MICHAEL JEWELL A&E Editor
This election is giving me a rash, so I’m only going to talk about it this once. I thought that this cycle’s laughing-stock candidates had all been swept under the rug. My chest swelled with a mix of shame and cloying, nonsensical hometown pride at the prospect that during the primaries my former Governor, that prince of dunces, Mike Huckabee would represent the apex of stupidity, the most grandiose mockery of serious politics in this election. Then Sarah Palin entered from stage far-right.
I will try to avoid using the privilege of my column to list her litany of character flaws. These have been addressed in greater detail and with greater eloquence that I can conjure in other outlets. I must use restraint in personal attacks. How she lives, worships and poisons her children’s minds is her right and her business. There is one matter though, that I am compelled to address in my own folksy, down-home way. Let’s discuss the division of America into “real,” and I guess “not real.”
In her tour of these supposedly United States, Governor Palin has morphed her dangerously irresponsible rhetoric surrounding “the real Barack Obama” into the most bare-bones iteration of the blanket Atwater dichotomy: small towns vs. big cities, and all the stark cultural tug of war that goes with it. Did Machiavelli cover this in sophisticated detail? I never read “The Prince,” but this is one of the older tricks in the book, and its effectiveness is unchallenged. By painting in the broadest strokes, Gov. Palin is allowing her supporters’ fantasies about their own surroundings to come to life as they conjure their own imagined demons of the opposition. It works especially well with many conservatives who persistently divide their world into good versus evil, and though this model of morality is perfectly appropriate for a 3-year-old, it is woefully unbecoming in an electorate.
But what does an east-coast liberal media elite like me know about small-town values, and how dare I condescend to lecture hard-working, god-fearing adults about their child’s view of morality? Well, I was one of them. I cherish my small-town roots, but I had the presence of mind to get the hell out. Maybe it was because I wanted to emulate Southerners like Mark Twain instead of George Wallace. Perhaps it’s when I turned to heavy metal when everyone else was into crystal methamphetamine that I stumbled onto something. For whatever reason, I recognize Sarah Palin’s small town life in the rape capital of America as structured around an elaborate fantasy.
Whether or not I drink chai-lattes (I don’t) or watch college football with a beer (once in a blue moon), neither reflects on my patriotism. I am a godless, gay-marrying, European-style socialist, dyed in the wool pinko liberal and I love my country, or at the very least, what my country represents, the world’s first secular nation built on enlightenment principles of innate human liberty. I want a leader who will keep our union strong, not just in a show of force, but in strength of character and in the health of our infrastructure.
I draw my roots from the red soil of Alabama. I am the lone sensitive literary type in a family of conservative, hard-working laborers in whom I take immense pride. We are engineers, contractors, mothers, painters, lunch ladies, technicians and repairmen. We work with our hands and sweat and have bad knees and we better ourselves with education when we can afford it. We are the real America, Sarah Palin, and we are not voting or you.