infrastructure surrounding and distribution of farm products, and we made a massive cultural shift toward suburbanization and all that goes with it.

I think hearing Paul Harvey’s voice and seeing those pictures of those incredible farmers and their families struck a collective chord because it catalyzed us to recognize another milestone in the hollowing out of our society. Where now are the men who are strong enough to plow a field straight, have the integrity to not cut corners, and are gentle enough to splint a bird’s leg? They aren’t carrying a “murse” and pulling cappuccinos in the city, that’s for sure. Nor are there many of them in public office. And they’re certainly not wrapping themselves in the flag and listening to Rush Limbaugh. They, and they ideals they represented, have largely been emasculated or made obsolete.

That way of life wasn’t perfect and I don’t mean to idealize it. There wasn’t room for minority voices of pretty much any kind in that world, and I personally would prefer to be with a man willing to partner in more ways than the simple gender-based division of labor allowed. But as a society I think we miss the human connection that came from doing physical work side by side, and then sitting together at dinner, feeling exhausted and productive.

I think that commercial wasn’t about trucks or farmers, I think it was about us and what we miss about being connected to each other.

And that, my friends, is the rest of the story.


Bonus: a followup comment from another elephant reader to the above:

Good for you – you saw right through the commercial aspects…

I grew up on a farm where the alarm clock was set at 4:30 although it wasn;t a clock, it was my grandfather responding to the need to milk our cows. And he taught me to plant good seeds and care for the ground around them and – in due season, you will be rewarded. Now, at 83+ years of age, I am beginning to catch on to all that he taught me.

Oh yes, Paul Harvey. His thoughts linger on waiting for others to slow down a bit and take hold of all that he had to say.


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10 Responses to “God Made a Farmer? The Rest of the Story.”

  1. […] Update: click here for the best thing I’ve read on elephant in forever: the rest of the story. […]

  2. DaveTelf says:

    yes! I saw and loved this comment too, and shared it with the other more, shall we say, pessimistic, perhaps, less eloquent commenters on my Paul Harvey post.

    Amanda is awesome!

  3. kmacku says:

    Jeep ads are great at pulling the heart strings. They had an ad back in 2011 that I'm still convinced is one of the best ads of all time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mi0SbrrGaiw

  4. karlsaliter says:

    Beautiful piece.

  5. integralhack says:

    Oh for craps sake, American farmers aren't "gone." I have a few that are friends. Yes, there are fewer of them. Some of them are cool and others do "wrap themselves up in the flag" and listen to Rush Limbaugh . . . or they used to listen to the saccharine Rush Limbaugh of yesteryear known as Paul Harvey.

    BTW, there are still construction workers, loggers (yes, fewer of them too), machinists and laborers of all sorts that don't carry murses or cappuccinos (that would mean the apocalypse, certainly). These folks don't capture the same pastoral imagery but I'm sure the romanticism can be pulled off in time for the next Superbowl.

    What really gets me though is when it is stated that "I think that commercial wasn’t about trucks or farmers, I think it was about us and what we miss about being connected to each other."

    No, it was all about *selling* trucks and that includes us, as consumers, and our ability to be manipulated by advertisers who might recognize things like our need for greater connection.

  6. raven says:

    You guys! Come. On. This feels like the Zombie Apocalypse. How is it that you are all so eager to pick up on the syrupy schlock?! It's very quaint – the coffee, the cows as part of the population, all that. You're helping everyone's superbowl buzz continue a little longer, but I think that's about it… You make some helpful points here Amanda, but I'm so not comfortable with this being "the rest of the story." "Those incredible farmers" were acting out a mandate orchestrated by the usury economic system… loans that demanded to be paid with interest. It makes everyone in competition with each other for never enough money, turns family into a desperate affair, and makes nature and her bounty into a commodity to be plundered with ever increasing precision and ruthlessness. This mandate continues with exponential vigour today, and under the cover of sentimentality is advanced and asserted by this ad.

    I would say that your sentiment masks the pain of the lifestyle you and your family lived growing up. Sure there was love, but the love was there DESPITE the fact that your dad had to go out and work so hard. Those men who were willing to plow a field straight were scared of bankruptcy, and as it turned out, were forced to do whatever the industry and the financial markets prescribed. The paradigm was doomed to emasculation and obsolescence from the start as it was a worldview based in separation from and domination over nature (not to mention the racist, sexist and gender based pigeon holing that helps people numb the pain of what they are doing). We need a sober look at this because it's still here. The fact that we can see it, that we can see that we have been doing harm – this is a good sign.. it heralds the possibility of the realization of interconnectedness. However, if the truck companies get their way, we'll see a "cultural shift" that makes "suburbanization" look like the height of sanity.

    Yes .. we need to reestablish connection, yes we need to come upon warmth. Yes we need physical excercise and contribution. We drastically need all those things and we need them now… but they won't be found in sentiment, and they won't be found by remaining ignorant to the roots of "the hollowing out of our society"! Perpetuating the sentiment as this response does furthurs our isolation.

    You say, "I think that commercial wasn't about trucks or farmers," I agree … I think it is powerful propaganda to advance the aims and objectives of the corporatist state – namely, to keep people high and compliant while community and the planet is strip mined – turned into money. You say "I think it was about us and what we miss about being connected to each other" It's cute that you interpret it that way, but if we don't wake up to the impilcations of what's being asserted here and root them out, connection will be ever elusive, and the pain will be glossed over with more sentiment, more superbowls while our children continue to be forced into mere nostalgia about their absent fathers.


  7. […] is Funny Or Die’s take on the, well, “heartland-cowboy-hat-pandering-let’s sell you a truck” Super Bowl […]

  8. karlsaliter says:

    Excellent parody of the commercial here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/02/god-made-a
    And I'm not just sayin' that because its my post.

    Raven, I'm with you, by the way.

  9. helpfulpaper says:

    It's interestign how deep the ads merged into our culture and consciousness. Intended at branding, they become a part of our childhood memories and touch upon our heart strings. Really nice share

  10. Thomus Rose says:

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