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Know the West

Essay insults easterns and westerners

  When I read Lisa Jones’ essay, I wasn’t sure whether I was more offended by what she wrote about the West, where I now live, or Vermont, where I used to live. The West she ridicules as callow, uncultured, easily excited to a frenzy by images of its violent past; Vermont she insults with false praise as a bucolic paradise of pastoral civility.

I wonder if Ms. Jones knows how many Vermont state legislators were voted out of office because of their support of Howard Dean’s gay union bill; or how many towns in Vermont have tried to increase the size of residential building lots to three acres in order to keep lower-income people out. The maple syrup, leaf-peeping, green-mountain image of Vermont is a postcard ideology obscuring the fracture line between wealth and poverty that runs throughout the state and much of New England.

It is surprising that HCN, "The paper for people who care about the West," would publish an article so disrespectful of the people of the West. Jones’ description of her and her sweetie slumming with "other folks, old-timers and their spouses," snickering and giggling at the shameless schlock of a Western epic, isn’t High Country News, it’s the high country of elitism; the world as seen, not closely and compassionately, but through a peephole of privilege from Paonia to Burlington.

James Kelly
Sante Fe, New Mexico