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Don't pick on Wasilla

September 27, 2008

Re "Nowhere exposure: visiting Wasilla, Alaska," Column, Sept. 23

Never having visited Wasilla myself, I have no reason to believe Steve Lopez's descriptions of the town's "big-box stores, strip malls, fast-food joints and sprawling churches" to be inaccurate; however, the implication that Sarah Palin is somehow diminished by the failure of her town to embody a "quaint mountain village" seems problematic.

Does he mean to suggest that Palin's political potential directly correlates with the lack of charm of her hometown? If so, are we expected to judge all people by their origins? And if these origins lack glamour, character or prestige, should we feel free to express the same contempt for their inhabitants that we would for strip malls and fast food?

As a high school teacher, I use literature to help develop empathy in my students. As a class, we mourn for Jay Gatsby when he is mocked for his inferior social status. I try to instill in my students a belief that every person should have the right to pursue his or her goals, regardless of origin.

Isn't this America's greatest, and most enduring, promise to its citizens?

Although Lopez has every right to criticize Palin's political agenda, the implication that her town's lack of character illustrates the limitations of her own is a perspective I hope my students refuse to adopt.

Jenny Contant

Newport Beach

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It seems that Lopez's column says more about him than it does about Wasilla. Apparently he is very uncomfortable in rural America, where people hunt game for food and have to provision for the harsh winters. He questions the need for big-box stores -- as if this falsifies Wasilla's sense of the rugged outdoors. He also vilifies Wasilla's favorite daughter, Sarah Palin, for not being a sweet person when making government decisions, as though toughness in government is a bad thing for a woman.

If Lopez had warned Wasilla of his drive-through, perhaps the town could have covered the place with graffiti and created a few gangs to hunt each other for criminal turf. Maybe then he would have felt more at home.

Tom Pedersen

Santa Clarita

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I adore Lopez's running commentary on life. However, I have to ask: Why visit Wasilla? It's a small town and Palin is well known, if not always adored.

Small towns have long memories. The brave Mr. Munger aside (easily written off as an extremist in a small town), why on Earth would anyone there speak his or her true mind to an outsider if it's less than flattering to the governor? She's coming back. He isn't.

Michele Pearson

Santa Monica

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