Mitt’s mind a warehouse for old cultural boxes

It is now undeniable. Mitt Romney believes our planet is a Disneyland Small World ride, where simplistic definitions of mid-century global diversity remain as they were drawn out for Americans after World War II.

If I wouldn’t have lived my childhood through some of that time, I may not have recognized it now.

I’m talking about the days of green suburban lawns and yellow school buses and TV shows like “Ozzie and Harriet,” “Father Knows Best” and “I Love Lucy,” and maids taking the bus from a mysterious part of town where white folks didn’t go, and mothers staying home to cook and clean and dads going to work to make a better life for the family. It was the time before the marches and the assassinations and the reality of a war 12,000 miles away hit home and changed the mindset about American glory and our place in the world.

For many Americans, the change in perspective was a threat to all they had learned, all their family and their school and their culture had told them was real. They sheltered their children in parochial and private schools, if they could afford it, and home schools when they couldn’t, where the curriculum is narrowest and the cultural threats most controlled.

This is Mitt Romney’s world. It’s a place where, “The trees are the right height,” is less an obtuse arboreal reference than it is a wisp of nostalgia, longing for a simpler time that a third of our country still holds in their minds and hearts as the “real” America. Not meant for those who looked different from us, it’s the social scheme that was sold to us by Madison Avenue, in ads on the pages of Look, Life, and the Saturday Evening Post, using Norman Rockwell paintings, and designed, with the evangelical zeal of a Billy Graham revival, to distinguish us by our Betty Crocker (or should I say Cracker) values.

Jerusalem – Two cultures, in one city, for almost 1,500 years. How do you define success? (Photos by PBG)

In that world, Mitt’s world, it’s a simple truth that Jews do well in business because of their culture, and that Palestinians and Mexicans do not do well because of theirs. In that world, white people still laugh, in a funny-because-it’s-true way, at Jose Jimenez and Rochester and Al Jolson in black-face. They cringe when they see a Middle Eastern man in Arab dress at the airport, and make a plan to tackle him when he gets up to ask the flight attendant for an extra bag of peanuts.

Romney may be running to make a difference, although he apparently is certain it is also his destiny, but what he did in Israel this week, once again, was to attack what is different. This is the Romney campaign strategy – “Vote for me because I am more like you than he is,” or, in the case of Israel, “We are more like you than he is.” It’s just one more attempt to paint President Obama as “the other.”

All Mitt Romney demonstrated this week, was that he takes as simple an approach to foreign policy as many of the voters who will tick his name in November. Someone should tell him that promoting the values of prejudice and ignorance held by a great deal of the population, doesn’t make a Harvard educated millionaire look like a populist. It makes him look just as stupid as they are.


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