03 September 2008

In praise of big-town America

I grew up in a small town too, Sarah. Mine was a bit bigger than yours, around 17,000 residents, but then again we didn't even have a mayor. Being an old New England town, we had Selectmen. But you know what? Despite my humble beginnings, I'm not an elitist snob.

You are. Why is that?

You devalue the experiences of urban dwellers, coastal denizens, and the cosmopolitan citizens of this great land, as though we're not "real Americans."

The 18 million people who live in the greater New York metro area are somehow less authentic than the Iowa farmer or Montana miner.

The 18 million people who live in the greater Los Angeles metro area are somehow less American than the Alaska oilman or Colorado rancher.

The families large and small, young couples starting out, and unwed mothers in Boston and Miami, Chicago and Dallas, and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul don't matter. Only the soccer mom from Berryville, Arkansas or the hockey mom from Wasilla, Alaska matter.

Time and again, your party accuses Barack Obama of being an elitist. Time and again your party accuses tens of millions of Americans of being elitists. But what could be more elitist than insisting the experiences of the small-town few are more valid than those of the majority?

I can't blame you for this; this battle is as old as our republic. Jefferson and Hamilton fought over the same ground, over the same definition of America. In the end, Jefferson's gentlemen farmers lost to Hamilton's bankers and industrialists. They lost in blood and pain and death in a war pitting brother against brother. But still you and your fellow travelers fight on, trying to turn back the clock and make an America that never was.

I frankly am tired of the fight. You lost. You lost over a hundred and forty years ago.

The South did rise again: in financial centers like Charlotte, North Carolina; industrial centers like Spring Hill, Tennessee; and tech centers like Huntsville, Alabama. What won't rise again is your brand of small-town elitism.

You are as much an American as I; no more no less. You are as much an American as Barack Obama; no more, no less.

A final thought: the next time you find yourself in your hometown, stop in at Pataya Sushi for a California roll. When you're done, take a short ride down Highway 3 to the Starbucks and have a latte. Don't be afraid of the steamed milk and espresso: it's as American as pizza and poi, teriyaki and tacos.

10 comments:

2old4this said...

Ah Hell, CS, you shoulda left out that last paragraph. It kinda killed your argument. You and I both know that a person from a Norman Rockwell sort of town would never spend $5 for a $2 cup of coffee. That sort of asininity is peculiar to urban and suburban social climbers far outside of the social circles of Ms. Palin.

I agree with you as a mere point of fact though. Urban, Suburban, Rural, we are all Americans and none can really claim the flag for themselves. To try and do so is arrogant as you point out.

But I perceive her comments as a retort more than anything else.
In that spirit, I say that you seem to think that backwoods hicks should stay in the woods, clinging to their bibles and guns. You know, that sure seems to be the Obamessiah's outlook and he took the first shot.

This battle will never end I think, and though it can be tiresome, it sure does make for some funny jokes!

BTW, I am so far behind on reading and writing blog stuff. I have much to catch up on.

R.A. Porter said...

See, I'm not sure that the last paragraph really does kill it. It seems to me that a town of 6K or so people that can support three sushi places and a Starbucks must have people who actually go to them. And if the regular folks of Wasilla, AK keep their sushi and Starbucks running, wouldn't it make sense that the mayor would be one of them?

I wasn't joking about those locales. Here's Pataya Sushi and here's the Starbucks.

*Someone* is Wasilla is going to those places. Where I sit, that makes them part of the fabric of small-town America as much as they're part of large-town America's fabric.

seeker65 said...

Good post and solid arguments. She's stubbornly believes the values and traditions she grew up with are the only "right" ones. IMHO - She worries me and I don't want her one un-defibulated heartbeat away from the presidency.

2old4this said...

Well crap the first sentence went right past me!

I also learned something about myself here too.
When I read your reply that there's a Starbucks in Palin's hometown, I recoiled! I mean I was damn disgusted. "Oh Hell, those bastards have even managed to mind fuck a neat little town like...Uh Oh."
Well I find that I am in fact one of the folks you were describing now ain't I (why do we bother with an apostrophe in ain't)? I mean, yeah I'm fairly conservative and I really hate cities, but I always figured that basically "people are people."
For example, try to tell me with a straight face that there's something more intrinsically American about a Kansas farmer than a NYC fireman. C'mon, try it.

And now my knee jerk is to be offended that there's a limp wristed, Volvo drivin' quiche eatin' overpriced, insufferably pretentious Starbucks in a dinky, redneck, gap tooth, backwater type town?
Kinda goes against what I thought was my own opinion eh?

Guess I have more work to do on myself.

R.A. Porter said...

We all have work to do on ourselves. I know I do. Recognizing it is the key. Swooning in nostalgia for a time that never was...that's the problem.

Jared said...

Well put, they should link to this from dailykos.com

Now, if someone would just explain to me exactly what it is that the vice-president does, I'll point out an Alaskan governor incapable of performing that job.

R.A. Porter said...

Well, deciding vote in the Senate, President Pro-tem of the Senate, and...

um...

they go to funerals a lot.

And of course, succession. So she'd be one feeble heartbeat away from the Oval Office.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

First-time reader, first-time poster, R.A., though I think I've seen you around Ken Levine's blog too, which I visit everyday.

Regarding this:

Well, deciding vote in the Senate, President Pro-tem of the Senate, and...

um...

they go to funerals a lot.


There's a great book called "The Warm Bucket Brigade," by Jeremy Lott, all about the vice presidency and the men that had served.

The first surprising fact from the book is that there's actually a United States Vice Presidential Museum, in Huntington, Indiana.

Ready for the laugh? It's housed within the Dan Quayle Center.

R.A. Porter said...

@rory, yeah I've seen you around Ken's blog as well. Thank you for my laugh for the day!

Kari said...

Amen, R.A. So well stated. As one of the small-town born & raised (pop. 7,000-something) who's now lived in two of the biggest cities, I see much to love and appreciate and laugh at in each. And I've met people with plenty of pretensions in them all. But to call one more authentically American than another is divisive in a way that does no one any good, on either side. So I'll take my Starbucks iced vanilla latte along with my VFW hotdog and be glad I have the opportunity to enjoy them both.