13 February 2007

Dispatches from a foreign land...

Or something like that. I guess.

I read Slate fairly regularly. Lots of good writing. But there is a trend I've found a little tiresome. Slate treats the midwest (and the south, but especially the midwest) like it's...Madagascar or something.

I'm kind of used to hearing people talk about the rural midwest like it's some sort of imaginary, idealized place. That always strikes me as odd - I don't know that many midwesterners who really think the major coastal cities are like...Saturn. In fact, I think most midwesterners I know have, at one time or another, been farther from home than their local VFW pancake breakfast.

Normally I think this is slightly amusing, in an eye-rolling sort of way.

"Yes," I'll say to my more urban, metropolitan friends. "My high school had a dairy farm next door. No - we didn't lock the doors. In fact, they propped them open in the spring. No - that didn't lead to a problem with gangs or crazed gunmen, but the school smelled like cow shit an awful lot."

And they'll chuckle. Oh, those quaint midwesterners!

But for some reason, this chapped my ass. The "Ain't that America" photo selection from Slate.

It's white people and farms and harvesting! Oh my! Come here, darling - observe these strange images from the hinterlands! It's as though this is some strange anthropological study from Papua New Guinea or some shit.

Dude! This is like...I dunno...normal pictures of a reasonably large portion of the country. Some people have cows. And they go to fairs. And they even have cars and driveways! And yes, the people who live on wheat farms harvest the wheat, because that's what they do for a living.

Jesus H. Christ.

Further (you could tell this was going to be long one, couldn't you?), why are like half the pictures from the 50s and 60s? The desperation to achieve a sense of provincialism absolutely reeks from this collection, but mixing in even grainier imagery of old people at gas stations in 1954...

What the hell is the point of this photo essay?

I don't know, but it pisses me off. I may have to rant more on this subject from another angle. There is a significant part of the country, and it's a statistical minority, that really believes its day-to-day experiences are some sort of "norm" for Americans. The only problem is, this minority lives in coastal enclaves and seems to think about things for a living.

That's not most of the country. And - here's a hint - it's not the important part of the country.