In 1966, Mao Zedong launched his “Cultural Revolution.” He decided that Red China’s greatest enemy was tradition. He made war on what he called “The Four Olds.” These consisted of old ideas, old customs, old culture, and old habits.
It seems the left in America is borrowing Mao’s old ideas. In the name of changing the “racist” culture, it is attacking the restaurant chain, Cracker Barrel.
“The Old Country Store”
Indeed, Cracker Barrel is an American version of Mao’s Four Olds. Their buildings look like rustic farmhouses on steroids, with rocking chairs on an extended front porch. Their menus consist of fare designed to make visitors think of Sunday dinner at Grandma’s. The walls resemble a cross-section of America’s attics, featuring old photographs, tools, and signs for products that have not been produced since the Truman Administration. Even on the hottest summer day, a fire crackles in the large stone fireplace.
The “Fast Facts” page on the corporate web site sums up the intended effect. “When our founder, Dan Evins, opened the first Cracker Barrel [in 1969], he was passionate about recreating the old country stores from his childhood…. Crackers used to be delivered to those old country stores in barrels, and people would congregate around them to discuss the news of the day…. Since the restaurant was meant to help people reconnect with friends and family over a good meal, it was a fitting name.”
The menu does tend toward Southern dishes – country-fried steak and catfish are prominent features. This stands to reason since the corporation is based in Tennessee. Yankee pot roast, Great Lakes perch and New England boiled dinners are not on the menu. Frappuccino is unavailable. There is not an avocado in sight.
Attacking America’s Past
This vague Southern-ness is now drawing the left’s wrath. According to an article on the BPR (bizpacreview) website, the campaign began with a Twitter entry by “Diversity and Inclusion Advocate” April Reign.
April’s opening shot at Cracker Barrel was typical. “Open the door to a Cracker Barrel and you get a whiff of Jim Crow. And biscuits.” One of April’s respondents shot back. “Y’all ever walk in a place that just FEELS racist?” Another entry reads, “Cracker Barrel feels like walking in a place that was just desegregated three hours prior but the breakfast is okay.”
The dialogue over the racist feel is having some traction on social media. It does not take much for something like this to go viral in the present atmosphere of tension. From one moment to the next, Cracker Barrel could be impacted and even boycotted for the crime of “feeling” racist.
Feelings are More Important than Facts
The desire to find racism inside the restaurant goes to great extremes. Some leftists interpret the restaurant’s name as racist. They claim the term “cracker” refers not to the biscuit but the pejorative term referring to a poor Southern white. This is at odds with the idea in Mr. Evins’s mind when he founded the restaurant. It makes no sense that he would name a business with a derogatory term that would offend both white and black customers.
Nor can a serious historian of the African-American experience argue with Cracker Barrel’s décor or menu. The front porch rocker is just as much a part of the rural black experience as it is of the rural white. Often the framed photographs found in Cracker Barrel locations depict black men and women.
The Cracker Barrel menu shares many items in common with those of “soul food” restaurants. According to Wikipedia’s “Soul Food” entry, typical meals features fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, fried okra, and cornbread, all staples at Cracker Barrel. Nor does Cracker Barrel have any history of discrimination. African-Americans are frequently seen in their dining rooms, both as staff and guests.
Small Things Can Possess Great Meaning
The Cracker Barrel attack illustrates the current tensions that are tearing America apart. To the left, anything that speaks of tradition, family, and American heritage is suspect. Cracker Barrel points to all three.
Therefore, it must be resisted. In the modern world of leftist indignation, the facts are often irrelevant. The emotion – the “feeling” – is the essential factor. Emotions are more easily communicated than facts. Emotions carry an instant charge. They are hard to engage with rational arguments. Facts must be analyzed and understood.
Celebrating Tradition and Family
Cracker Barrel represents a threat because it evokes memories of family and tradition. A taste of chicken and dumplings “just like grandma used to make” can turn the mind to other thoughts of grandma – and of the principles and values that grandma represented.
Mao understood this. He ordered that the items that represented “the Four Olds” destroyed. As long as these things existed, they beckoned to Chinese society to return to the old order. Nostalgia for any aspect of the world before Mao had to be stamped out.
That is why the debate over Cracker Barrel is important. There is now an organized attempt to bring down all statutes, rewrite all history and restructure American society in the line of a Marxist ideal based on class struggle. The wholesome aspects of the “Four Olds” are the best defense against this Cultural Revolution. Things like Cracker Barrel are on the front line.