Thursday, August 20, 2009

Discord under the Big Sky

A letter from an NPR listener responding to public radio's coverage of President Obama's visit to Belgrade, Montana, caught my ear this week. It is sure proof of tension between the state's old-timers (who are often gun toting and who apparently also may use poor grammar) and more upscale (perhaps newcomer) residents of a part of the state that has undergone rural gentrification.

Here's the link, and here's a quote:

BLOCK: Last week, President Obama traveled to western states to explain his health-care overhaul plan. One of his stops was a town hall meeting in Belgrade, Montana, where he answered questions from a crowd of about 1,300 people.

NPR's Don Gonyea was there and in our interview with him, we aired this clip from the town hall meeting.

Mr. RANDY RAPIDAN(ph): My name is Randy Rapidan. I'm from Ekalaka, Montana. And as you can see, I'm a proud NRA member.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. RAPIDAN: I believe in our Constitution, and it's a very important thing. I also get my news from the cable networks because I don't like the spin that comes from them other places.

SIEGEL: Well, Jenny Trinell(ph) of Bozeman, Montana, was not pleased when she heard that. She writes this: Of all the people who attended the town meeting, did you really have to quote the NRA zealot with poor grammar? We Montanans aren't all gun-toting hicks, but your coverage succeeded in perpetuating that stereotype. Thanks a lot. Now I might just have to start watching them cable networks myself.

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