Photoshopping America

Sarah_palin11The British journalist Linda Grant tells us that a "Photoshopped version" of a bikini wearing, rifle touting Sarah Palin has been circulating recently. This "soft porn for rednecks", Grant tells us, is all we need to understand Palin's attraction to small town Americans.

But this cartoon-like depiction of her smothers what we need to understand about why Palin appeals to American voters and why American elections have been so deadlocked for the past decade, as if there were two Americas, doomed to lived on the same landmass under the same government, like hopelessly incompatible spouses.

But it's Grant who is doing the Photoshopping here in her orientalization of small town America. To really understand the United States, the British journalist might have bothered to come here and look at it for herself. But, rather than see small town America for herself, the Guardian journalist has chosen to rely on a novel about small America -- American Wife, the new, thinly fictionalized biography of Laura Bush by Curtis Sittenfeld. The consequence is a vulgarly Photoshopped version of small town life in America which shouldn't merit inclusion in the usually credible Guardian. Here's the nonsense that Grant is peddling about moral values in small town America:

Small-town Americans have values and a lot of those values are good ones: neighbourliness, family life, a knowledge of the land and what grows in it. The other America they see on TV seems without ethics - crime, violence, drug addiction, pornography and prostitution - and they don't want any part of it.

So clear is the divide between big-city and small-town America that one American friend said to me: "These whitebread Republicans are like children - someone has to tell them what to do and what to think, they're incapable of independent ideas."

Huh? The naive Grant -- who was born in a small English town herself (a place on the northwestern coast called Liverpool) -- obviously has been duped by Sittenfeld's fiction. Somebody needs to tell her that small town America is as rife with crime, violence, drug addiction, pornography and prostitution as any American city. And then there's her "American friend" who tells her that "whitebread Republicans are like children". I'm guessing that this is an American friend in London -- a banker or a lawyer probably -- whose knowledge of small-town Americans has been derived from tv, a novel or a blog.

It's Grant who is the real child here in her fairytale version of America. All she is doing is confirming the banal fiction about America that reassures simplistic Europeans like Grant. She should come out here, spend a few weeks in a small American town and break whitebread with the natives. She would discover that their moral values and their intellects are just as complex as life itself in small town America.