Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

One Nation, Slightly Divisible: A Report from “Red” and “Blue” America
The Atlantic Monthly | December 2001 | David Brooks

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 don’t complain that Woody Allen isn’t as funny as he used to be, because they never thought he was funny. In this place you can go to a year’s worth of dinner parties without hearing anyone quote an apercu he first heard on Charlie Rose. The people here don’t 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 don’t even go to Martha’s 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. You’ll rarely see a Christmas store in Blue America, but in Red America, even in July, you’ll 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. We’re more sophisticated and cosmopolitan – just ask us about our alumni trips to China or Provence, or our interest in Buddhism. But don’t ask us, please, what life in Red America is like. We don’t know. We don’t 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 don’t even know what James Dobson says on his radio program, which is listened to by millions. We don’t know about Reba or Travis. We don’t know what happens in the mega-churches on Wednesday evening, and some of us couldn’t 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 don’t know how to shoot or clean a rifle. We can’t tell a military officer’s rank by looking at hi insignia. We don’t 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, they’re often really fat and their clothes are too tight.

And apparently we don’t 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 America—or, 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 Bryson’s 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 Geographic’s Guide to Small Town Escapes). Apparently no publishers or members of the Blue book-buying public are curious about Red America’s eyes.

[[The next section is called, “Crossing the Meatloaf Line”]]


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS:
I was passing through Coal City Illinois, its part of Red America (south of Joliet), and I stopped at a lunch joint and saw this article. It is not available on the internet (as best as I can tell), so I transcribed the first section. I did a search and saw where someone had posted part of the Atlantic Monthly Forum that discussed this long piece written by Brooks.

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)

1 posted on 12/03/2001 6:03:55 PM PST by rface
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: rface
Wow...you're right - it looks like a great article. Now you got me hooked by starting it. I'll have to find the whole thing. Thanks for posting.
2 posted on 12/03/2001 6:11:06 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: anniegetyourgun; All
Atlantic Monthly Forum/FReeRepublic
3 posted on 12/03/2001 6:12:55 PM PST by rface
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: rface
Interesting. I'll have to get a copy of this. Thanks (something different for a change).
4 posted on 12/03/2001 6:17:55 PM PST by Texas_Jarhead
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Comment #5 Removed by Moderator

To: rface
Sounds like where I live. Around here the 'good old boys' still have a good time on Sat. night. We still love Old Glory. We and millions like us are still Americans in the true sense of the word. Good post thanks.
6 posted on 12/03/2001 6:20:17 PM PST by vladog
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rface
Those of us who made our livings with mining know where Coal City is, and it is VERY Red AMerica. This looks like an excellent article...I will try to find it.

Thank you for posting this, I know transcribing is hard work.

7 posted on 12/03/2001 6:21:30 PM PST by Miss Marple
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: anniegetyourgun
I live in Blue America and most of my friends and coworkers are like the people this article says live here. I hope the rest of the article is a lot less condescending about Red America. The part you've posted makes the people who live there sound like parochial, naive (if innocent and harmless) white trash. If you say it's a good article I'll believe you, but I'm eager to see what the rest of the piece says.

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.

8 posted on 12/03/2001 6:24:36 PM PST by JOHN ADAMS
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: JOHN ADAMS
Actually, I didn't post it - rface did. It is interesting and I probably would agree with you assessment of their assessment of Red zone folk.
9 posted on 12/03/2001 6:26:44 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: JOHN ADAMS
Much if not all of the debate I mentioned is at the url posted by rface at #3.
10 posted on 12/03/2001 6:26:46 PM PST by JOHN ADAMS
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: rface
If you read the entire article, then -- what was the author's conclusion? I am quite curious. I'm trying to predict the ending, but -- I want to know where it ended up.
11 posted on 12/03/2001 6:28:44 PM PST by summer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rface
Re #3 - I think I'll stay here, thank you.

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.

12 posted on 12/03/2001 6:30:29 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: rface
BTTT
13 posted on 12/03/2001 6:30:40 PM PST by Fiddlstix
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: summer
Can't tell too much from their website excerpts - looks like the author is headed toward suggesting that the two Americas are really not as far apart as one might think. One would have to work hard to convince me of that.
14 posted on 12/03/2001 6:31:56 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: JOHN ADAMS
I don't think this report is condescending about Red America, I do think it kind-of pokes fun a Blue America because of their "Superior" attitudes towards their Red American cousins.....but I base this assumption on parts of the rest of the report.
15 posted on 12/03/2001 6:31:57 PM PST by rface
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: rface
many thanks bttt
16 posted on 12/03/2001 6:32:25 PM PST by XBob
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rface
Everything that people in my neighborhood do… Blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada.
Face it you live just south of Boring, east of Dullsville, and wouldn’t know a good time if it fell on you. Why do you think cities are crowded? Do you think we are somehow forced to live here? People live here by choice, as a matter of fact there is a housing shortage. BTW when and if I ever decide to sell out and move to loathsome USA, the sale price for my house will buy three there.

Jersey City (Close-enough-to-Ground-Zero)

17 posted on 12/03/2001 6:40:55 PM PST by TightSqueeze
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: anniegetyourgun
"Although there are some real differences between Red and Blue America," he writes, "there is no fundamental conflict. There may be cracks, but there is no chasm. Rather, there is a common love for this nation--one nation in the end."

Yeah, like the 20-year-old American Taliban and his flakey bi-coastal parents who paid his way over to fight for them.

18 posted on 12/03/2001 6:52:08 PM PST by madprof98
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: TightSqueeze
how come people who live in Red America always talk like...yada, yada, yada. What the hell does that mean?
19 posted on 12/03/2001 6:56:17 PM PST by rface
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: rface
Book to read, on this topic and many others, be prepared to be outraged and to laugh yourself silly within four pages: The Redneck Manifesto, by Jim Goad.
20 posted on 12/03/2001 6:58:34 PM PST by Long Cut
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: TightSqueeze
"BTW when and if I ever decide to sell out and move to loathsome USA, the sale price for my house will buy three there."

Well, excuuuuuuuuuuse us!

21 posted on 12/03/2001 6:58:37 PM PST by okie01
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: rface
how come people who live in Red America always talk like...yada, yada, yada.

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

Never-saw-my-house-in-the-daylight, Michigan
Moved-to-the-country-my-kids-still-smoke-pot, Illinois
Bumper-to-bumper-traffic, Kentucky
Last-time-I-was-home-before-eight-o’clock-they-thought-I-got-fired, Pennsylvania
Pack-a-lunch-to-go-any-friggin-place, Minnesota
Used-to-walk-to-work, Indiana

22 posted on 12/03/2001 7:05:11 PM PST by TightSqueeze
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: rface
how come people who live in Red America always talk like...yada, yada, yada.

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.

23 posted on 12/03/2001 7:24:38 PM PST by Brett66
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: TightSqueeze
Sounds like a small town atmosphere would calm you!!?
24 posted on 12/03/2001 7:27:54 PM PST by potlatch
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: potlatch
Sounds like a small town atmosphere would calm you!!?

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.

25 posted on 12/03/2001 7:35:26 PM PST by TightSqueeze
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: rface
Bush's Yahoo Nation

Ditch Dixie

Northerners Want Us Out

Gore Carries the Porn Belt

26 posted on 12/03/2001 7:44:18 PM PST by Ben Ficklin
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: anniegetyourgun
I've lived in Blue America (NYC, Chicago, and LA) and have been surrounded by the sort of people who this article's author claims to be. Every Thanksgiving, Christmas, you name it, ends up in an argument between me and the other guests. It's hard work being a Freeper in a limosine-liberal world. Beyond the obliviousness shown by the sort of people described as Blues toward the rest of America, the fact that these urban liberals are oblivious to the circumstances in their own back-yard is even more disturbing. OK, so maybe somebody has never been to Iowa, but these people don't even know what is going on in their own back-yards. I routinely challenge people like this in arguments to tell me what "check-day" is and to tell me what their personal observations have been in parts of their own city further than walking distance from some muffin shop. They can't because they have never been to a "bad" neighboorhood, or even a working class one in their own cities, and talked to "normal" people, let alone the "wilds" of the Rest Of America. They just sit around and expound upon the nature of evil as they see it, alowing themselves the luxury of not basing any of their thoughts on the way the world really is. Their ignorance and obliviousness never ceases to amaze me.
27 posted on 12/03/2001 7:49:52 PM PST by jofish
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: vladog
Waylon Jennings couldn't have said it better.
28 posted on 12/03/2001 7:53:18 PM PST by Republic of Texas
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: TightSqueeze
"BTW when and if I ever decide to sell out and move to loathsome USA, the sale price for my house will buy three there."

Well, excuuuuuuuuuuse us!

All I can say, is for his own good I hope he makes 3 salaries...

29 posted on 12/03/2001 7:53:41 PM PST by jofish
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

Comment #30 Removed by Moderator

To: TightSqueeze
Well, you made your move from Red to Blue America, I decided to do it the other way. I just couldn't justify comuting 12 miles in 90 minutes and never finding the time to enjoy my home. I sold the house in Medford Massachusetts (Boston), and bought one three times as nice for a third of the cost out here. I now have the time to do what I want, when I want.

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.

Ashland, Missouri

31 posted on 12/03/2001 8:05:00 PM PST by rface
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: zog
Thought you might find this interesting in regards to our conversation...

I can name at least 20 Nascar drivers, so maybe its not so bad. :)

32 posted on 12/03/2001 8:06:51 PM PST by newwahoo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: TightSqueeze
--all that might be true, but every morning you'll get up, go to your front stoop, and there will be a large pile of dog crap. We send them over, they're trained as guerrilla fighters.....
33 posted on 12/03/2001 9:57:09 PM PST by zog
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: newwahoo
--ya, thanks, cool thread. Ya got me beat, I can't name maybe two nascar drivers. I got real upset years ago when I worked with a labonte cuzzin and I found it was like pro wrestling, like they ain't really fords and chevys and dodges, they just sorta kinda almost maybe sorta look like fords and chevys and dodges.

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.

34 posted on 12/03/2001 10:15:17 PM PST by zog
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 32 | View Replies]

To: rface
It's a great article and may show up on the Atlantic site next month. Brooks likes Red America, but it's exotic to him and he's a little condescending towards it.

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.

35 posted on 12/03/2001 11:07:32 PM PST by x
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Noxxus
"Brooks forgot one very important virtue enjoyed by those of us in Red America....our women are much better endowed, naturally :)"

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
:)

36 posted on 12/03/2001 11:42:47 PM PST by walden
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

Comment #37 Removed by Moderator

To: jofish
I too am behind enemy lines in Seattle. I can so relate to your comments.

BTW, welcome to FR.

38 posted on 12/04/2001 4:34:00 AM PST by anniegetyourgun
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: superdestroyer
A factor about race play

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.

39 posted on 12/04/2001 5:10:00 AM PST by Tokhtamish
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 37 | View Replies]

Comment #40 Removed by Moderator

To: rface
The man doesn't understand...many doubt the Blue Zone is really ?America.

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.

41 posted on 12/04/2001 5:28:10 AM PST by bert
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: zog
"What do ya do if there isn't any good catfishing locally?"

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..

42 posted on 12/10/2001 8:09:27 PM PST by newwahoo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 34 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson