Karrie Jacobs


October 17, 2008

Brooklyn is America.

Parking Day 2008 on Montague St. in Brooklyn Heights.

For those of us who lived through the election of 1972, Sarah Palin’s rhetorical approach is like a horrible flashback. Richard Nixon’s political strategy was predicated on his insight that no one liked him very much, so to win he had to create a situation where Americans were more focused on hating each other than on disliking him. (Remember Spiro Agnew?) Acrimony was Nixon’s strategy (read Gary Wills’ Nixon Agonistes if you don’t believe me) and I experienced its effects first hand. As an isolated McGovern supporter in a New Jersey high school full of the offspring of rabid Republicans, I was routinely threatened and assaulted for being anti-American, for being a so-called Communist. A kid named Curt who sat in front of me in Western Civ., offended by my opposition to the war in Vietnam, actually said to me one day, “If I had a gun I’d blow your brains out all over the wall.” Western civilization, indeed. I am very grateful that I am not currently in high school.

The divisiveness being sown by the McCain-Palin ticket has an unpleasantly familiar tang. They, too, are trying to make divide-and-conquer work its magic. Among the many things that bug me is Palin’s parochial definition of what constitutes an American. At a fundraiser in Greensboro, N.C. last night, she expressed her pleasure at being in a “pro-American” part of the country. To clarify what she meant, the campaign sent out the following statement (from a pool report by Elizabeth Holmes of the Wall Street Journal):

“We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. We believe” — here the audience interrupted Palin with applause and cheers — “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.”

She continued: “This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. Those who are running our factories and teaching our kids and growing our food and are fighting our wars for us. Those who are protecting us in uniform. Those who are protecting the virtues of freedom.”

I love small towns. I’ve got nothing against them. But 80 percent of Americans live in cities and suburbs. I find it difficult to buy the notion that only 20 percent of our citizenry should be considered real. And, as the photo above demonstrates — it was taken on Parking Day in which parking spaces around the city are appropriated for other uses — we urbanites have dogs and children, flowers, and (tiny) picket fences. I would argue that Brooklyn, population 2.5 million, endlessly diverse and wildly complex, 2500 small towns rolled into one, is as American as it’s possible to be. Here in the big city we do kindness, goodness and courage, too. And one other thing: we really, really like to vote.

P.S. Yes, I’ve been neglecting my blog. I’ve been on endless deadlines and traveling. Here are two new pieces: Green Landmarks and Urban Farms.

Stay-Cation Park, on Court St., Brooklyn. Parking Day 2008. A lawn, folding chairs, pretzels…What could be more American? (Okay, these photos were shot on September 19. Parking Day has come and gone. I’m moving slowly these days. However Parking Day Redux is happening today, October 18, on W. 21st St. between 10th and 11th Avenues.)