I spent an extremely uncomfortable 30 minutes on the phone last night with a reporter from India. The Todd and I turned into the "go-to" media guys for the entire Western United States a couple of years ago by sheer accident. We taped an interview with the guys from REAL Madrid soccer team when they came to play an exhibition game with REAL Salt Lake. Here's how weird news clips get: my Aunt Margene and Uncle Armand were touring the Nile River in Egypt when Auntie fell and hurt her foot. They were languishing in the dank ER of some generic riverside town when Uncle Armand turned on the tv to see the interview The Todd and I had taped for Spain...dubbed in French...on Egyptian tv from 2 years before.
For whatever reason, this apparently provides press credentials enough that whenever a small reporter from Egypt/Pakistan/Jordan and the Sudan (I'm not joking, I'm keeping pins on a map) want an interview and they can't get a call back from a reputable news agency, they call us.
The latest was yesterday from a dignified individual named Kalal Nerurkar...a writer for a small paper in Vijayawada, India. He wanted to know, his email said, "about the Honored Personage of John Huntsman who will one day soon be Ambassador to Greater China." Being that John Jr. had been Governer of Utah, and our twins went to pre-school with his daughter Gracie--sure! I was an expert!
I could tell from his first question that this interview was going to tank.
"How many wives does the Honorable Huntsman have?"
"Ah," I said, "well, you know that polygamy was outlawed in the territory of Utah before we gained statehood back in the 1800's, right?"
"Will the other wives stay in the state of Utah?"
"No, seriously, Kalal, the Governer only has one wife. Just one. When he gains the appointment of US Ambassador to China, Mary Kay's the only wife going with him."
Triumphant leap: "then there ARE other wives who will stay home!"
I could feel the sweat start to trickle down my back, "no, I just meant that there's only one Mrs. John Huntsman Jr. and she'll be the one heading to China with the Ambassador."
A disappointment came from Kalal so palpable that I could feel it over the crackling satellite phone. "You are not being wholesome with me," he said sternly.
Heavy sigh from my southwestern Indian news reporter. "Here, we have HBO." he said pointedly.
"Okay." I agreed cautiously.
"I have seen the 'Big Love!' I know of the ways of your province!" Kalal said majestically.
It was then that I knew my back sweat was the least of my problems. This poor reporter would never believe that Utah wasn't a seething hotbed of insanely attractive women all married to the same prosperous man with movie star good looks and an unlimited supply of Viagra.
Cable television is responsible, I believe, for 90% of the world's misconceptions about America. Everyone in western Cambodia is certain that California is one long stretch of movie stars and cocaine. If you live in the mountains of Nepal, you know that Texas is strewn with cattle and oil barons and their blonde, alcoholic wives. There is no saving our national image as long as satellites continue the never-ending stream of size 2 fabulousness and gold-plated Mercedes that seem to personify the USA overseas. Isn't there a way we can limit any international broadcasts to a continuous loop of the "Waltons?" Sure, none of us are that pure, but in this economy, we're all that poor. At this point, perhaps pity would give us a better edge in the worldview than envy has.