I'm reading Andrew Sullivan
before work and noticed something that "got me thinking..."
There is this weird sense in America that we want our politicians to "be like us". At the same time, there is no definition of "us" that fits everyone. One thing I've learned traveling everywhere is how amazingly diverse and different places are. You don't even have to compare San Diego, CA to Salina, KS, you can look at Manhattan, KS vs. Colby, KS and see a rather amazing diversity of people and cultures.
However, our political culture demands that our politicians do their best to be "average Joe" while at the same time being somehow above average. What does this cause? It causes things like this:
Now, I'm not saying that Clinton doesn't
drink beer, Pawlenty isn't
an avid hunter or that Perry doesn't
generally at pork chops by hand. What I'm saying is the political pandering and strong desire to get the image
across that this is how they really
are when they're off stage is ridiculous. But, it's all part of the calculation to make sure they seem the most "normal" to widest audience possible.
Obama has never been very good at this--he eats arugula and fancy mustard.
I was talking to Peter the other day about perceptions of "normal" and what "normal" is in America. He comes from a vastly different background than I. Even within our subculture (gay) there are variations of "normal" and differences in upbringing. For Peter, he's always felt "normal" because he went to a school where a teenager could be openly gay. I did not, so for me, my sexuality will always to some degree make me feel like an "other".
At the same time, I often tweak the more common "square peg" cliche and say I'm an octagonal peg--I don't fit in anywhere. I'm an atheist who grew up Catholic. I'm a Mexican who doesn't speak Spanish. I'm too brown to fit the WASP expectation that I see in the mall. I'm "butch" enough to have been in the military and graduate West Point, but clearly too "gay" to do so without most people figuring it out without me having to spell it out. For every group I could associate myself with in the hyphenated-American forms, there's a conflicting side to my upbringing and culture that negates it.
A quick look at our old typical family fourth of July parties would show what I grew up considering "normal" American culture...a family where kids who were almost all half-Mexican and half (take your pick, Taiwanese, American-Indian, Filipino, Polish, or other) would eat Carnitas, wave small American flags and dance to live mariachi music). It's probably not what most people would consider "normal" American culture, but it was more normal and more American than anything I can think of right now.
But, how ridiculous would any one of the candidates for President look, standing there with a corona in one hand, small flag in the other and mariachis behind them to celebrate America's birth? Likewise, how silly would I look in an orange jacket holding a rifle, or chugging some typically American beer (side-note, I got laughed at here in Kansas for ordering a Blue Moon). I may not ever fit the mold of "American", but that's only because the mold is a joke. It's a construct that's devoid of real meaning, but has instead been created and bullet formatted:
- hunt something
- drink a beer
- eat at a diner
- flag lapel pin
- end with "and may God Bless America!"
I don't know if this posting has a point other than to share my observation. In any case, I like my "normal" better--it's more fun and more interesting.