Saturday, July 21, 2007

The New Normal

Forgive the rant, but this stuff has become increasingly common in the last five or six years, and it annoys me to no end. The ex-hometown paper has a story today - the short version is that some North Dakota farmers are so screwed financially that they want to start growing hemp, the profitable cousin of marijuana which, because it's the cousin of marijuana, is illegal. Details of the issue aside, the point of the article is that these would-be hemp farmers are all straight arrows, not filthy, patchouli-stinkin' hippies. Or as the article puts it:

[the North Dakotans are] at the forefront of a political battle more likely to have emerged somewhere “a little more rebellious,” as one farmer here put it, like California or Massachusetts....

“We’re not wide-eyed liberals,” Mr. Johnson said.

These guys are, y'know, respectable - not like the people from those decadent coastal enclaves. Take the story's lead character, David Monson:

As Mr. Monson rolls past his wheat, barley and shimmering yellow fields of canola, he listens to Rush Limbaugh in his tractor. When he is not farming, he is the high school principal in nearby Edinburg, population 252. When he is not teaching, he is a Republican representative in Bismarck, the state capital, where his party dominates both houses of the legislature and the governor is a Republican.

“Look at me — do I look shady?” Mr. Monson, 56, asked...

I mean, can we just stop holding up people like this as paragons of virtue and exemplars of normalcy? "Do I look shady?" Well, yes! Christ, man, you ride around on a tractor all afternoon listening to Rush fucking Limbaugh! And rather than shunning you for this brazen display of anti-intellectualism, the 251 dittoheads who comprise the rest of Edinburgh, ND, entrust you with their children's education. Then they offer you up as their functionary in the one-party state government - a state so reactionary that 60 percent of its citizens voted for Bush in 2000 and then, after having four years to ponder their mistake, went and increased that number to nearly 63 percent in 2004.

Look, for all I know, Dave Monson's a terrific guy. Fat people are supposed to be jolly, right? But 75 percent of all Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Seventy-seven percent say the war in Iraq is going badly. Two-thirds want to start bringing home the troops. It's safe to say that any elected Republican who drives around listening to Limbaugh all afternoon probably disagrees, which means he's well outside the American mainstream. Monson probably thinks the president's doing a good job. A mere 27 percent of the country shares his opinion. How small does that number have to get before we can call it a lunatic fringe? As Jon Stewart pointed out once, four out of five dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum; in other words, the percentage of dentists who advocate sugary chewing gum is only sightly lower than the percentage of American think they way Dave Monson does. Hell, standing up for hemp is probably the least-crazy, most mainstream position this guy has ever taken.

Do you look shady? Dude, if you tried to pet my dog I would soak you down with pepper spray and call the sheriff. With any luck, you'd be carrying at the time.

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