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Joan Garry Headshot

I Was Born in a Small Town.

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I was born in Amityville, New York. Small town. About the size, let's say, of Wasilla, Alaska. My mom was born there too. She's 81 and still lives there. Plays bridge two or three times a week. She has a wide circle of friends, some of whom she has known since high school. My brother Steven moved back to Amityville to raise his family. His nest is nearly empty and he and his wife still live there. My sister-in-law teaches nursery school at the Catholic grammar school that I attended. It is a place where everyone really does know your name. Small town stuff.

My small town has crime. My small town has poverty. My small town has women who are pro-choice. My small town has gay people who live there. My small town has people of color. In my small town, people care about their state, their country and their world.

John McCain and Sarah Palin talk about 'small towns' every day. And Sarah Palin is a particularly good messenger on this topic. We are reminded incessantly that she was the mayor of a small town. But they don't mean my kind of small town. Or yours for that matter.

"Small town" is code. 'Code" for a world view that is black and white but includes no color. Code for a world in which religion and politics connect in a way that feels wrong and scary. Code for a world view where more people spend all their time thinking about what makes us different rather than on what binds us together.

I noted that this is a new code word. What was the old one? How quickly you forget. "Moral values." I guess that was so 2004.

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