Friday, December 26, 2008

Those Inferior City-Dwellers Need To Stop Being So Elitist!

In all my years of reading CNN, rarely have I seen a column as schizophrenic, offensive, and breath-takingly idiotic as the bit Ruben Navarrette just phoned in "defending" Sarah Palin. Navarrette trots out the tired canard that Palin was "targeted" by the media because she wasn't sufficiently "elite". I'd guess she was targeted because she wasn't sufficiently "talented", but that's just me.

But honestly, that's not what troubles me. What pissed me off to no end was Navarrette's hit job on Colin Powell, whom I lauded earlier this month for striking back against the idea that there is something inferior about the "values" of big cities. "[M]ost of us don't live in small towns," Powell said. "I was raised in the South Bronx, and there's nothing wrong with my value system from the South Bronx."

Navarrette's response to this is astounding:
You'd think the presidential campaign was about conservatives picking on urbanites. It wasn't. Sure, some Republicans probably made a mistake by using phrases such as "real America" or "real Americans" as a rallying cry for the base. Americans who live in cities might have thought they were being slighted.

Gosh, what an absurd thought! Cast aside that "some Republicans" includes Palin herself, the woman Navarrette feels compelled to stand up for. The idea that the Republican Party isn't anti-urbanist is so fanciful I didn't even realize it was up for discussion anymore. There is virtually no overlap between "city resident" and "Republican" voter. Cities are primarily made up of groups that the GOP has always dripped contempt for: non-Christians, people of color, and GLBT folks. Nobody misses the code: When Republicans talk about "San Francisco values", they mean gay; and when they talk about "cosmopolitan elitists", they mean Jews.

But what's most striking about Navarrette's piece is that -- literally paragraphs after saying that nobody has anything against city people -- he then proceeds to launch into a broad-based attack assailing the values of ... urban dwellers.
After Powell attacked Palin, one of the governor's most vocal defenders, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, returned the favor by attacking Powell.

"What is this hatred for conservatives and small-town people and Sarah Palin?" Limbaugh asked on his radio show. "I know a lot of people that are from the Bronx, Gen. Powell, and if you think the values there in the Bronx today reflect the ones you grew up with, take a trip back and see if the street corners and the activities there are the same as when you were growing up."

Limbaugh got it. When people use phrases such as "small-town values," it's as much about time as it is place. The idea isn't that people who live in small towns have better values than people who live in cities. It's simply an attempt to recall, with nostalgia, what life was like when more Americans lived in small towns.

It used to be that more families ate dinner together and high school students worked summers and after school. It used to be that our schools didn't make excuses for why some kids don't learn because they were too busy trying to teach them.

It used to be that parents weren't interested in being their kids' best friends, only good parents. And it used to be that people pulled their own weight and would never dare ask for a handout.

Rush %*%#ing Limbaugh? And you're trying to pretend like you're the victim here? This defies belief. And you know what life was like when most American's lived in small towns? I couldn't tell you -- Jews often weren't allowed in, and Blacks got lynched. I actually have no problem with contemporary small town values -- but I'll be damned if I let this faux-nostalgia for apartheid America be recast as something noble.

I know people who grew up in inner-ring suburbs (like myself). And we're doing fine. I know people who grew up in small towns in America's heartland (like my girlfriend). And they're doing fine too. And I know people who grew up in the middle of America's great cities. And they're doing fine as well. There's nothing wrong with being from Bethesda, just as there is nothing wrong with being from Owatonna and there is nothing wrong with being from Chicago. And Barack Obama -- who will be our nation's first President with urban roots since at least JFK -- hopefully will let people like Navarrette know that, loud and clear.


Rebecca said...

Great post. I've written about a similar subjectbefore - mind if I quote/link you if/when I bring it up again?

(Here via Feministe.)

PG said...

Either Navarette is a crappy writer or is intellectually dishonest. If he's a crappy writer, he sincerely believes that it makes sense to refer to geography ("small town values") when one actually is talking about chronology ("1950s/ traditional values"), and that other people will just intuitively understand that a geographic reference is really a chronological one. If he's intellectually dishonest, he knows that such a muddled reference is incoherent and incomprehensible, such that Sarah Palin herself either is as inarticulate as one set of critics charged her as being, or is as deliberately divisive and demeaning of people unlike herself as another set of critics said she was. (Powell falls into the latter set.)

The last three paragraphs of his column particularly pissed me off. Great, Sarah Palin's six year tour of colleges is a sign that she "pulled herself up by her bootstraps," while Colin Powell, the child of Jamaican immigrants, must have risen through the military with something other than his bootstraps because he doesn't think small towns are the be-all and end-all of civic virtue.