What McCain and Palin offer is a chance to indulge in the ugliest aspects of small town culture. It's a heady opportunity to sneer at the achievements of those who have excelled. It's an open offer to stand at the political podium and throw trash at those leftist extremists who actually think that everyone is just as American and just as patriotic as Jane and Jimmy Middleamerica. It's an exciting enticement to wallow in public hate flavored with the forbidden spice of racism.Read the whole thing by expanding:
Small Town Values
Sun Sep 14, 2008 at 06:00:05 AM PDT
It's a joke that probably goes back to the folks who settled outside that upstart new city of Ur. Some city slicker -- one of those Euphrates coast elitists -- comes out to farm country and thinks he's going to pull one over on the locals. Two hours later, the fast-talking urbanite finds himself standing out in a field hunting the rare Mesopotamian snipe while the rural folks gather around a barrel of ale to laugh.
Having come from a small town, I can tell you that these jokes have lost none of their appeal to folks who live away from the bright-lights, big-city centers. Heck, there's a big chunk of our national culture built around these ideas. It's been the backbone of television shows and movies from Green Acres to Doc Hollywood. And small town folks are not without some justification in rolling their eyes over their antics of their city neighbors.
I've had plenty of chances to see how folks from large cities think about the country. I've watched people pass up some terrific opportunities when those opportunities were located in towns of of less than fifty thousand people. I've seen them snicker about the kind of people that could live in such a place. When you hear someone like Sarah Palin talk about "small town values" and see people across the country nod in agreement, it's because they feel that all those "fly over" states are too often lumped into one big pot of losers, and that even when some big city type deigns to make a pitstop somewhere between East Coast and West, they wouldn't think of stepping into the pig shit they're sure covers the streets of every town whose population is a notch under a million.
What is there to do in a small town? The same thing there is in a large city. There are the same books, the same movies, the same sports, and for the most part the same social activities. There's also ready access to wilderness and outdoor activities that folks from the cities often drive for hours to find. What's not there in small towns? Well, for the most part there aren't any night clubs where people are going to be impressed by your ride or your suit, and the local selection of shoes probably doesn't include anything being worn this week on the CW (and if that's how you judge the sort of place you want to live, then frankly I'd just as soon you stay in the city).
The people at the GOP convention weren't able to define small town values when pressed on the subject, but I can give you my definition: small town values mean judging people more on their actions, and less on their possessions.
But there's a flip side to this, a nasty counter current that's all too stir.
Sticking up for your small town can very quickly go from not wanting to be looked down on by urbanites, to believing that cities are populated by an admix of "elitist snobs" and "welfare queens." Defending the things close to you can turn into attacking the things you've not had the opportunity to participate in, even when those things are as valuable as world travel, a top quality education from one of those "elite Ive League" shools, and wide-randing experience with people of different social and ethnic backgrounds. Being a local booster can easily become parochialism. Cheering on those like yourself is nothing but the first step into bigotry.
Many conservatives have been enthralled over the last decade with some of the statements from Bill Cosby. They like Cosby's damnation of the culture adopted by some poor inner city African-Americans (who rural conservatives believe make up the vast majority of urbanites). Cosby's assault on "funny names" and "gangsta" culture serve as confirmation for everything that conservatives have ever believed: blacks have as much chance as anyone, they just throw away their opportunities. Nowhere is this more readily accepted than in small towns, because the next stop from sticking up for yourself, is looking down on someone else. Cosby's words fit like a hand inserted into the glove of every pre-conception small town folks ever had about the big city.
And that's the "small town values" that John McCain and Sarah Palin evoke. It's not an appeal to the ideals of people who generally make less and have less than their urban relatives. It's not a call to equality regardless of social position or geographic location.
What McCain and Palin offer is a chance to indulge in the ugliest aspects of small town culture. It's a heady opportunity to sneer at the achievements of those who have excelled. It's an open offer to stand at the political podium and throw trash at those leftist extremists who actually think that everyone is just as American and just as patriotic as Jane and Jimmy Middleamerica. It's an exciting enticement to wallow in public hate flavored with the forbidden spice of racism.
In its own way, it's a testimony far louder than any delivered by Bill Cosby that this kind of small town culture -- that conservative culture -- is just as dangerous, and just as endangered, as any in this country. When you look at something like the web page of Levi Johnston with it's proud declaration of being a red neck and it's joyful talk of "kicking ass," you're looking at a culture that's sick. When a candidate for vice-president denigrates the value of community service, you're looking at a culture that's sick. When you drop in on a GOP meeting and find boxes of "Barack Waffles" decorated by racist stereotypes and buttons bearing phrases like "If Obama is president, will we still call it the White House?" you're looking at a culture that's sick.
It's sick, partly because it's a culture that's based on the assumption that some Americans are more equal than others, partly because it's a culture that denigrates education and achievement, partly because it's a culture that prefers convenient fictions to uncomfortable facts. But mostly because it's a culture that's forgotten what small town life teaches most clearly -- that none of us can make it on our own, that we have to depend on our community for both acceptance and support, and that the best way to ensure that the community will be there for you is by being there for others.
Hard as it is for some on both sides of the divide to believe, small town people are exactly as smart, dumb, good, bad, close-minded and curious as those who live in the cities. Small town values are American values, but no more American than "New York City Values" or "San Francisco Values." In fact, their values are the values.The only reason to think otherwise is a GOP that's become utterly dependent on spreading the poison of divisiveness and bigotry as their only means to survive.