New York and Montana

Sam Smith, 2002- In keeping with its never-ending struggle to prove that it is as sophisticated at the New York Times, the Washington Post ran an odd and nasty pre-Thanksgiving story in which the author Sarah Vowell, who works for NPR, and who based this essay on her new book from Simon & Schuster, describes the pain and suffering of having her parents visit her for the holiday. Their faults include being clueless, boring, and from Montana.

It is not clear just how boring the parents are because Vowell spends most of her time boring us with her reaction to them. We do learn, however, that her mother prefers to use white cornmeal processed by the Shawnee Company in Muskogee while Vowell prefers yellow, which merely proves that they have food fetishes in Montana just like in Manhattan.

Vowell displays the sort of arrogance towards the bulk of America that is particularly common in New York City and Washington. She doesn’t even feel compelled to explain why her life is so much better than that of her parents – she just assumes – wink, wink – that we will understand.

Nor does she mention that Montana, unlike Washington, has played only a minimal role in dismantling the Republic over the past year; that, unlike New York City, it has not created a grotesque language of advertising and public relations as barren as any western plain; and, unlike both cities, has not engaged in acts so upsetting to others in the world that they feel compelled to kill themselves flying planes into its most treasured icons.

In short, there remains the possibility that there might be something that Vowell, or the Washington Post, or NPR, or Simon & Schuster could learn from a place like Montana. They might even figure out why people who are repeatedly treated with disdain by the country’s elite tend to vote for those who seem to show them some regard, even if it’s not really true. In the end, Vowell’s piece served one purpose: it helped to explain the recent election results.

 

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