Because you don’t live in New York City. You don’t live in Los Angeles. You live like most Americans in between those two cities, and you know the values you believe in.According to Rick Santorum, I'm doubly un-American. I was born in New York City and lived there until I was 16, at which time my family moved to Los Angeles, where I've lived ever since. According to Rick Santorum, I have no values. I don't know the worth of an honest day's work. I don't know the benefits of charity (in which he engages very sparingly). I don't know the duties of good citizenship. My vote shouldn't count, because as both a New Yorker and an Angeleno, I was never exposed to rock-ribbed, middle American values. I'm an other. And everyone who lives in my two cities are similarly lacking in American moral fiber.
Let me tell you a bit about my America.
I live in a working-class suburb of Los Angeles, near the airport. It has seen its better days; at one point, Inglewood was the business hub of the South Bay. That distinction has now gone to Torrance. Like many of the older L.A. suburbs, it has gone from majority white to more or less evenly divided between Latinos and African Americans. I've lived in Inglewood my entire time on the West Coast, and I can see that slowly, achingly, it's making a comeback. Young professionals of multiple ethnicities are rediscovering the city, as it's centrally located to most everything in the L.A. basin, and still has very affordable housing.
To one side of my house lives a Mexican-American family. The husband owns his own landscaping business, and the wife works for an insurance company. Three children live with them—two young ones who are theirs, and an older daughter who is from his first marriage. They own their own home, their kids excel in school—I just bought chocolates from the younger girl for a school fundraiser—and, as far as I can tell, they live a very comfortable, ordinary, middle-class life. They don't have loud parties, they're kind and neighborly, they pay their taxes. But, because they live in Los Angeles—and, very likely, because they have the wrong kind of last name—they're not part of the "real" America.
To the other side of my house live my aunt and uncle. Cuban immigrants, they bought their house in 1974 for $9,000. My uncle worked for American Airlines as a mechanic from the time they moved from New York to L.A. My aunt worked at various companies, not so much because she had to—again, my uncle worked at a union shop, which is the height of radicalism—but mostly to supplement the household income and just to get out and do something once their kids were going to school. They didn't buy the house, sell it, buy another one, sell it again, and so on, playing the real estate game; they found a house, bought it, and made it home for themselves, their children, and their extended family and friends. They were the height of frugality and responsibility. And, needless to say, they're Republicans, as a majority of Cubans are. But, they live in Los Angeles—and first lived in New York when coming to this country—so according to Rick Santorum they must be cast aside as not "real" Americans.
These stories are repeated up and down the block, of people making the best lives they can, not cheating, playing by the rules like they're supposed to. But, they live on the "elite" coasts, so there is something foreign about them; they're not to be trusted with the country's fate, as they don't really know what the country is about. The country should only be in the hands of "real Americans"—and I'm sure Mr. Santorum has a clear image of what that phrase connotes.
(And, let's not forget, New York was "real" America after 9/11. The likes of Rick Santorum couldn't put their boxers on quickly enough to get a photo op at Ground Zero. Now that bin Laden is dead and 2001 has faded into memory, it's back to New York City being our modern Sodom. L.A. has always been Gomorrah, as we were fortunate enough not to suffer a terrorist attack. If, heaven forbid, we ever do, please Rick, stay away.)
Let's look at Rick and see how much of a "real" American he is.
He's served in the US House and Senate. That right there should disqualify him from being a real American, if GOP propaganda is to be taken at face value.
He homeschools his children. Most families send their children to public schools which people on Rick's side of the aisle want to defund. Not quite in step with "real" Americans.
His Catholicism. Or rather, I should say, his brand of Catholicism, which leads him to want to do away not only with abortion, but with ready access to contraception. That appeals to a certain segment of the country, but certainly not to the broad middle.
And let's not forget his education. BA in political science. MBA from the University of Pittsburgh. A law degree. A highly educated man. And, if this bout of GOP primaries has taught us anything it's that highly educated people are not "real" Americans.
So, Rick is a highly educated politician with radical religious beliefs who has spent the past two decades in the DC and NYC corridors of power. (Remember, he's also been a Fox "News" "analyst" since he was dropkicked out of office by his constituents.) By the standards of his own party, he's as Other as, say, Barack Obama.
I claim nothing special for myself, my wife, or my neighbors; just the acknowledgment that we, too, are Americans, in spite of what Rick Santorum and his followers would say.
Oh, and Rick? Take your sweater vest and give it a Santorum.
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