American Myth

Disclaimer: This post talks about politics.  Don’t start hyperventilating and threatening to “drill my head here, drill my head now” if I mention something you don’t agree with.  For the record, I am not sure who I am voting for yet.  Both parties/candidates have issues that I really agree with, and both parties/candidates have issues that I really disagree with.

I spent the morning reading the latest issue of Time Magazine this morning while my son, Joshua, was getting his tonsils and adenoids removed (surgery went well – steady diet of Gatorade, ice cream, and mashed potatoes for the next week).  I found Joe Klein’s article titled, “The American Myth” really interesting.  In the article he explores the meteoric rise of Sarah Palin and what is driving it.  Three weeks ago nobody outside the snowmachine racing circuit in the lower 48 knew her, now she is the Republican Party version of Zena Princess Warrior.  How can someone rise so quickly in national politics when we don’t even know her politics yet?  All we know are stories about her.  She hunts Moose, She pulls Sockeye out of the water with her bare teeth, she put the previous governor’s private jet for sale on e-bay, she is very attractive, she has an attractive family, her husband is a blue collar man, she is a hockey mom, she has a daughter that made the same mistake as Brittany’s sister, she has a son going off to the war, she has a distinctive northern twang accent, she is from a small town, she was an athlete in college… Her message is “I’m just like you”

“Actually, the real message is: I’m just like you want to be, a brilliantly spectactular…average American”.

We know very little about her politics, so why is she heralded as the greatest Republic VP pick ever.  The reason according to Klein is that she (Republican Party) has tapped into something primal in the American Psyche.

“She embodies the most basic American Myth – Jefferson’s yeoman farmer, the fantasia of rural righteousness – updated in a crucial way: now mom works too.  Palin’s story stands with one foot squarely in the nostalgia for small-town America and the other in the new middle class reality.  She brings home the bacon, raises the kids – with a significant assist from Mr. Mom – hunts moose and looks great in the process.  I can’t imagine a more powerful, or current American Dream.”

The article suggests that there is a romantic vision of the small town, wild-west way of life.  We have all read stories about this place.  A simpler time when issues could be settled face-to-face by a fence-post, and if they couldn’t find resolution, you weren’t afraid to take the issue behind the barn.  It’s Huck Finn, the Lone Ranger, and Little House on the Prairie all wrapped into one.

What’s interesting is that Barak Obama (Democrats) don’t have a myth of their own to tap into.

“Obama is the precise opposite of Mountain Man Todd Palin: an entirely urban creature.  He lives within the hilarious conundrum of being both too “cosmopolitan” and intellectual for Republican tastes … while also being the sort of fellow suspected of getting ahead by affirmative action.”

Pretty interesting considering that the majority of Americans live in urban or suburban areas.  The small town – Atlantis doesn’t exist anymore – if it ever did – but you have to admit that the Huck Finn adventure is extremely attractive today.

Here are excerpts from the closing paragraph:

“[Obama] has no personal anecdotes to match Palin’s moose-burgers.  His story of a boy whose father came from Kenya and mother Kansas takes place in an America not yet mythologized, a country that is struggling to be born – a multiracial country whose greatest cultural and economic strength is its diversity.  It is the country where our children already live and that our parents will never really know, a country with a much greater potential for justice and creativity – and perhaps even prosperity – than the sepia-tinted version of Main Street America.  But that vision is not sellable right now to a critical mass of Americans.”

Lipstick or not, you have to admit that Sarah Palin is an interesting person with great stories,

“But Americans like stories more than issues.”

I am interested to see if Zena can strap the Republic Party on her back and carry them all the way to the White House.  Time will tell.

Now for some non-sense.  Here are two posts that condense the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention down to 90 seconds each.




1 Comment

Filed under Personal

One response to “American Myth

  1. Nice post, I read the same article and you did a nice job summarizing and commenting on it.

    Interestingly, I’ve found this same “myth” of the small-town present in our missions paradigm. For the past five years I’ve taken groups to Kenya, and save for a few people, all were looking for the “bush Africans,” those living in the rural, distance, uncivilized areas. Unfortunately, as we all know, that’s just not a reality in our world anymore. Yet we can’t seem to get that out of our minds. The people are living in the cities, they may have dreams of the rural areas, but it’s a dream for most. It happens in the US, it happens in Africa, India, and China, South America and Australia. It’s a reality that we need to understand both culturally and missionally if we are to be honest with ourselves and honestly reach out to peoples.

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