The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



A celebration, not a defamation

Mick Hammock | Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I am recent graduate of Class of 2013, an alumnus of Knott Hall and the founder of the Knott Hall Americana Dance. When I read Grace Chiarella’s comments on what is unarguably the best dance at Notre Dame (‘SYR themes disrespect rural poverty,’ Oct. 14,) I felt compelled to respond – after all, no one knows the ins-and-outs of this dance better than I do.

As it is written in Matthew 10, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your father knowing.” I daresay the Americana Dance is worth more than a multitude of sparrows to its father, and so I must try to justify my dance to you, although I run the definite risk of my seeds falling on sallow ground.

Your first incorrect assumption you make is that “rednecks, hillbillies and white trash” is equivalent to “7.5 million Americans living in rural poverty.” This is laughable. If you turn on the television to A&E, there’s a definite chance that you will run into one of the top television shows of our time, Duck Dynasty. These hardworking, camouflage-bearing Americans, who by your definition are “dressed in accordance with the very stereotypes this [Appalachia seminar] attempts to invalidate” are, once again in your words, “rednecks, hillbillies and white trash.” You would be incorrect, and in fact, prejudiced yourself if you believe this to be true. The main character, Willie, is worth over $20 million from a business that his family built from the ground up, is supported by a loving family and has an inspiring and outspoken relationship with Jesus Christ. Instead of pitying or making fun of these living stereotypes, these “rednecks, hillbillies or white trash,” (again, your words, I daresay that they provide us with a blueprint for how to live a successful and happy life.)

The second point I want to make (and I feel embarrassed that I even have to explain this) is that the Knott Hall Americana Dance is a celebration, a celebration “of love, of community” and, yes, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This isn’t a clumsily thought-out jab at those less fortunate than we are – give me some credit. It’s a celebration of a distinct culture that makes our country great. It’s held in the RV Hall of Fame to celebrate the great American tradition of exploration, reminiscent of the historic journey Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea (although this seems like an idea you’d disdain, equating it with manifest destiny). We wear jean shorts, cutoffs and flannels in the spirit of the myriad of industries that made America great: Manufacturing, mining, lumber and, yes, cutoffs, since to me, they represent the distinctly American spirit of ingenuity and not bowing to authority.

Surprise! We wear distinctly American clothes while celebrating America – would you rather us celebrate our American heritage by wearing German leiderhosen or sombreros? We are here to unite under one cultural umbrella, not divide ourselves into warring victimizing factions. Here’s another fact for you: We even sell tickets to this dance at a net loss of thousands of dollars to our dorm, ensuring that all students have access to this great Knott Hall tradition.

Operating over budget … What’s more American than that?


Mick Hammock
Class of 2013
Oct. 16