Time’s James Poniewozick explains how the “political press…dotes on a nostalgic definition of realness that bears ever less relation to today’s America” such that “we get an image of America shaped by outdated iconography and the self-consciousness and class guilt of journalists, especially male ones. (What do we, with our soft, girlie hands, know about real life?).”
My name is James, and I am a former Real American. I grew up in Monroe, Mich. (pop. 22,076), just across the state line from Holland, Ohio, where lives Joe Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. Joe the Plumber, campaign 2008’s latest shorthand for Real America. My dad—also named Joe—drove a beer and wine delivery truck and hunted deer. We went ice fishing and bowling. The first album I ever bought was Bob Seger’s Live Bullet.
Today my core beliefs are pretty much the same as then. (Well, the Bob Seger … only in moderation.) But now I am unreal because I work in the media and live in Brooklyn, which is presumably not among Sarah Palin’s “pro-American” parts of America. This is what campaign coverage tells me. If a candidate appeals to my kind, it is a liability. My artificiality will stain him with a mark that can be washed off only by a shot, a beer and a pilgrimage to Scranton, Pa.
I sometimes wonder where my realness went. Did it fall out somewhere on I-80 when I moved to New York?
(Insert your own snarky answer here…)
Liz Cox Barrett is a freelance writer and graphic designer in Kalispell, Montana. She worked as a newspaper journalist in Denver and Kalispell for 20 years.