Oh, we're screedy today. It's a Canadian columnist vs. Sarah Palin; I could not resist. In case you're not interested, a diversion: here's a detail from today's Minneapolis update.
Is this a billboard version of this Coke ad, which ran around the same time as the picture was taken?
Can't say, but I have my suspicions. The update is here: it's the Forum Cafeteria. Looks better than it sounds.
Now, the first of five pre-election Screeds. Might as well live up to my dreadful reputation.
I don’t think that Obama meant to call Sarah Palin a pig. Many in the audience may have been heartened by the stray implication, since they already regard her as a hootenanny mama who drinks corn likker from a jug with 3 Xs and smokes a corn-cob pipe after the media leaves, but Obama was just being Folksy and Colloquial in that um-you-know style he reverts to when he’s in Authentic Mode. In short, I don’t believe a line that stupid was delivered with full knowledge of its implications. I’m in a generous mood.
Or was, until I read this piece by a Canadian writer; it sums up with such delightful perfection what so many believe. So. Let’s have a look.
I assume John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential partner in a fit of pique because the Republican money men refused to let him have the stuffed male shirt he really wanted.
Hapless, confused old tool of the string yankers: check! Next, we see how it’s possible to put your head up your posterior while jerking your knee, a rather difficult maneuver they don’t teach until the fifth year of yoga class:
She added nothing to the ticket that the Republicans didn't already have sewn up, the white trash vote
Classism blended with instant clueless political analysis? Check and check. Palin added several things, including an appeal to some women and enthusiasm for a race that had come to see McCain as another Dole, right down to the war-related arm injuries. (Which are a sign of age and unfitness, of course; if a Young and Dymanic candidate had developed carpal tunnel syndrome from shaking hands or repeatedly patting himself on the back, supporters would wear slings in sympathy.) She continues to brass-band her white-trash point thus:
…the demographic that sullies America's name inside and outside its borders yet has such a curious appeal for the right.
Leaving aside whether Europe would like us more if we did something about those horrible people they see in “The Dukes of Hazzard” documentaries, you have to love the idea of the “white trash” demo sullying our name inside our borders – she’s talking about the thin crust of coastal dwellers who regard Manhattan as some sort of precious monastery that keeps the dim flickering light of civilization alive. Why, if the hillbillies disappeared, the New Yorkers would be reduced to making disparaging remarks about people from New Jersey who take the bridges and tunnels to go clubbing in LowSoHo or MoTriVil or whatever old neighborhood has been fitted out with thudding discos and fusion-sushi joints.
Why does this demographic – the white trash, I mean, not the orange trash of the Guido Jersey interlopers - have such a “curious appeal” to the right? Because the right, perhaps, thinks of them as “voters” who cast “ballots” in “elections” for people to don’t consider rhinoplasty so they can look down their noses even further than God intended.
So why do it?
It's possible that Republican men, sexual inadequates that they are, really believe that women will vote for a woman just because she's a woman.
Consider the joy that would reign if someone wrote that “Democrats, racial guilt-mongers that they are, really believe that African-Americans will vote for an African-American just because he’s an African-American.” Of course Republican men don’t believe that women will vote for her just because she’s a woman. It’s surely a factor, but there’s the possibility that they will vote for her because she is not a woman like Heather Mallick.
You have to love the “Sexual inadequates that they are” line as well; if there’s one thing that’s amused me in the last two weeks, it’s the screechy distaste of Ms. Palin coming from men who embodied the Modern Alda Paradigm of masculinity, which is to say they are nervous around cars, think guns are icky, had their own Snugli, have wives in corporate jobs who make more money than they do, and still get dissed behind their backs because they can’t figure out how to make the bed. The Lost Boys, if you will. Now, some women can’t stand Sarah Palin for their own reasons, personal or ideological; same with men. Some men, however, are made deeply uneasy by her, because she’s the one who ignored the sensitive poet-guys in high school for the jocks, and didn’t seem to grasp the essential high-school truth that it’s cool to be a loser. But that’s rank psychoanalysis, and we won’t stoop to that.
She continues on the women-voting-for-women thing:
They're unfamiliar with our true natures. Do they think vaginas call out to each other in the jungle night? I mean, I know men have their secret meetings at which they pledge to do manly things, like being irresponsible with their semen and postponing household repairs with glue and used matches. Guys will be guys, obviously.
It’s funny, because it’s true! Bronze that paragraph; if nothing else, it’s the death of PC, and license for guys to say anything. At least she’s honest about the idea of female solidarity – it matters only if the ideological stars have aligned – no, if the ideological cycles have synced, to use terms she’d probably employ. Or has already. It’s not about whether Sarah Palin is a woman, it’s whether she’s the right kind. She’s supposed to restrict snow machines, not ride them or for God’s sake get knocked up by some slopey-brow dullard who rides them. (Competitively! Gawd) Nationalize oil companies, don’t make deals. Have one or two children, not five – Good Gaia, woman, are you trying to make overstuffed congested Alaska top the one-million-citizen mark all by yourself?
As for guys being irresponsible with their precious bodily essences, who cares? Aren’t you using protection? Or are they using vagina-confusing Man-Beams to cloud your mind? As for putting off home repairs, here’s a hint: either learn how to do it yourself, or admit there might be yet in this enlightened age a strange vague hangover that divides labor based on innate gender-influenced personality traits. If you expect him to fix things, and you roll your eyes when he tries, and you accuse him of using spit and matches, his motivation will be diminished – and even then he’ll probably wait until you’re out of earshot before he mutters “what a fishwife.” If your man can’t fix anything it but whines that he can make a really good white sauce, don’t blame him when you have an affair with the electrician.
I know this: Mr. Palin probably doesn’t postpone household repairs, or use glue, or old matches. He can probably change the oil in the car, too. There are guys like that. Not every wife has to sit in a cold Jiffy Lube waiting room leafing through Field and Stream, wishing the weirdo in the other chair would stop looking at her legs.
Palin was not a sure choice, not even for the stolidly Republican ladies branch of Citizens for a Tackier America. No, she isn't even female really. She's a type, and she comes in male form too.
Boo, hisss. Men who come in women form: applause! (Until you catch the hubby googling Sarah Palin bikini when he said he was on epicurious.com.) Love that “Citizens for a Tackier America,” because that’s what counts more than anything – not economic or foreign policy, but taste. So that’s who keeps those stupid Lilian Vernon catalogs going – bitches like her. (BTW, you want tacky Check this out: if Sarah Palin had worn that godless dress to the convention, she would have been a sticky post on the top of Go Fug Yourself for a year.)
Bottom line: she’s not a woman woman. The fact that she gave birth to a Down Syndrome baby – icky icky, imagine the playdate scheduling hell – is evidence enough, but because she exhibits traits that the right people ascribe to the wrong kind of man, she’s not female. By this calculus, to repeat a point, the girly-men husbands and careful boyfriends aren’t really male, and no doubt the Mallicks of the world would say exactly that to their girlfriends when they dump the chicken and order up some beef.
John Doyle, the cleverest critic in Canada, comes right out and calls Palin an Alaska hillbilly.
“Cleverist” is a matter of opinion, but I’d suggest that when Mark Steyn gets a haircut, the shorn pieces fall to the floor and form, at random, cleverer observations in the form of Chinese characters.
Doyle's job includes watching a lot of reality television and he's well-versed in the backstory
Keep this in mind the next time Americans are dinged for believing Jack Bauer will save the country: Mr. Doyle’s expertise comes from watching “a lot of reality television.” And he does so, one suspects, without a moment’s thought of the internal contradictions in the very phrase “reality television.”
White trash — not trailer trash, that's something different — is rural, loud, proudly unlettered (like Bush himself),
Heather Mallick has an MA in English lit from the U of Toronto. Bush graduated from Yale with an MBA, I think. That’s one more letter than she has.
suspicious of the urban,
No, uninterested in the urban. Rural people generally don’t like cities. That’s why they’re rural. As opposed to certain urbanites, who love the rural, as long it’s all there and interesting with faded painted signs and lovely small towns with farms and antique shops in case they want to go for a drive and get some apples or a lamp or something. Aside from that, they can screw themselves.
frankly disbelieving of the foreign
I’ve known a lot of people who come from rural areas, and most believe that foreign countries exist. True. They may have some resistance to automatically believing what people in “foreign” countries – a rather large sample – say or believe, but this is balanced in the end by the number of New Yorkers who have to be physically restrained from catching a jet to Heathrow because the Times gave a good review to Damien Hurst’s “Pale of Vomit #3” at the Tate. Should one be frankly believing of the foreign, though? If Europe – and that’s what they mean, of course, everything else is smelly and noisy, and it’s important to go there to raise your consciousness but let’s not go overboard – is the Authority on how things should be, aren’t we supposed to question Authority?
and a fan of the American cliché of authenticity.
The nerve of these people, believing their lives are authentic. Coming from a cliché of Canadian authenticity – at least as defined by a 20-square block around the newspaper office – this has to sting. Remember, the unexamined life is not worth living, but if you haven’t examined your life, don’t worry; others have done it for you. And it’s still not worth living. Hillbilly!
It goes on in the same vein until the author can Take No More, and changes the channel, no doubt hoping to land on something that provides an Illustrative Contrast or perhaps a Validating Affirmation. She lands on “A Mighty Wind,” a deft satire of all the dopey folkies who occupied the minds of college students until they realized that no one, ever, anywhere, got laid singing along with “Micheal, Row the Boat Ashore.”
They were indistinguishable. Click on a nervous wreck with deeply strange hair doing a monologue on society today and where it all went wrong. Are you watching Christian belter Aaron Tippin singing Where the Stars and Stripes and Eagle Fly in the Xcel Centre in St. Paul or the actors from Spinal Tap remixing the 1966 version of Potato's in the Paddy Wagon?
Who delivered this line: "To do then now would be retro. To do then then was very now-tro, if you will." Was it Rev. James Dobson of Focus on the Family talking about Bristol Palin's shotgun wedding or was it a flashback to the Kingston Trio?
Pound harder, Heather; that square peg will go in the round hole eventually.
Switch channels back to the convention:
The conventioneers are nothing like the rich men who run the party, and that's the mystery of the hick vote. They'd be much better served by the Democrats. I know Thomas Frank answered this in What's the Matter with Kansas?; I know that red states vote Republican on social issues to give themselves the only self-esteem available to their broken, economically abused existence.
You know, at some point the contempt the author has for the hicks has to be answered in the same terms. People don’t vote for Republicans on social issues to give themselves “self-esteem” because of their “broken existence,” and it’s the usual stupid reductive economic-uber-alles groupthink that makes her say such stupid things. If they had better jobs, they’d support abortion, redefining marriage, and firearms restrictions! The question of “what’s the matter with Kansas” was posed by someone who couldn’t figure out why Kansas folk weren’t asking “What’s the matter with us?” It’s the same bitter-guns-&-God-clinger notion that dogs another candidate, and it’s contemptuous – I mean, for heaven’s sake, who the hell is she to say the people of Kansas have a “broken existence”? It almost sounds as if she is proudly overlettered, suspicious of the non-urban, and frankly disbelieving of the domestic.
But surely they know Barack Obama is not planning to finish off the ordinary hillbilly when he adjusts tax rates. He's going to raise taxes on the top 2% of Americans and that doesn't include anyone at the convention beyond the Bushes and McCains and random party management.
Well, no. Since she watched the convention from the safe distance of another country, apparently, she has no idea what the delegates made. We can argue about what Obama’s tax plans really are, whether it’s wise to raise taxes in the teeth of a recession - as Hoover did – and whether we should, at this point, be paying any attention to the assurances of anyone who uses the term “hillbilly” with such evident glee.
So why cheer Palin when she claims otherwise?
Some people may have found resonance, to use a nice modern word, with her remarks about relatives who’ve started a gas station. They’re probably going to end up in the high bracket, if they’re successful. This struck home with me, because our family has a gas station, and I know the vast panoply of taxes and regulations that attend to such an endeavor, and how higher taxes means the business makes less, or the employees make less, or someone gets fired, or all of the above. Simple economics apparent to anyone who’s run a business.
Oh, I forgot to list her bona fides:
Heather Mallick has a nice old-fashioned M.A. in English literature from the University of Toronto. She has worked as a reporter, copy editor and book review editor at various Toronto newspapers and most recently wrote a column called As If for the Globe and Mail. She has won National Newspaper Awards for critical writing and feature writing. Her first book, Pearls in Vinegar, based on an ancient Japanese form of diary, appeared in 2004. Her second, an essay collection called Cake or Death: The Excruciating Choices of Everyday Life, was published by Knopf in April 2007.
Whoa: a wealth-creation machine, that one. When your excruciating choices of everyday life include getting up at 5 AM to open the store or sleeping in and missing the morning traffic, give me a call, and I’ll pipe you through to my brother in law; he can sympathize. Cake or Death. Jaysus. Well, it’s rarely death, so that means it’s cake, no? Hope it has white frosting. I love white frosting.
Is it racism? I'm told that it is, although I find racism so appalling that I have difficulty identifying it. It is more likely the dearly held Republican notion that any American can become violently rich, as rich as those hedge funders in Greenwich, Conn., who buy $40-million mansions unseen and have their topiary shaped in the form of musical notes.
Aw, she read that New Yorker article on Greenwich, too. It’s a joy to see someone who flung around “white trash” noting that she finds racism “so appalling.” All is forgiven; BFF? I don’t know what “violently rich” means, except that it certain sounds bad – like you walked up to Tony Rezco and punched him until a nice house deal fell out of his pockets – but yes, most Americans want to be rich, at least as rich as Obama, and there is nothing wrong with this. Most don’t have the book-deal / Chicago machine option, so they either play the lottery and plug away at their jobs, or they try to improve their station by the usual means. It is a dearly held American notion that you can do better than you’re doing. Even in broken Kansas.
Because her contract apparently requires her to end with a pop-culture review gracelessly yoked to whatever hobby horse she rode into town this week, she ends:
Mad Men is scaring me (AMC on Sunday nights). What has Matthew Weiner, a writer from The Sopranos, created, a period soap opera about reality and façade or a horror series on a localized war between men and women? Was Episode 6 of Season 2 a costume drama about the Madonna/whore complex or the operatic rendition of one simple thing, human cruelty?
Or maybe I'm seeing too much into it and it's just a sexed-up version of the Republican convention.
Of course it scares her. Everything outside the tight, airless bubble in which she lives scares her, from those yellin’ knocked-up hillbilly wimen to the menfolk who love ‘em, from the crazy furrin-doubting Murcans who bring up their heads from the trough only to bark for ‘nuther servin; of Freedom Fries, from the ghastly sight of people with different opinions on TV to the general roar of approval for someone who doesn’t perfect the art of licking the boots of the anointed leaders while pulling her wallet of our her purse and handing over whatever the state demands. Of course she’s scared. People like her are always scared. It’s a lonely world when you’re just so damned right and everyone else is so stupid.
That’s why God made cats.
No, that’s unfair – she has two stepdaughters. And do you know what sort of personal, political, ideological and socioeconomic conclusions I’ll draw from that? No, you don’t, because I don’t have any. I don’t know her, and it would be odd to make assumptions.
Unless I see her talk on TV, of course; then I’ll be an expert. About her. And Canada. What’s the matter with Ontario, anyway?
New Mpls, as noted. See you at buzz.mn.