Friday, October 24, 2008

through another's eyes

i wish you guys could read danish (i can think of only one reader who can and another one who can probably read norwegian, which is really like badly spelled and properly pronounced according to how it's spelled danish). what i actually love about living in denmark during my 3rd american presidential election is reading the coverage of the election in the danish (quality) press.  i would love to link to a whole list of great articles i've read lately (and i no doubt will), but it does seem a bit overwhelming to translate them. so, i will offer a synopsis and share some of the thoughts these great articles have led me to.

berlingske, which is, in my opinion, by far the best danish newspaper (tho' a recent redesign has given it a disturbing feel of one of those free-on-the-train papers) in terms of the writing itself, has a particular reporter in the US. i think i've probably mentioned him before. his name is poul høi and he lives in santa fe. during the first two elections i was here, he was berlingske's man in DC. apparently now he's achieved sufficient seniority and cachet (due to his brilliant writing) to be allowed to do whatever articles strike his fancy and to live in santa fe. not a bad gig, it would seem to me.

in yesterday's paper, he published the first of two articles from wasilla, home of sarah palin. he went there to try to get to the bottom of who she is by seeing where she came from. as i've said before, i have an addiction to writing in the margins of books and this article was so good that i actually had to underline and scribble all over it.

høi's analysis of the country of my birth helps me see it with new eyes. he's lived there about as long as i've lived here, so he has both an inside and an outside perspective. his descriptions are apt and often poetic, setting the scene:
  • characterizing a weather change as the sort that demands a wagner overture.
  • and wasilla as a town with no city planning, built according to the lowest common denominator--by kiosk owners, for kiosk owners and ruled by kiosk owners.
  • walking into the local "mug shot saloon" he felt like the children in the narnia books--as if he'd stepped through a wardrobe, back in time, to a place with nicotine-colored hessian on the wall, populated by people who have seen it all, done it all and given up.
  • describing churches being built according to the principles of plastic silverware architecture (engangsbestik-arkitektur).
then, with historical perspective, he reminds us of the divide in the republican party between the goldwater-types and the wallace-types (tho' wallace was a so-called dixiecrat (democrat turned independent), he inspired an entire generation of right of the right republicans). the divide between intellectual and down home (we know this now as the real and the fake america). he talks about sarah palin's mediocre grades (sound familiar?) and her need to move from college to college in order to finally collect a degree in sports journalism. he talks about the teachers who had no recollection of her. he discusses her bizarre anti-intellectualism--if she couldn't be a leader among the educated, she would by god lead the uneducated against the educated. serving on the local city council was her way up the ladder, then she stomped on those who helped her in and ran against them, mobilizing the "wal-mart moms," which worked for her all the way to the governor's mansion (there are apparently a LOT of those in alaska).

in short, høj masterfully weaves together fifty years of history of american politics, cultural analysis and a feel for the present into the conclusion that sarah palin is in actuality a natural and even inevitable conclusion...once republicans admired people like abraham lincoln and winston churchill, today those on the pedestal are joe six-pack and joe the plumber. sarah palin is, like george w. bush before her, simply the embodiment of this zeitgeist.  as poul høj says in his blog entry this week, if you cross lipstick with a pitbull long enough, you eventually do get a pitbull with lipstick.

all of this makes me realize that those of us now fake americans--the ones who bothered to get higher education and a passport--simply must stage a revolt. we've sat back long enough, not really believing that this is where reality was headed and thinking these people were too moronic to bother arguing with.  it's so, so, so important to vote obama. our right to be intellectual or even just to be thinking and thoughtful in our decision-making depends on it. we must show this woman the way back to her wal-mart. if she's going to give back all that valentino anyway, she'll need some new, more affordable clothes.


Amanda said...

I do so wish I read Danish. I wish I lived in Denmark among you un-real expats.

You're my only political reporting tie now and I love it!

julochka said...

amanda--two things worry me. 1.) you get up really, really early--are you getting enough sleep? and 2.) my opinions are pretty biased! but thank you. i'm happy to provide at least entertainment if not insight. now, run over to tangobaby and nominate yourself for her administration! then we can all rock & rule together!!

d smith kaich jones said...

The people of Wasilla must have been overcome with sheer joy and amazement to at last have someone with some kind of intellectual leanings visit their poor, backward little town. And those Walmart moms - how thrilled they must have been. Excuse my sarcasm, but this is just so much snobbery on this guy's part.

I disagree with you wholeheartedly when you say that a vote for Obama insures our right to be intellectual, to be thinking & thoughtful in our decision-making. I believe we will only be allowed that right if our thinking agrees with his. The reaction to his response to "Joe the Plumber" - a perfectly legitimate question with a disturbing answer - proved to me how much freedom will be disallowed if Obama is elected. The response to "Joe"'s question, the slam against him was in fact not really directed at Joe - it was a message to the rest of America. We dare not ask Senator Obama a question he may answer wrongly, unless we are prepared to be raked over the coals for our audacity. I got it. I won't forget.


julochka said...

debi--while i didn't intentionally provoke you, in a way, i'm glad i did. which sounds harsher than i mean it to, because i don't mean it harshly at all...what i mean is that the amazing thing about both freedom of speech and the blogosphere is that we can provoke one another to have made me're right, there's a bit (ok a LOT) of snobbery in what poul høi is saying. he's no doubt, despite 10 years in the US, a totally snobby european and no doubt so am i, in part because i worked really hard to achieve snob status in an attempt to run away from the little town i grew up in and also because i'm affected by the european environment in which i've lived and perspective that's given me for the past ten years. i hope i also provoked you to think..even if it is an opinion i don't agree with, i TOTALLY agree with and respect your right to have it and to vote as your heart and head tells you. that's what's amazing about this whole process. i very much appreciate your comment and the chance for dialogue. it's good for both of us to have opposition to strengthen our arguments and thinking.


p.s. tangobaby needs you in her cabinet. ;-)

d smith kaich jones said...

Julie - I love your blog, even though I don't always agree with you about political issues. Really I've been thinking about this a lot - I'm a very political person, which is why I don't allow politics on my blog. It would wear me out.

You made me laugh - I can just see you working hard to achieve snob status. We are all snobs about some things. For me, it's NASCAR. :)

I cannot imagine what place I would fill in Tango's cabinet, but I am loving her cabinet descriptions.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!

:) Debi

Tin (ni Johann) said...

Thank you for sharing this article. ^_^

Sarah Palin worries me immensely -- I don't think she's ready for the national stage (although, regardless of whether she wins as VP, that's where she's headed anyway) --

I recently read the NY Times endorsement of Obama and I also thought that was very well-written.

Hope Vestergaard said...

Hej, Julie.

I read Danish (found my Dane at summer camp!) and lving in Michigan, I'd love to see some links. There's so much to read in English that I barely make it through that without people filtering the links for me. I do so enjoy Danish media coverage of the US when we're over there.

- Hope

julochka said...

tin--i think she scares a lot of us. but the news is starting to look good and i think we'll be rid of her.

hope--thanks for stopping by! i can recommend that you got to for what is, in my opinion, the best coverage of the US election from a danish perspective. look for everything by poul høi--the second of his articles on sarah palin's wasilla is there today:

you should also look at his blog: where there is some really interesting stuff going on in the comments!