City Paper is not for tourists
Marbury has been one of my great pleasures this electoral season. Written by Ian Leslie, the blog aims to explain United States politics to Leslie’s fellow Britons. That so few U.K. commentators do so successfully is one of the perversities of the Special Relationship.
Take, for example, this piece in the Guardian, conservatively titled “How these gibbering numbskulls came to dominate Washington.” It’s by George Monbiot, who despite stating in his second graf “I have for many years been mystified by American politics,” goes on to explain American politics. The answer? Quoting heavily from a Book He Just Read, Monbiot determines: It’s cuz we like God ‘n’ stuff! “Teaching in the southern states was dominated by the views of an ignorant aristocracy of planters,” he explains, “and a great educational gulf opened up,” he writes. Planters!
By contrast, here’s Leslie on Sarah Palin.
Does that mean I think she’s a towering intellect, the next Reagan/Thatcher etc? No. A combination of the moribund state of her party, and her premature ascent to the national stage, means that she’s not being forced to use that brain to do any real thinking. She’s interesting as a figure, but she really has nothing interesting to say. Anyway, I suspect she relies too heavily and lazily on her ‘instincts’ to do the hard thinking required to develop a distinctive political vision. But I do think she’ll emerge as very strong contender for the GOP nomination in 2012 and that she’ll come back as an improved, more substantial version of her 2008 self.
I’m not saying we don’t make it easy for people like Monbiot, but single-sourced, empirically researched twaddle like his article isn’t a far cry from the fuzzy education he blames for Americans’ inherent stupidity. And he’s not alone in his belief. Half my family is British, and whenever I’m over, I’m always struck by how firmly most folks there accept as gospel that Americans are idiots. If it weren’t for our movies, music, clothes, technology, food, cars, money, and amusement parks (single-sourced, empirically researched fact of my own: nine times out of 10, if a British person has been to a U.S. city other than New York, it’s Orlando), we’d have nothing to offer at all!
But Leslie has lived here, and it’s clear from his writing that not only does he have great affection for the place, he’s taken the time to try to actually understand it, something rare to British writers (and I’m counting Gary Younge here). As such, his perspective on our batshit-craziness is worth reading. And he mentions Moistworks as a favorite blog, so that’s in his plus column, too.