Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Small Towns: a political primer

Oh, my, the elevated noses in evidence among the members of the "working-man's party", a.k.a. the Democrats, at Sarah Palin's credentials. Governor of Alaska? Do people, you know, actually live there? Of course someone has to be on hand to service all the ecotourist cruises, but they go away when the ships leave just like all the staff at Disneyworld after 6pm and they aren't really real. Of course only some of the more honest types are mentioning she's currently a state governor. Some seem stuck on the fact she was once mayor of Wasilla. A little podunk town in Alaska. Probably doesn't even have a Starbucks, ha ha.

Having lived in a very small rural town at one point in my misspent youth, I feel a certain responsibility to explain to those deprived of that scintillating experience. There isn't much to do in places like that (and where I lived there weren't even cows to tip, so we were *really* bored). Entertainment is provided by gossip and politics driven by emotional fury inversely proportionate to the stakes. The drama attendant on the Clam Inspector election would have inspired Homer. Plus, the majority of the inhabitants are related to one another in a complex web that usually takes several years to truly master. In a big city it is fairly easy to castigate Joe Numbnuts for being a corrupt nincompoop. Only his immediate family cares, and they are maybe 6 votes, tops. If Joe was born and raised in North Cowpat, scion of a long line of Numbnuts back to the Revolutionary War, you have just alienated 60% of eligible voters and a few dogs will go out of their way to bite you. This is *completely* unconnected to whether or not you have videotape of him singing the "Corrupt Nincompoop" song in a pink tutu whilst accepting fifty dollar bills tucked in the waistband by Snidely Whiplash lookalikes. Sarah Palin not only managed to get elected mayor in a small town AND clean it up in a major way, she was re-elected. That gets a 10 even from the Russian judge. It means she managed to make major changes in how things were done (small towns hate change, they have to redo the forms) without stepping on a multitude of sensitive toes. International negotiations will be quite a letdown for her. I mean, Putin isn't even a distant cousin!

Likewise, it is really, really hard to keep a secret or hide your incompetence in a small town. People know your flaws and your virtues. Your "character", in the Jane Austen sense, matters. In a small town in a harsh environment, like Alaska, lazy slackers are the lowest of the low. You can't "spin" the fact that you didn't chop enough wood and now your family is cold. You can't sue the ocean for insufficient accommodation of disabilities out on a commercial fishing boat. Can't hack it? You die. It develops a core honesty in people, the ones that survive anyway. You might be able to fool other people, but you know you can't fool nature. I get the sense that Sarah Palin is not in the habit of lying to herself or anyone else. No wonder the pundits hate her.


Blogger Barb said...

Well, I didn't see one when I was there - 13 years ago ;-) But the have a Starbucks in the Fred Meyer now.

Also, Wasilla used to be where the Iditarod restarted ( ... after the official start in Anchorage).

8:32 PM, September 03, 2008  

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