Robert J. Elisberg

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Robert J. Elisberg

Robert J. Elisberg
Los Angeles, California,
December 31
Robert J. Elisberg has been a regular contributor to the Huffington Post since 2006. His writing has appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, and Los Angeles Magazine, and served on the editorial board for the Writers Guild of America. He has contributed political writing to the anthology, "Clued in on Politics," 3rd edition (CQ Press). Born in Chicago, he attended Northwestern University and received his MFA from UCLA, where he was twice awarded the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. Most recently, he wrote the comedy-adventure screenplay, “The Wild Roses,” for Callahan Filmworks, and had published his comic novella, "A Christmas Carol 2: The Return of Scrooge."


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Editor’s Pick
JULY 29, 2010 11:26AM

Sarah Palin’s Small Town Values

Rate: 13 Flag

Ever since she has hit the national spotlight, Sarah Palin has delighted in attacking the parts of America that aren't "small town America," "middle America," what she refers to as "The Real America."  (As opposed to the rest of the country that is the Fake America.)

Never mind that this "small town America" - Sarah Palin's Real America - only makes up a tiny fraction of the United States.  The number of fake Americans living in urban areas is 225.9 million, while Real Americans living in rural areas is only 59.3 million.  (For those keeping score, that's 79.2% fake, 20.8% real.  Even this overwhelms the Senate's filibuster-proof super-majority.)

Who would have imagined that small town America was really that small…?

I come from a small town.  Glencoe, Illinois, population 10,500.  However that's twice Wasilla, Alaska, so maybe that makes it urban and therefore fake.  In fact, if you were the mayor of a hamlet of just 5,469 people, as Ms. Palin was, perhaps that's why anything bigger looks so massive, scary and fake.  After all, the entire state of Alaska would rank it 19th among U.S. cities, right above Memphis.  No wonder Sarah Palin quit as governor after half a term, those other 225.9 million fake Americans surrounding her 698,743 Real Alaskans was pretty imposing.

Well, not "surrounding," actually.  Alaska is way up north and sort of out there, beyond even Canada.  Anchorage is closer to Japan than to Muncie, Indiana.

Yet somehow, Sarah Palin has been trying to convince everyone that she understands The Real America.  Small town America, middle America.  The thing is, as far as we know, before Sarah Palin joined the John McCain Express and was forced to leave the safety of her insulated life, she may have rarely even set foot anywhere on mainland America, let alone small towns across the Lower 48.  To be fair, she may have.  But to be equally fair, there's little that came out during the campaign that suggested otherwise.  We know she had three separate tries at college in Idaho, so there at least is evidence that she came on down, however briefly.  Maybe there were some vacations to Disneyland, maybe some business visits.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

But the evidence of any extended, substantive time in small towns across these great United States, enough to give her a mastery of the Real America outside of Alaska - it's pretty darn hard to find.

Yet, on and on and on she goes, as if she knows what she's talking about.  As if she knows small town, middle America.  As if she understands why the small town values of 21% of America are better than the values of the other 79%.   As if she has the slightest idea about the Real America.

No single town can stand in for all, no matter how typical.  But still, let's look at one particular small town in America, the kind that Sarah Palin - as an expert - relentlessly trumpets as better than the rest of the fake America.

Last Friday, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about the town King Salmon, population 450, in the Northwest of America, near the Pacific Coast.  About as small town America as you can get.

Everyone there loved the local weatherman, who put together twice-daily reports for the fisherman.  Everyone loved his wife, a "stay-at-home mom who drove their 4-year-old to preschool, sang in the town choir and picked berries with her girlfriends."  When the family decided to move, 30 people showed up at the airport to send them off, singing choir songs and crying.

And when the plane landed, Paul and Nadia Rockwood were met by the FBI on suspicion of domestic terrorism.  They pled guilty last week.  In their plea agreements, Paul Rockwood stated he "had become an adherent of extremist Islam who had prepared a list of assassination targets, including U.S. service members."  Guns and explosives had been researched, though no plot was revealed.

Boy, howdy, talk about paling around with terrorists.

Oh, by the way, the small town of King Salmon is in Alaska.  About 320 miles from Wasilla.

To be clear, just because this all occurred in Alaska doesn't make it any worse or better.  And just because it occurred in Sarah Palin's backyard is no aspersion on her.  None.

The point, however, is that while Sarah Palin goes around divisively trying to gin up hatred, trying to draw a line between Real America and the fake, between small town values and urban values, between what she wants to present as Good and what she wants you to fear, Sarah Palin once again demonstrates how she doesn't have a clue what she's talking about or what words come out of her mouth.  Nor does she care to find out.  Intellectual curiosity is not, nor ever has been a concern of Sarah Palin.

When Sarah Palin talks about Real America's Values, Sarah Palin doesn't have a clue what Real America is.  When Sarah Palin talks about small towns, Sarah Palin doesn't have a clue what large towns are - or most medium-towns.  When Sarah Palin talks about middle America, she doesn't know middle America.  And when Sarah Palin talks about terrorism, she couldn't see it if it was in her own neighborhood.  

Which it was.

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sarah palin, united states

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Oh that last sentence is worth the price of admission. And yes, as a fellow mid-westerner (Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, which, when I was growing up, was about 15,000 strong and is three times that today), I don't think she knows two hoots and a holler about the mid-section of my country. R

But we believe what we believe
Thanks for this, Robert. I am still astonished at the speaking fees that Mrs Palin demands.
If she would just define "the real America" some time, we'd have some idea where we are. But why should she do that and spoil all the fun? In any case, isn't the very idea extremely undemocratic, downright unconstitutional?
This snarky, trivial, smear piece is typical of what Open Salon considers worthy of special attention.

These constant references to "fake" America are ridiculous. That's a fabrication of the author, used for his rhetorical purposes. It's no part of Palin's argument, which is based on the outrageous notion that there are certain American values which are considered old-fashioned by the liberal elite and inconvenient by underachievers who would rather loot than earn.
Well done! Palin is an illusion even to herself. What scares me, is that in a recent gathering of the conservative faithful, 48 percent of them thought she should run for President.

Talk about illusions.
Hows the weather in Brazil Gordon? At least that would be something you are familiar with. As a resident of Dowell Illinois, population 350 I am qualified to talk about small town values. If you ask many of my neighbors questions that lead them to the myths spread by some conservative leaders they will knee jerk right along with them, get them alone and they are much more open minded about things. Many will not openly disagree with the conservative platform yet they will often question the goals and the direction if they are not in public. They (and I refer only to those people that I know personally and do not see this as a blanket indictment of any who identify with a conservative view) want things to be better, they just don't seem to understand that they could be led astray as easily and as often as the "liberals" who they have been told are out to destroy them and their beliefs.
Loved it! Gotta watch out for those helicopter moose-hunting terrorist types.

@Nikki...I have you beat. I grew up around the corner from Whitefolks Bay in Brown Deer, WI, when it only had 10,000 people. Somehow I doubt Sarah would have made much impression there. WI is the kind of place where they toss the resident rascals out of office, periodically, just on principal.

I don't think anybody can say what small town or big city Americans believe at any moment. Most of us live quiet lives and think long and hard before we cast a vote. We don't wear stupid hats and attend rallies for people who preach hate.
It's even closer to home, her home; King Salmon is on the Naknek River, just upstream from Bristol Bay where Sarah and Todd commercial fish each summer.
Since 1976, Alaska has ranked in the top five states in the nation for the highest rate of reported rape per capita. In 1993, Alaska ranked 1st in the nation: highest per capita incidence of rape. Alaska has 6 times the national average of reported child sexual assault. 1 in 4 girls before the age of 12 and 1 in 6 boys before the age of 18 nationally will be sexually assaulted. The most commonly reported type of sexual abuse is a father who commits incest with his daughter--usually the eldest daughter. As many as 4 out of 5 offenders were sexually assaulted as children. One-third of incest victims' mothers were sexually abused as children. Alaska's rape rate is 2.2 times the national average overall.
This is Sarah's "Small Town Alaska". Not a pretty picture; not a model for the nation.
Very good post. I hadn't heard about this. Good find on your part. I'm sure that Mrs. Palin would characterize the Rockwoods as good people who were devastated by the election of a Kenyan national.
You expand my thinking here. Funny how numbers -- that is, facts -- can shift the prism, reveal new light.

I suspect there's a Sarah, an essence, that would have turned into Sarah Palin no matter where she was born and raised. A narcissist and cynic to the core, she is. But Tiny World works like a worm on Big Egos; your point is apt.

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