Skip to comments.One Nation, Slightly Divisible: A Report from “Red” and “Blue” America
Posted on 12/03/2001 6:03:55 PM PST by rface
Sixty-five miles from where I am writing this sentence is a place with no Starbucks, no Pottery Barn, no Borders or Barnes & Noble. No blue New York Times delivery bags dot the driveways on Sunday mornings. In this place people dont complain that Woody Allen isnt as funny as he used to be, because they never thought he was funny. In this place you can go to a years worth of dinner parties without hearing anyone quote an apercu he first heard on Charlie Rose. The people here dont buy those little rear-window stickers when they go to a summer vacation spot so they can drive around with MV decals the rest of the year, for the most part they dont even go to Marthas Vinyard.
The place I am talking about goes by different names. Some call it America. Others call it Middle America. It has also come to be known as Red America in reference to the maps that were produced on the night of the 2000 presidential election. People in Blue America, which is my part of America, tend to live in big cities on the coasts. People in Red America tend to live on farms or in small towns or small cities far away from the coasts. Things are different there.
Everything that people in my neighborhood do without motors, the people in Red America do with motors. We sail; they powerboat. We cross-country ski; they snowmobile. We hike; they drive ATVs. We have vineyard tours; they have tractor pulls. When it comes to yard work, they have rider mowers; we have illegal aliens.
Different sorts of institutions dominate life in these two places. In Red America churches are everywhere. In Blue America Thai restaurants are everywhere. In Red America they have QVC, the Pro Bowlers Tour and hunting. In Blue Americawe have NPR, Doris Kearns Goodwin and socially conscious investing. In Red America the Wal~Marts are massive, with parking lots the size of state parks. In Blue America the stores are small, but the markups are big. Youll rarely see a Christmas store in Blue America, but in Red America, even in July, youll come upon stores selling fake Christmas trees, wreath-decorated napkins, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer collectable thimbles ans spoons and little snow villages.
We in the costal metro Blue areas read more books and attend more plays than the people in the Red heartland. Were more sophisticated and cosmopolitan just ask us about our alumni trips to China or Provence, or our interest in Buddhism. But dont ask us, please, what life in Red America is like. We dont know. We dont know who Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins are, even though the novels they have co-writtenhave sold about 40 million copies over the past few years. We dont even know what James Dobson says on his radio program, which is listened to by millions. We dont know about Reba or Travis. We dont know what happens in the mega-churches on Wednesday evening, and some of us couldnt tell you the difference between a fundamentalist and an evangelical, let alone describe what it means to be a Pentacostal. Very few of us knows what goes on in Branson, Missouri even though it has seven million visitors a year or could name five NASCAR drivers, although stock-car races are the best attended sporting events in the country. We dont know how to shoot or clean a rifle. We cant tell a military officers rank by looking at hi insignia. We dont know what soy beans look like when they are growing in a field.
All we know or think we know, about Red America is that millions and millions of its people live quietly underneath flight patterns, many of them are racist and homophobic, and when you see them at highway rest stops, theyre often really fat and their clothes are too tight.
And apparently we dont want to know more about that. One can barely find any books at Amazon.com about what it is like to live in small-town Americaor, at least, any books written by normal people who grew up in a small towns, liked then, and stayed there. The few books that do exist were written either by people who left the heartland because they hated it (Bill Brysons The Lost Continent, for example) or by urbanites who moved to Red America as part of some life-simplification plan (Moving to a Small Town: A Guidebook for Moving from Urban to Rural America; National Geographics Guide to Small Town Escapes). Apparently no publishers or members of the Blue book-buying public are curious about Red Americas eyes.
[[The next section is called, Crossing the Meatloaf Line]]
I encourage everyone to go to their local library and get hold of this issue. I say it is a great article.
Maybe I'll get around to transcribing the next section some other day. (This section probably amounts to 2% of the entire article)
Ashland, Missouri (Red America)
Thank you for posting this, I know transcribing is hard work.
The Atlantic Monthly has a summary of the piece that might be useful to those who are curious, followed by some debate that will make you laugh between normal people who might fit in here at FreeRepublic and loonytunes who clearly come from blue regions and who have never visited a red one. Check out http://forum.theatlantic.com/WebX?.ee71cdc for amusement if you have a minute.
I found this rather interesting from the exerpts they post on the Atlantic Monthly site:
"In Red America people eat meatloaf, dine at Crackerbarrel, shop at Walmart, attend Church and participate in Church-related activities regularly, live near family, obtain minimal educations, hold conservative views on issues like homosexuality and abortion, and enjoy a close-knit community life. "
While lots of this is correct, the "minimal educations" is factually incorrect. Christians (as a group in America), for example, are slightly better educated than the national average.
Jersey City (Close-enough-to-Ground-Zero)
Yeah, like the 20-year-old American Taliban and his flakey bi-coastal parents who paid his way over to fight for them.
Well, excuuuuuuuuuuse us!
Since we don't have to commute, guess were home from work before eight o'clock and are able to watch a little TV once in a while. Who wants to live in places like this anyway
The words yada,yada,yada only make sense if you're wearing lots of tinfoil on your head. We red-America folk don't take too kindly to alien brain wave transmissions or blue-America folk that are influenced by them aliens.
Been there, done that, lived for seven years in a little dutchy called Stillwater (Boring) now I have a car with less than 100,000 miles that is less than 3 years old, and I know what the color of my house is.
Well, excuuuuuuuuuuse us!
All I can say, is for his own good I hope he makes 3 salaries...
I don't like night clubs, and I don't like living within a sea of people. I like taking the boat out, or going on an exotic trip to northern Minnisota for some pike fishing. Once a year there will be a movie I might want to see, so I go to the theater. Bowling is fun a few times a year too.
I sure am glad that you enjoy living where you do. I am glad you have a three year old car too, but if your putting 100K miles on it that quick, you should spend a couple bucks and get yourself another one, hell, you can afford it.
I can name at least 20 Nascar drivers, so maybe its not so bad. :)
The most catfish I ever caught without having to rebait the hook was about two dozen or so, 21 exactly if I remember correctly, was using a chicken drumstick "knuckle". What do ya do if there isn't any good catfishing locally?
Spent about a week over in the east village once, right across the street from CBGB's actually. ... NYC is LOUD all the time, and the cooking smells are unique. I spent a few days walking all around the city, occassionaly attempting to hitchike across various bridges (this is almost impossible). I liked all the food the best I think. Central park was spooky at night, feral humans deluxe. I saw frozen (stiff) person, too, as well as being there during a garbage strike, now THAT was interesting. No , not the frozen person, kinda strange looking, and sad of course. The garbage strike was awesome, wall to wall across the streets, man, humans buy a lot of stuff they don't want! I'm sure it's exactly the same in the rural areas per capita, it just ain't all..concentrated like that. I never did do much real "classic" tourist action, just walked a lot. Did go up in some building to the top and eat a steak someplace, can't remember the name now. Did meet a nice girl there, she claimed cher lived across from her for awhile, who knows on that, but she wanted me to move there permanent, and here I was almost like crocodile zogdee walking around with a pack and a knife. Too funny years later to see that movie. I was a serious neck craner and gawker. hehehehehe Too loud though, someone needs to say 'shhhhhh' once in awhile.
The thing that impressed me the most was his perception that people in Bluzonia were always trying to prove how different they are and how superior to the average and ordinary they are. Those in Redzonia accept life more as it is and live according to the religion and tradition passed on to them.
In a way it's David Reisman's "Lonely Crowd" fifty years later: the tradition-directed, only partly other-directed Red Zone vs. the other-directed Blue Zone which aims at Inner-Direction and Autonomy but never gets there.
I don't think we are two countries. It's just that in the absence of more pressing crises, these cultural differences come to the forefront. Certainly, there are real differences between the two areas, but in 2000, the two parties were not so far apart in terms of what they would do. The differences came from us not from them. They certainly did reflect the real divisions in the country over the past thirty or forty years, but did not reflect conflicts over what was to be done in the short-run. Maybe it's a glass-half-empty glass-half-full phenomenon: philosophical differences come to be more apparent when pressing political debates die away. Does that mean that we are more or less divided?
In any event, with the coming of real crises, problems and challenges, the country will look very differently than it did in 2000.
That's because in Blue America a woman can never be too rich or too thin, but in Red America men like their women built for comfort, not for speed. :)
What can I say? Guess I just sign off as:
-- a Blue mind in a Red body
BTW, welcome to FR.
In Blue America you might indeed see a blonde, blue eyed girl waiting tables but only at the chic restaurants in NY and LA where the waiters are beautiful unemployed actors. Blonde people are rare in the Northeast which is why, I suspect, a blonde girl in NY could have any guy she wanted, unlike in Red America, where blondes are commonplace.
It is filled with european and african Wannabe's. Few Americans in the bunch. We know the NYC PD and FD are red zoners at heart. There are a few Americans still there.
The fishing is great out off of Long Island. I go fishing for Fluke and Blues every summer, though I usually end up with more empty beers in the bucket than fish. I'd still love to go shark fishing off Monatuk point someday...
"Too loud though, someone needs to say 'shhhhhh' once in awhile."
We wouldn't be the "city that never sleeps" then! Seriously, you get used to it. I live on the second floor of a building that faces a pretty large street. Firetrucks, ambulances and police cars roll through all night and I don't even move. You just get used to it. Humans can adapt to most things pretty well, I guess. You know what makes me stay up all night? When I visit friends upstate and sleep over. Everything creaks and groans like a haunted house! And when it gets totally quiet the absolute silence disturbs me in a way. When I was little, and afraid of stuff, I always drew comfort that if there really was a "boogeyman" that there were plenty of other people in the city for him to go after before me! FReeregards..