Color Us Frumpy



You had to be there, but let me try to paint the scene as best I can. As a scraggly mutt wanders by, a frumpy woman wearing a styleless blue house dress stands in front of what appears to be a fenced-in pile of junk with a makeshift canopy over it. Off to the right, partly obscured by the junk, is an old red pickup with a rusted roof. The backdrop is a barren, near-lifeless landscape.

Who is this lady in the rumpled blue house dress? It's you and me. At least it is according to The Arizona Republic.

The scene I just described is a color photo on the front page of the Sept. 15 edition of the Republic, right under a headline that reads: "Shared concerns: Rural Arizonans measure candidates on war, terror."

It's the first in a series of reports "from outside the Valley," in which country folks like you and me "talk about the issues that are important to them and who they are voting for and why."

Only problem is, it isn't you and me. At least it wasn't the last time I looked in the mirror.

It almost looks like Republic reporters Mark Shaffer and Susan Carroll headed out into the boonies looking for an image of rural Arizona that too many Valley residents seem to have -- that we're a bunch of ignorant slobs who don't shower often and aren't bright or sophisticated enough to make it in the big city -- let alone vote.

And in case you think this picture was a fluke, let me tell you about the second front page color picture accompanying the story. It depicts the obese owner of a Springerville gun and fishing equipment store through the store's front window, on which a sign reads "22 L.R. AMMO 88 ¢."

So let me complete the stereotype. Rural Arizonans are a bunch of ignorant slobs who don't shower very often and aren't bright or sophisticated enough to make it in the big city -- gun-toting Neanderthals who are likely to end up blowing their own brains out.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but let's give Shaffer and Carroll a chance to redeem themselves. If the people they talked to in rural Arizona show a shred or two of intelligence, then maybe we're being a little thin-skinned about the pictures.

The article begins by explaining that "the issues dominating the lives of rural Arizonans still emanate from New York City on Sept. 11, 2001." In other words, while the rest of the world has moved on to more pressing and contemporary issues, the boonies are still shell-shocked by the past. The parenthetical asides in the following passage are mine:

"Just ask Jimmy Norris, 58, and his wife, Gloria, who moved to Willcox from Texas 34 years ago," Shaffer and Carroll write. "They own a company that makes specialty trailers for hot rods (of course). A '55 Chevy with white-wall tires sits outside the old Chevrolet dealership where the trailers are built. Jimmy is, his daughter says, ‘a Chevy man.'" (In the boonies, of course, we measure a man by whether he's a Chevy guy or a Ford guy.)

And what does Jimmy, whose house is "full of knickknacks," have to say about the election:

"Here's how I feel about this terrorist deal. If you don't go after them, we're going to be just like Israel. We won't be able to go downtown to get a cup of coffee without suicide bombers. I think if you don't go where they're at, you're going to have them right here on your doorstep."

I could rest my case, but there's a gem toward the end of the Republic story that is just too choice to pass up:

"In the military city of Sierra Vista, party headquarters for the Republicans and Democrats are in the same strip mall, separated by a gun shop."

Now, Shaffer and Carroll can say what they want about us country folk, even though a good many of us are here because we could no longer stand their way of life. They can call us stupid, fashionless, and just a cut above cavemen. But I'll tell you what, -- when it comes to sorting out the big city-style BS that comes with the political bombast from both sides, one could do worse than plunk a gun shop down right between the Democrats and the Republicans -- jus' so's they'll 'member who they're-a dealin' wif.

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