Bushlandia- The New Orient

Thanks to Billmon

Last Saturday, Oliver Burkemann had an article in the UK Daily, The Guardian, entitled “Journey to the heart of Bushlandia.” This morning (6/6/6) the Idaho Statesman discussed the article on the front page. Julie. at Red State Rebels, and Chris, at Liberal Idaho, are irritated by Burkemann because he did a quick tour of Boise, interviewed the new Governor Risch and Bryan Fischer and described the citizens of Bushlandia as a bunch of redneck rubes.

I view the article in a much more positive light. This article is only one of many (see this article in the New York Times, for example) that have been written recently. I see them as inventing Bushlandia as a new Orient, as part of the process described by the late Edward Said in his classic book, Orientalism. Said describes how the West defined itself by defining the East, the Orient, as it’s opposite- the “other.” Said argued that this process of constructing the East as alien, exotic, strange and different resulted in stereotyping and labeling that has kept the West from ever understanding the East. At the end of his life, Said pointed out how this inability to understand and empathize with the Middle East on the part of the larger American public was a necessary condition for the War on Iraq. We can see this process taking place in the media over the issue of Immigration. Immigrants are constructed as the “other,” illegal and not like “us.”

So, if we think about the Bushlandia phenomena in this light, it would suggest that the rest of the country is really defining itself as “other than Bushlandia.” We are the strange and exotic inhabitants who still believe that Bush is doing a good job. We have senators who are willing to co-sponsor an anti-gay marriage to the Constitution. We have a Governor who actually believes the federal government should have stayed out of Hurricane Katrina. In other words, the nation seems to be shifting to a more liberal national identity. The media sends reporters into the strange land to send back accounts to the curious at home. That is why the interviews with Fischer and Risch. Their readers are not interested in reading about those who share their values. They want to hear about the beliefs of the “other.”

To me, this is a sign more profound than poll numbers. It seem to indicate that a real change has taken place in the national political identity and that should be a source of happiness for liberals everywhere. Of course, Julie and Chris are right to be irritated about the lack of objectivity on the part of Burkemann and the other reporters who have ventured into Bushlandia. The truth is that we rubes may shock them in the upcoming mid-term elections. In the meantime, I am happy to act as the “other” against whom the “real” American can define itself.

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