Mrs. Rodgers Neighborhood
When Cathy McMorris Rodgers gave the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address, it left out a few things, like literally any specifics about a single GOP proposal she was attempting to laud. If the speech got praised for anything, it was that she came across as charming when speaking about her upbringing as a little girl in Kettle Falls, Washington, growing up there, working hard on the Washington State family orchard for years, spending those years in Kettle Falls raising 4H animals to save enough money over time to pay for a college education. It was warm and inspiring, and you knew that Kettle Falls, Washington, must be proud of that little girl who grew up in their little town and has gone so far. As she put it --
"I grew up working at my family’s orchard and fruit stand in Kettle Falls, a small town in Eastern Washington - getting up before dawn with my brother to pick apples. My dad drove a school bus and my mom worked as a part-time bookkeeper. They taught me to work hard, help others, and always, always dream for more. So, when I showed my 4H animals at the county fair, my parents used to say to me, “Cathy, you need to save this money so you can go to college one day!”
It was a wonderful story. A true American success tale. From little girl in Kettle Falls to the U.S. Congress.
The thing is...it was a story. And Cathy McMorris Rodgers left out more than specific Republican proposals. For one thing, she left out that she wasn't actually born in Kettle Falls, but that's minor. Far more notable is that she didn't grow up there at all. In fact, she didn't even grow up in America. She grew up in Canada.
When she was still in kindergarten, the family moved from Salem, Washington to British Columbia. And they lived there for 10 years. (That's more than twice as long as Ted Cruz lived in Canada.) It wasn't until she was a junior in high school, two years from leaving for college, that she moved back to the United States and the family settle in Kettle Falls.
It's all explained in an article here with the Spokane Spokesman-Review, written back in 2004 when Ms. McMorris had just been elected to Congress, long before she had any expectation of telling her story about growing up in Kettle Falls, America, to the nation.
"In 1974, when McMorris was in kindergarten, the family moved to New Hazelton in northern British Columbia," the article states. It then notes, "In 1981, Wayne McMorris moved his family to Quesnel, B.C., where he took a job as principal of a private Christian school. The McMorrises moved again in 1984, when Cathy was a junior in high school, to an orchard near Kettle Falls where she worked at their family’s fruit stand."
Cathy McMorris did have a rough-and-tumble childhood growing up. It just wasn't in Kettle Falls -- or almost any of it in America. Like she was trying to make everyone believe.
For those who think this isn't a big deal, not being open and honest about where you grew up, not acknowledging that you really, truly grew up in a foreign country -- consider for a moment how the Far Right has been driven crazy thinking that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, despite all evidence that he was. (Yes, that's supposedly about being eligible to be president -- but just imagine if it was simply the same as Cathy McMorris Rodgers. That Barack Obama let everyone believe by his tales that he grew up on a farm in Hawaii, and it turns out -- in reality -- he'd actually been living in another country for an entire decade. Do you think for a second that there'd be any less squawking, that the Far Right would find all that perfectly honorable and acceptable and dismiss the whole thing because, after all, some of it was true, and it was a strong upbringing whatever country it took place in?? Ha!
There's more about the background of Ms. McMorris Rodgers that appears different that the apple pie All American fabrication she's presented to the nation, but some details remain hidden and others are open to more interpretation and are secondary to the larger facts about where she grew up. And in the end, those larger facts about growing up are not only far more important to the heartwarming All American tale she is selling, but...are actually on-the-record facts.
To be clear, I don't care in the slightest where a person grew up. If they struggled, and had a tough upbringing and overcame challenges, then it's impressive, wherever to took place. It's just that not everyone on the other side of the aisle believes that.
And to be clear most importantly, Cathy McMorris Rodgers has a very impressive life story from a difficult upbringing. It just didn't take place in the country where she let you think it did.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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