Canadian Columnist Pisses Off the American Right, Fox News Leads the Charge
Fox News, and all conservatives on this continent, the Canadian equivalent included, are pissed about this column:
The Alaskan who went 'outside'
I was born in a northern Canadian settlement so small it was accessible most of the year only by a Bombardier, a sort of huge military tank built for passengers. It was like a transport plane, a big iron bulb with caterpillar tracks. I swear we had a paddle-steamer for supplies in the summer.
Take that, Sarah Palin. The place was six times smaller than Wasilla, Alaska, the town that birthed John McCain's strange vice-presidential "soulmate", as weird as that disconnected eerie smile that floats on his face as he stands next to her.
My credentials are solid; Palin cannot out-hick me. Until I fled at 18, I never lived in a northern town of more than 12,000 people. My towns were full of Sarah Palins. These types are fine, such as they are, until they leave town and turn fraudulent. They label themselves "the salt of the earth". It's when they try to make that a qualification for a greater glory that things turn unpleasant.
I never claimed a higher moral standing for coming from a great big empty on the map. Small towns are places that smart people escape from, for privacy, for variety, for intellect, for survival. Palin should have stayed home.
Canada has lots of hockey moms. They're called Fran and Nancy. They have cruel haircuts and their voices shake the rafters of the rink as their rink-rats play. How can I translate the hearty, jollying-along Palin for British audiences? She's a working class Joan Hunter Dunn. It's those volleyball shoulders and field-hockey thighs, the energy, the bullying, and the utter self-confidence in every lie she tells.
Salt-of-the-earthers don't lie! But Palins do. I watched Palin last night, my mouth open, my eyeballs drying out, my hand making shaky notes. I read them aghast.
Did she really joke, "You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick."?
Did she just blow kisses to the audience?
Did she just say, "We need to produce more of our own oil and gas. Take it from a gal who knows the North Slope. We've got lots of both."?
Yes, she did lie about billion-gallon slurps of oil and gas available for Americans to blow, about her support of Alaska's notorious pork-barrel "bridge to nowhere", about which particular citizens will see tax increases under Obama (only the richest, and she knows that).
She also lied when she slobbered over small-town folks (an American version of British farm life, except British farmers have a point). The granite honesty of hicks is a cliche, a fantasy, a meme of American life, as much as the working-class solidarity of Tony Blair was in 1997, and where did that get anyone?
But most of all, she lied about the north and the virtues it supposedly confers on citizens. Canadians watch this with horror. To us, Alaska is the back of beyond. Americans feel the same way. Alaskans are a bunch of Ted Stevens, that enraged screaming old senator who explained that the internet was not a big truck, it was more like a "bunch of tubes". He was arrested and charged with taking bribes, but handily won the August senatorial primary.
We love our own north to the point of covering our eyes and humming as it melts (yesterday the BBC headlined the collapse of Canada's ice shelves; Canadian papers and websites missed the story) but Alaska is different from our north. We share a 1,500-mile border with a frontier state full of drunks and crazy people, of the blight that cheap-built structures bring to a glorious landscape. Canadian firms invest billions in the place and mine its ores. One hundred thousand Canadians visit Alaska every year, and we like to pass by in cruise ships. But it never goes further than that. Alaska is our redneck cousin, our Yukon territory forms a blessed buffer zone, and thank God he never visits. Alaska is the end of the line.
Palin got her first passport last year. (Americans didn't need a passport to enter Canada until recently). She seems to have visited us precisely once, not surprisingly since Alaskans regularly refer to the rest of the world as "outside". We are so foreign to her, this woman who might become US president.
What is native to her is smugness, her certainty that what's good for Wasilla is good for the world in all its infinite variety. It's a variety that Palin will never begin to grasp.
Since it was released in the US, she was subjected to various death threats and message boards were flooded with reactions, insults and the usual and repetitive anti-Canadian ramblings, which are sometimes funny.
Let's agree she went too far, and there's a fair share of "redneckness" on the Canadian side of the border, but the core of the subject remains; Palin is not "presidential", vice or not.
Also, the right has to stop using the small-town values as a symbol of virtue. Small towns are fled by people who can't share the town's "core" values because they would never fit in, being marginalized for being different.
It's not that the values themselves are fundamentally wrong, just that the population is smaller, the jobs variety more limited, hence limiting the diversity of lifestyles, and, by extension of point-of-views and values. Therefore, ending with a more uniformed, one size-fits-all set of values, it kicks the "odd ones" to the "wicked life" of the cities, where sheer population size and actual diversity in lifestyles, jobs and origins will allow people to find others that share their views and interests.
There's nothing basically wrong with city virtues, the same way there's nothing basically wrong with small town ones, but neither can pretend to any actual form of moral high ground. People will be people, no matter where they are from, no matter where they fit best, for better or for worse.