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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The great Crawford myth

Okay, it's hilarious that the newspaper in Crawford is endorsing Kerry. It's pathetic that the AP headline tries to minimize this by drawing attention to the size of the town. The article itself is especially aggravating as the AP writer continues to pee all over this small town paper by drawing attention to its small circulation and the fact that it's new.

I'm from a small Texas town and I can assure you this is not as small a thing as they want it to be. Many small town papers breeze over politics if they can help it, because small town people are bored and there's always someone who will start a personal vendetta against the editor of the paper if his politics are different than theirs. Texas small town newspapers' main job is to report on high school football and publish lots and lots of pictures of the local citizens so they have clippings for their scrapbooks.

Now, the paper's name is the Lone Star Iconoclast, and while it's overwhelmed right now, a cached version on Google demonstrates that they do run national and state news, not just high school football scores. And with a name like that, I think that it might not be the small town's official, tedious newspaper. There is also a long, healthy tradition in small town Texas of locals putting out highly opinionated "alternative" papers in order to defend what they see as their way of life--the blogosphere reminds me of these papers quite a bit. And hell, there's probably a million gradations between no controversy and all controversy in the teeny-weeny paper wars. The cached version of the paper praised anti-war demonstraters on the front, so who knows?

But I do know that this is most unwelcome news to Bush, though who knows if this story is the sort of thing that will stick with people or not. Because the myth of Crawford, TX is something that Bush props himself up with at every opportunity. Just as Reagan was able to remake himself from a decadent Hollywood actor to a cowboy who defends women and children from snarling Russians by using plenty of imagery of himself as a cowboy, Bush is using his residence in Crawford to prop himself up as what he is not. He is not a cowboy, he is not a rancher, his fucking ranch isn't even a ranch. Well, to be specific it, in the local parlance, yes, it's a ranch. We pretty much call any plot of land with a house on it big enough where you can run around shooting guns and getting drunk without the cops getting called a ranch around here. But for most people, I imagine "ranch" conjures up the image of the Wild West, of hard-working cowboys, exotic and yet homely. He spends all his time clearing brush off the ranch because it's the perfect task for sounding meaningful and earthy, but no one knows exactly what the hell it is for (well, I know, but it's a Texas secret), meaning he can avoid having people ask what exactly he uses his ranch for. If he spent his spare time branding cattle, eventually someone would wonder why he does that since he doesn't use his ranch to raise cattle.

Texans have affection for rich assholes who play cowboy on their "ranches" but don't actually do much working. I don't know why, but it's true. Probably just more of the same old feeling that we should be nice to the rich so that people are nice to us when we're rich fallacy that strikes so many Americans. Also, they don't make bad neighbors since they don't have animals tearing the shit out of everything. The Shrub was welcome to Crawford when he moved there to use it as evidence that he's just a good ol' country boy like y'all. It's thrilling to have famous people near when you think the rest of the world doesn't know you exist.

It's not just that he's lost Crawford, which could be an indicator that rural people everywhere are fed up; it's that without the carefully constructed image of him as an Everyman from Anywhere, TX where they are just bursting with pride at their boy done good, he could lose a lot more people who vote for him for that reason. The story will probably be buried, but let's hope that every comedy writer on TV just can't resist cracking on it.


Blogger Elayne said...

Oh yeah, this'll be on Leno tonight, methinks. He's gotten bolder and more "out" lately since he knows he's only there for another 5 years. By the way, I love your new design!!


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