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Home is where the heartland isn't

July 27, 2010 |  1:10 pm
Sarah Palin is getting some heat for coining the word "refudiate" in her attack on an Islamic center to be built near Ground Zero in New York. But she used another term, not of her own making, that is also problematic.

"Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland?" Palin tweeted.

The first time I bristled at the word "heartland" was during the Oklahoma City bombings, when TV commentators emphasized that a terrorist had struck not in New York or Los Angeles but in the HL. The implication was that there was something especially shocking about the Midwest/South being the locus of politically inspired mayhem. We know they're just regular folks -- aka real Americans.

It's silly to pretend that a huge nation like the United States doesn't comprise regions with different demographics and mores. But "heartland" is more than a geographical signifier; it's a value judgment. It ought to be retired.

-- Michael McGough

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