Back when I lived in the mountains of Northern California, our little 12 volt black and white TV only picked up one channel with any regularity, and among the shows I most avidly watched were Green Acres and The Dukes Of Hazzard.
No one needs to justify a liking for such brilliant windows into the American soul, but if I ever felt guilty about being parked in front of the TV when there was wood to chop or varmints to roust, I told myself that I was gaining insight into the ways and wherefores of my neighbors. Toss in a dash of Hee Haw, Petticoat Junction, a hefty measure of Hank Williams Jr.'s "Country Boy Will Survive", and you had your finger on the pulse of Greater Laytonville (pop. 995 or 1,036, the highway sign declared, depending which side of town you were entering from) and the back side of Iron Peak.
Well, not completely, but it was a start. I say this only to explain why VP candidate Sarah Palin and her remarkable entourage/family/posse don't appear nearly as strange to me as they do to some of my fellow cosmopolitan elitists. I lived side-by-side with people very much like them for better than ten years, and came to like and respect quite a few of them. Ever since then I've felt uncomfortable using words like "redneck" or "white trash," because they seem just as thoughtless and abusive as racial slurs like "nigger."
Which might be a little unfortunate at the moment, since it would be only too convenient to dredge up just such words to deride and dismiss the Palinistas. But I'd hate myself in the morning, and what's worse, I'd be stooping to the same level they did in attempting to whip up hatred and suspicion against big city slickers who read books and, like, know stuff. Not to mention those dreaded "community organizers."
To be fair, the term "community organizer" has been known to raise my own hackles from time to time, especially when appropriated, as it often is, by unprincipled scam artists of the Al Sharpton/Jesse Jackson ilk. If I were advising Obama, I'd tell him to think up another name for his work on Chicago's South Side, because to quite a few people, "community organizer" is always going to come off as a synonym for "rabble rouser."
Never mind that COs come in all shapes, sizes and political motivations. Someone ringing doorbells for the Natural Born American Yahoo Party or organizing a book drive for the PTA is every bit as much a community organizer as that shady beardo soliciting donations for the Communist Front to Overthrow Everything. It's just one of those phrases that's gotten stuck with a negative connotation, like "peace" or "liberal" or "tolerance and understanding."
Anyway, back to Hooterville, which is apparently where the newly energized GOP expects to find the constituency to propel it into power for another four years. As I said, I found many of my rural neighbors to be charming, down to earth, and wise in many ways of the world, and by that I don't just mean how to gut and skin deer and bear or where to lay culverts to keep dirt roads from washing out in the winter monsoons.
Once I got over my initial big city suspicions about them (and they over their country suspicions of me), we could sit and talk for hours about everything from local politics to global cosmology. We didn't always agree - far from it - but we were often able to have a good laugh about our differences.
But there was the occasional time when it stopped being funny. Like when the lady who owned the local bar - it being the only one around, she had more congregants than all the town's churches combined - was stymied in her attempt to build an asphalt batch plant on her back 40, which just happened to be smack dab in the center - such as it was - of town and next door to the high school. Not only did she shut down the bar for the day, leaving an entire community bereft and adrift, but rampaged around town with her gun muttering dark threats about anyone and everyone who might cross her.
Nobody did, and as everyone hastened to point out, she was a good old girl about 99% of the time. Just had her tetchy spells every now and again. Or the town's logging supplies baron, who despite having strong and not always well thought out views on everything, especially when it came to the desirability of cutting down trees, was an incredibly generous and community-minded fellow. Hell, he once tossed $20 in my tip basket when I was playing piano at a local restaurant, and as those of you who've heard me play can attest, that's real charity in action.
But he was also the one who spearheaded the campaign that was to briefly make Laytonville an object of international mockery when he tried to have Dr. Seuss' The Lorax removed from the elementary school reading list because it allegedly painted loggers in an uncomplimentary light. The town meeting that ensued was like having the Republican and Democratic conventions conducted simultaneously in the same rec room.
Sarah Palin would be right at home in Laytonville, and if the town should ever grow big enough to have a mayor, she'd be elected in a landslide, because not only does she share the views of the local matriarchs and patriarchs, she's a heck of a lot better looking. And if I still lived there, I'd give her a good-natured ribbing from time to time, but otherwise would probably get along with her just fine.
But if you were to propose to me that she, or any of the other colorful local characters were the second most qualified person to be President of the United States, I'd assume you'd gone clear out of your ever-loving mind. And yet, this is essentially what John McCain has just said to the country. Okay, what he's really saying is, "I've made a cold-blooded calculation that nominating this woman will give me the best chance of winning the election, and if I should croak and leave the rest of you stuck with her as President, well, that's the way the cookie crumbles," which shouldn't be too shocking coming from a politician whose primary, if not sole purpose in life is to win elections and wield power.
Only trouble is that McCain has constructed an entire career out of pretending NOT to be that kind of politician, only to blow that carefully crafted image to smithereens at the final hurdle. It's hard to imagine that six months ago, when I was more concerned about what I saw as the Democrats' overly leftist tendencies, I could have seen myself voting for him.
His willingness to risk saddling us with a right wing, religious demagogue - he is 72, after all, and not in the best of health - was more than enough to write him off all by itself, but if there were any doubt remaining, his sanctimonious yet deeply and fundamentally dishonest acceptance speech will have put paid to that.
"Change is coming," he declares? Hello, John, you and your party have been in charge for the last eight years and you've succeeded in nearly bankrupting the country. You're going to cut spending and balance the budget? Of course you are, just like you've been doing for the past... oh wait, biggest budget deficits in history, massive increases in public spending... Don't get me wrong; I'd like a tax cut as much as anyone. But as any of you who's ever had a credit card or a mortgage can attest, it's nice to get an increased credit limit, and even nicer to be told you don't have to make any payments for a year or two, but sooner or later you have to start paying off your bills or you go broke.
Not in McCain World, apparently, which is apparently the same la-la land occupied by Bush World, and which is powered by what the first, not quite so incompetent Bush correctly derided as "voodoo economics." Many if not most of our current financial troubles can be traced directly to the Republican policies of the past eight years: the plummeting value of the dollar which has made everything, particularly oil, appear to be far more expensive than it is, is a direct result of Bush attempting to run the country via a series of increasingly dodgy sub-prime loans.
McCain's only strength is, or at least appeared to be, with regard to the war. However you felt about the war at the beginning - I was neutral, perhaps very slightly in favor, but in retrospect think I should have opposed it, at least until such time as we had an administration capable of running it - it's both cowardly and irresponsible to suggest leaving the Iraqis to their own devices now that we've dismantled their country for them. But while Obama has moved toward the center - maybe not quite enough, but at least in the right direction - on this issue, McCain is resorting to cheap appeals to faux-patriotism and hey, did I mention that I was a POW?
That's not to say he doesn't also have some sound and reasoned things to say about how to oppose terrorism and Islamism, but unfortunately, I just don't believe or trust him anymore. I'm also afraid of his legendary temper. It's one thing to go off half-cocked in the Senate, where you've got 99 other Senators to act as a counterweight, but quite another when you've got your finger on the nuclear trigger.
So, blogger comes out in favor of Obama. Not exactly earth-shaking news, though it might come as such to those who for whatever reasons have come to perceive me as some sort of neo-con race-baiting lackey of Fox News and the Michael Savage show. My friend Ben Weasel, a fervent McCain supporter, warns that Obama will be a "disaster," and I'm not so sure of my opinions that I'd deny this was possible. If he's as left wing as he once appeared to be, we could have another Jimmy Carter on our hands, compared to which I'd almost welcome a President Palin. If he's as pragmatic and as reasoned as he's appeared to be lately, we could have another JFK.