Sep 4, 2008

We contain multitudes

I'm really tired of the Two Americas trope. I'm tired of it from Americans. And I really get peeved when foreigners give us their broad generalizations about America and Americans.

Linda Grant doesn't really mean to be condescending.
The conviction by the left that the right is stupid is one of the defining and least attractive characteristics of contemporary politics. Assuming that anyone who disagrees with you is too dim to get your point is not itself a particularly brainy way to win others over to the essential correctness of your views.

But she just can't help herself.
But it is true that to small-town Republicans the world is not a complicated place, because they have seen so little of it.

Grant knows better. Not that she's actually met any of those uncomplicated characters. But she's read about them.

She bases her judgments about those value-conscious, small-town Americans on a book. A work of fiction that's a thinly veiled biography of Laura Bush. If by biography, one believes that Laura Bush thinks of her husband
as “churlish,” a “spoiled lightweight,” “undeniably handsome, but . . . cocky in a way I didn’t like,” shallow, egotistical, “some sort of dimwit,” an “aspiring politician from a smug and ribald family, . . . a man who basically . . . did not hold a job”

From this book, Grant concludes that

[I]t was possible to see that the modest lives of her midwestern characters both had dignity and made sense. But I only have to meet them in a novel, which I can snap shut as soon as I've finished it. Were I an East Coast Democrat, which is the only kind of American I can ever imagine being, I would have no objection to small-town Republicans - to their church-going and their hunting rifles and their flag-decked porches and their meatloaf with gravy, and their lemon chiffon cake. I could admire their intimacy with the wide prairie and the vast sky.

But that's as much as she'll give them.
The problem is that when they're running the whole country, they want to take away abortion rights, drill for oil in Alaska (a Palin policy), ignore climate change, and start unwinnable wars. With the small-town Republican mindset in charge, the rest of America and the rest of the world is forced to live by small-town values, which aren't much help when you're trying to decide what, if anything, can be done about Iranian nuclear ambitions or more humbly, workplace date rape.

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