Sunday, August 07, 2011

Dammit, Janet, Jackson Hole isn't a planet but a real place with real people (and the Cheneys)

Jackson Hole (Ansel Adams photo)
Lander's Bill Sniffin knows Wyoming almost better than anyone in the state. He knows newspapers from the inside as a publisher, editor and columnist. He once ran for governor. These days, he spends much of his time traveling and writing about it.

That's why it was disappointing to read in today's syndicated column that Jackson is the perfect name for Jackson is Planet Jackson Hole, the title of the local alternative online newspaper. This distant planet is famous for only two things: the most expensive real estate in the U.S. and the residence of Dick and Lynne Cheney. You might think that the Cheneys own the richest real estate in the U.S., what with the riches the former Veep reaped from Halliburton, both before, during and after his stint in public office. But the richest spread is owned by Richard Fields of the Coastal casino company. His house and 1,750 acres is worth $175 million and it's for sale.

I went to Planet Jackson Hole to get more info. While Fields and his agent tout the hunting and fishing and scenic properties of the spread, its real value is this: it can be divided up into as many as 35 ranchettes. Now we're talking valuable valley real estate.

Planet Jackson Hole
Mr. Sniffin spends quite a bit of ink praising Lynne Cheney for her service to humanity. She recently received the Louisa Swain Foundation annual award. As far as I can tell, the foundation exists to honor Wyoming women, a worthy goal. In 2010, former First Lady and Democrat Jane Sullivan was presented the award at a ceremony in Casper. This year the award went to Mrs. Cheney.

Lynne Cheney is a strong women -- no doubt about that. But her efforts to support other women is up for debate. She's a powerful Republican who spends more of her time and effort supporting her party's reactionary agenda targeting women's rights, workers' rights, voting rights, immigrant rights, etc. She's a Rightie working hard to abrogate the rights of everyone else. That's one way to be a powerful woman.

Lynne Cheney has worked for years to kill the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She was director of the NEH from 1986-1993. Here's how the Swain award wording puts it:
"As chairman of the NEH from 1986 to 1993, she wrote and spoke about the importance of teaching children about the leaders, events and ideas that have shaped our world."
Her P.O.V. has always been colored by her conservative politics. It's telling that she wrote her many books as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. I would say that her history is the polar opposite to Howard Zinn's, but that would be giving her too much credit. Zinn actually did research. Mrs. Cheney read AEI policy papers. In her view, our founding fathers could do no wrong and American foreign policy was always noble.

Here's a sample from a Conservative Book Club review for her children's book, America: A Patriotic Primer:
America: A Patriotic Primer will help you impress upon your children what makes our country great. C, for example, is for "the Constitution that binds us together." Mrs. Cheney doesn't let multiculturalist revisionism stop her from pointing out that "the Constitution of the United States has inspired constitution-writers around the world." Likewise, under "F is for Freedom and the Flag that we fly" she includes instructions on how to fold a flag with the proper respect, and how to say the Pledge of Allegiance! H is for Heroes, I for Ideals, P for Patriotism, and V is for Valor! Those are by no means the only elements in this colorful book that will make liberals blanch. G, proclaims Mrs. Cheney, "is for God in whom we trust. Freedom to worship God as they chose brought people to America. Freedom to worship God as we choose sustains our country today." She also includes capsule profiles of America's heroes: J is for Jefferson, L is for Lincoln, M is for Madison, and W is for Washington!
The book passes the conservative litmus test. America good, rest of world bad. Conservatives good, Liberals bad. White culture good, multiculturalism bad. God-fearing Americans good, non-God-fearing Americans bad. And so on.

Tea Party people like Lynne Cheney's books. Her bugaboos are also theirs: multiculturalism, immigration, peaceniks, populists, eggheads, etc. Excerpts from her books would be (and probably are) welcome in any Texas Board of Education textbook. 

Mrs. Cheney could be a poster person for the conservatives of 2011. Except for one thing -- she publicly opposes the Defense of Marriage Act constitutional amendment. The Cheneys have a lesbian daughter and their personal knowledge of the LGBT world has caused them to rethink this aspect of the conservative agenda.

Perhaps their views also would change if they came out of their mountain redoubt and mingled with some of the Hispanic service workers at Jackson's many hotels and resorts. Jackson has been a trailblazer in bilingual services for its Spanish-speaking newcomers. The Teton County Public Library offers bilingual services and books and programming. The city and county has worked hard to find affordable housing for service workers. 

Maybe if Dick and Lynne came down from the mountain to talk to some of the 4 million tourists that come to the area each year. Might open their eyes to the hardships faced by ordinary Americans, hardships that will only get worse as the Tea Party Congress continues their assault on wages and unions and the social safety net. Dick and Lynne might learn a lot about ordinary Americans if they spent a summer as a campground host in one of the National Park Service's many fine campgrounds. Well, they're fine now but won't be once Republicans finish their dismantling of government services.

Planet Jackson Hole is a place where real people live. The Cheneys might want to take some time out to meet some of them and hear their stories. It might change their world view. Dick may be too far gone. But Lynne? She was an English major just like me. There must be some liberal arts flexibility remaining in that doctrinaire mind.


Mac said...

Multiculturalism is fine, as long as it doesn't displace American culture. No need for multilingualism if the people who come to live and work here want to become Americans and learn the language, English. Elsewhere in the world - Europe, Asia - English has become the lingua franca. Everywhere but Latin America, apparently. Catering to those who come to the USA but don't want to speak the language is not doing anybody a favor. I refuse to "press one for English" in my own country.

Michael Shay said...

As is the case with past immigrants, those coming to the U.S. from Latin America need a transition into the English language. Bilingual programs, such as those in Jackson, provide that transition. All of the sons and daughters of Hispanic immigrants that I know speak English because that is the language of American citizenship. Who do you know from Mexico or El Salvador or Colombia who moves to the U.S. but refuses to speak the language?

Chuck said...

"Multiculturalism is fine, as long as it doesn't displace American culture"

What? American culture IS multicultural. We're a country made up of bits and pieces from around the world, and have been since we started importing indentured labor from Asia, Africa and South America more than 200 years ago.

As for pressing one for English, I am truly sorry it's so difficult for you.