Tuned In

Dead Tree Alert: Got to Be Real

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An asteroid hit Time’s blogs Friday before I got a chance to link to my column in this week’s print Time, about the campaign rhetoric over “real” Americans and the way the media helps feed those myths. It starts a little more personally than usual, because it’s an issue I feel a little more personally than usual: 

My name is James, and I am a former Real American. I grew up in Monroe, Mich. (pop. 22,076), just across the state line from Holland, Ohio, where lives Joe Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. Joe the Plumber, campaign 2008’s latest shorthand for Real America. My dad–also named Joe–drove a beer and wine delivery truck and hunted deer. We went ice fishing and bowling. The first album I ever bought was Bob Seger’s Live Bullet. 

Today my core beliefs are pretty much the same as then. (Well, the Bob Seger … only in moderation.) But now I am unreal because I work in the media and live in Brooklyn, which is presumably not among Sarah Palin’s “pro-American” parts of America. This is what campaign coverage tells me. If a candidate appeals to my kind, it is a liability. My artificiality will stain him with a mark that can be washed off only by a shot, a beer and a pilgrimage to Scranton, Pa.

I sometimes wonder where my realness went. Did it fall out somewhere on I-80 when I moved to New York? Does it wear off, like a layer of skin? Did I ever have it? Or is it just a useful myth?

Read more here, and prove your authenticity!