Jed Clampett and Rethinking the American Dream

August 11, 2008

Contributed By Harold S. Witkov

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin crude.

Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.

Well the first thing you know ol Jed's a millionaire,
Kinfolk said "Jed move away from there"
Said "Californy is the place you ought to be"
So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly.

Hills, that is. Swimmin pools, movie stars.

Old Jed Clampett sure had me fooled. As a young baby boomer, I thought the Clampetts were living the American Dream. Only in America could an impoverished mountain family just outside Bugtussle, Arkansas strike it rich, move to a Beverly Hills mansion, and enjoy the good life.

Now, however, I find myself asking challenging questions about Jed and his family. Did the Clampetts live the American Dream, or were they, in fact, un-American?

To begin with, we all know about that day when Jed took his bloodhound Duke hunting for some food, shot and missed some critter and inadvertently discovered oil on his land. What we do not know, however, speaks volumes. For instance, did Jed have a hunting license and a permit for his gun? Was that destined day during the hunting season? Was the varmint he shot at an endangered species? Why was Duke not properly leashed?

What about the oil leak caused by the stray bullet? Did it damage the environment? What about the eventual oil well? Did anyone do a study as to whether it would have a negative impact on the local possum, muskrat, and crawdad wildlife population? Did Jed care that his oil well might blemish the mountain view of his Ozark neighbors?

Once he moved to his Beverly Hills mansion, did Jed Clampett ever take the time to ask himself the question "Does the move from a mountain cabin to a Beverly Hills mansion have a negative impact on the global environment?" Did he understand the carbon footprint his new mansion would create, or worse, did he care? What kind of light bulbs did the Clampett mansion burn?

The truth is, Jed Clampett and his family lived the Old American Dream, the one with all the materialistic trappings (big house, money in the bank, prosperous lifestyle). If he were a true American of today, Jed would have torn down the mansion, properly inflated the tires and tuned-up the old truck (better gas mileage), skedaddled back to the mountain cabin, and shut down the oil well forever.

Surprisingly, Jed's nephew Jethro once sensed the coming of the New American Dream (the one with zero materialistic trappings). Even though success would no doubt destroy the family oil business, Jethro once tried to invent a pill to run the Clampett's old truck by waterpower. As an alternative energy inventor, Jethro was a complete failure. However, with thinking like that, Jethro Bodine proved he was way ahead of his time. Today, a man like that could be the next President.

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