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Oct 18, 04 10:44 AM

I Wrote A Letter To The London Observer.


Dear Sirs/Ma'ams:

Your review of a Billy Graham crusade in Kansas City, published on October 17th, trots out familiar tropes: the fat American Midwesterner in big shorts, the knowing disdain for clerics seeking lucre from the faithful.

Here in the U.S., I read a similar piece so often that I wonder if it's crafted from a template, downloaded from

It should be pointed out to your reporter that, while there is a Kansas City in Kansas, the Kansas City where this gathering took place, at Arrowhead Stadium, is actually located in the state of Missouri.

It's remarkable to me that "What's The Matter With Kansas?" is published in the UK as "What'sThe Matter With America?" It's maddening to us New Yorkers, not to mention people from Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, and perhaps the most liberal city in the world, San Francisco, that while London is Britain, Paris is France, and Amsterdam is Holland, the United States is Springfield, Ohio.

Mike Doughty

Posted by Mike at October 18, 2004 10:44 AM

well done.

it's good to know that someone with brains is speaking on my behalf. thank you. =)


Posted by: pete at October 18, 2004 11:47 AM

...Or Springfield, Missouri, or Springfield, Iowa, or Springfield, Idaho, or Springfield, Georgia, or Springfield, Washington. But the biggest insult of all would be for the United States to be represented as a Shelbyville!!!

Posted by: Gummi Venus de Milo at October 18, 2004 12:24 PM

A well put letter indeed.

Slightly off-topic -- since you got the hang of HTML italics, you may want to try having some fun with hyperlinks. It goes something like this:

<a href=",6903,1329063,00.html">Whatever you want hyperlinked</a>

BTW: Enjoying the photos. They make me miss NYC.

Posted by: Timothy Appnel at October 18, 2004 7:13 PM

My dad drove from Des Moines to Kansas City with the man from Christian Printers and the mentally handicapped guy who picks up cans. They all went to see Billy Graham, he told me, to “speak one last time.” I guess he’s going downhill.

You are my hero.

Posted by: laura at October 19, 2004 3:21 AM

As an American who lives in London I find this attitude everywhere, the first thing I hear is often "my you're slim for an American!" (I hasten to add they are not intending this to be rude.) Unfortunatly most Brit's don't make it to Seattle or Chicago...they flock in droves to Orlando.Probably not the best cross section of America, or at least not the one most Americans would like scrutinized. Rural UK is just as evangelical and overweight as backwater anywhere...not that this would ever be mentioned when the typical fat American jibes come trotting out. Thanks does get tiresome.

Posted by: jill smetanka at October 19, 2004 5:57 AM

Perhaps they'd be more generous if a trope weren't trotting out of Air Force One every time it lands in Britain. One can certainly chide the world for judging a country based on its exports, but praising America's cultural diversity (as you do implicitly in your letter) seems more and more these days like praising the Cold War for preserving political diversity.

Then again, if I ever opened my local paper and saw six letters to the editor that well-written, I'd probably poo my pants. You ever consider doing any political speechwriting? The anonymity is staggering, so it wouldn't crimp your hipster cred.

Posted by: poot at October 19, 2004 12:29 PM

This is a bit unrelated, but Mike, you are quite the interesting photographer. Drop me a line some time through this new fangled "electronic mail."

-Jack from St. Louis

Posted by: jackieboy at October 19, 2004 7:50 PM



Posted by: Wribbon at October 20, 2004 3:20 PM

I'll be the only voice of dissent here, but I think America is reflected more in the small towns of the middle US like Springfield Ohio than in New York City. And I'm in New York. New York is a thing of it's own. Might as well be it's own country. Not America.

Posted by: Spencer at October 21, 2004 4:28 AM

gummi venus de milo: you forgot springfield, illinois :P

Posted by: jetgirl at October 23, 2004 2:15 AM

While I am a devout fan of the writing and an ever-seduced victim of the singing Mike Doughty, the politicizing Mike Doughty could use some perspective realignment. (Or, perhaps, at least the suggestion thereof.)

I realize it takes a big man to pick on Billy Graham, but humble yourself to consider this: The population of the US is right around 295,000,000 (give or take a couple hundred thousand for the sake of even numbers). Of that, NYC counts for about 8 million; San Francisco about 760,000; Seattle 572,000; Los Angeles, just under 4 million; and Chicago right about 3 million. Altogether-- even assuming every single person counted in those cities is a flaming liberal (which is, of course, preposterous)-- that still leaves some 278,488,000 Americans to consider. While New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago top the list of US cities ranked by population, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida are right up there with the highest state populations.

My point is, while your heart is saddened by all those classy Europeans getting the wrong idea about the blue collar Los Angeles everyman, perhaps those in the rest of the US --you know, the majority of it-- are a little tired of our own media forcing the hard sell of America as Hollywood and the latest Madison Square Garden headliner. Your point is passionate and well-illustrated, it just lacks a foundation.

Posted by: Heather at October 25, 2004 1:57 PM