It it wasn't crystal clear before, it is now with the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate that Barack Obama has nothing but disdain for anyone who has the effrontery to live outside of our nation's biggest population hubs. The trouble is, that's a lot of people, some of whom he needs to get elected, much to his dismay, I'm sure.
Even if you didn't take Obama's comments in San Francisco – about how people in the heartland cling to guns and religion because they're bitter – as a personal insult as I did (and I'm not even from a small town… at least it wasn't when I was growing up in Cleveland), there's no mistaking that Obama holds much of America in contempt from the way he's reacted to Sarah Palin and her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska.
Obama dismissed Palin and the proud people of the town she so dearly loves in the same way arrogant kings through the ages have dismissed the little guy and his movement right up to the moment they're deposed. And what's worse is that the nicest throne Obama has ever sat on is probably the toilet in his master bath if you'll please pardon the crude imagery.
For my part, the only experience I've had with small town America was rather fleeting, but it was nonetheless memorable – in fact, the memory is indelible. I went to Ohio University for only a year, and it lies smack in the hills of Appalachia. I confess that I expected to find myself knee-deep in hicks when I first went there, so I was unprepared for the reality that these were decent, hard working people who, despite despite plenty of reasons to, never seemed to complain about their lot.
First, I found myself envying them, and a little later, admiring them. I soon came to realize that these were the real Americans – the people this country is and should always be all about. On my frequent bus trips back to Cleveland, Greyhound traveled the interstate as much as possible, Trailways took the winding backroads. That was much slower.
I came to prefer Trailways.
The trip was was long, six hours, but infinitely more educational, and a delight to the senses. I was struck by how simply these people lived. I remember downtown Wadsworth at 11 o'clock without a car in sight and the little town we'd roll through about 2am that shall probably forever remain nameless with its old style gas station and the round globe atop the sole pump.
Not a soul was stirring. The real America was sleeping. I used to try to imagine what life in the daytime was like and I realized that Mayberry was real in middle Ohio..
On the interstate, progress was measured in mile markers and billboards. The Trailways trip was marked by each distinct little town and rest-stop diners. The hottest chili I ever had was a one of these places in the early morning hours on one trip back to the university.
Ohio University itself, while doing its best to blend in, was a sea of modernity compared to Athens itself, the town in which it is situated.. One didn't have to pass through town to get to classes, but walking to and from the tiny bus station and going to the lone movie house became a treat. I relished the differences in location, feel, and state of mind one had as compared to motoring around Cleveland's suburbs to see the movie of choice that evening and eating at another newly discovered restaurant.
In Athens there was usually one choice, and even then, it was usually cheaper than Cleveland and richer in texture. Looking back, I can't recall a single bad experience I had with a "townee," as they were known ( derisively by some, the budding Obamas of the era, no doubt). I just found myself wishing I could live in a place like this when I grew up, and knowing that I probably never would.
And I never have. Funnily enough, my time spent in Covina and San Dimas, California, suburbs of Los Angeles, was the closest I'd come to approximating my student experience.
Barack Obama certainly had similar experiences in Hawaii and Indonesia, but he apparently came away feeling less than appreciative and more cynical of the people with whom he'd been required to mingle. Perhaps he has good reason. I mean, does small-town Indonesia even have a movie theater? And if not, where did he learn to be so arrogant?
Oh that's right, his university experience at Harvard was a little different than mine.