Commentary

Two Americas

Miles and miles of miles and miles across the plains of Nebraska/Craig Medred photo

PORT OF TACOMA – On the road for 2,500 miles through the American Heartland from near the Motor City that shaped the nation’s 20th century to the edge of the Pacific Ocean, it becomes clear there are today two Americas split by much more than just politics.

“England and America,” the late Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw observed almost 80 years ago, “are two countries separated by the same language.”

Today, America is one country separated by two distinct lifestyles.

There is an urban American, and there is a rural America, and each has trouble recognizing the other.

One sees the fruit of the American experiment as an apple and the other as an orange or maybe better yet a grapefruit, something best cut in half and sprinkled with sugar to temper the tang.

Former President Barack Obama saw the difference plain enough when on the campaign trail in 2008 he observed how in these times rural residents “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

The latter observation has been widely interpreted as a comment on race, though the black farmer and the white farmer chatting it up in a roadside hotel in central Nebraska would likely explain the people “who aren’t like’ them are determined more by fundamental beliefs than skin color.

Yes, there are black farmers all over the country, and their number began growing in the new millennium after decades of decline, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This might help explain post-election polling showing that in the last election about a third of black men in the Midwest voted for former President Donald Trump, a pathological liar born into wealth and comfort and never far from either.

That Trump would become the darling of America’s red states is nothing more than a testament to how bad red-state voters thought the other choice.

MAGA

Now, because the Make America Great Again (MAGA) theme is tied so tightly to Trump, there has been a bad tendency on the part of national media to link these voters to the idea that they embrace everything that is wrong in the country’s past.

But not everything was wrong in the country’s past, and the people here see it differently than those in New York and Los Angeles.

These voters might be described as fans of the America that won the Cold War, rose to the position of the globe’s only true superpower and looked to be on the verge of spreading the American concept of democracy to every corner of the planet before that idea blew up for the simple reason democracy is a difficult system to create let alone sustain.

Trump’s call to Make America Great Again resonated with them not because they are a bunch of racist boobs, but because they understand the loss of the American manufacturing might that won the Second World War before it won the Cold War.

Then, too, they understand the economic and social values of good, well-paying, blue-collar jobs.

These views, not to mention the land on which the people live, shapes a vision of the American experiment significantly different from that of modern urban elites prone to looking down on almost anything other than the tech industry as a relic of another era.

This urban elitism is what drove Obama’s reference to Americans clinging to objects and ideas out of step with the more refined views and values of urban Americans.

Collectively, of course, the majority of those in rural America – at least judging from the results of the last election – would likely challenge Obama’s assumption that bitterness led them to embrace guns, God and beer, as some have paraphrased the former president’s words.

Most seem to simply like their guns, their beer and their God, and it is understandable that they would.

Guns are handy for dispatching vermin around the farm, even sometimes putting food on the table; beer tastes mighty good after a hard, sweaty day in the fields; and God is a comforting belief when you inhabit a world where death remains a norm.

That heifer contentedly chewing its cud out on the South 40 today will shortly be bound for the slaughterhouse. Amid this regular flow of life and death, it likely feels good to know that there is an order to it, that God has a plan, and that he is watching over everything.

Heavenly designs

As the book of Genesis records:

“And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

I am not a religious man. To be wholly honest, I am prone to the view of one of the Mexican musicians in a short story titled “The Gambler, the Nun and the Radio” written by the late Ernest Hemingway long ago.

“Religion,” the musician observed, “is the opium of the poor.”

Opium has a 5,000-year history as a painkiller, and as someone who has on occasion experienced serious pain, I can empathize with the human need for painkillers. Thus it is hard for me to fault anyone for clinging to their religion no matter what that religion might be.

One can share the late Sen. Barry Goldwater’s view that “the religious right scares the hell out of me” without jumping to the conclusion everyone who goes to church and voted for Donald Trump is a Christian fanatic. They are no more so or less so than the Muslims who attended mosque and voted for Obama were jihadists.

Or, for that matter, that every modern-day “progressive” is a Prohibitionist though the roots of that party run deep into America’s greatest social mistake, and the old progressive desire for an ideal society burns bright again in these times.

That ideal society is a lot easier to believe in if you live in the city. In the urban environment, a lot of one’s basic needs are taken care of by others.

Out in the country, where you have to do more to take care of yourself, you quickly learn that an ideal anything is a dream, not a reality.

Put in the simplest terms, you learn the world ain’t fair.

One hopes always for the best, but often the world delivers something else. The weather, on which so much depends in the business of agriculture, about says it all.

Rural people live with it because there is no choice. Over time, the idea of living with a certain amount of uncertainty and imperfection becomes a norm that shapes how they view the world.

Different solutions

Against this backdrop, the never-ending national debate over gun control says a lot about the difference between rural and urban Americas.

A lot of urban Americans, quite possibly a majority, want to get guns out of the hands of almost everyone in the belief this will make the country safer. They see firearms as weapons of mass destruction.

Rural residents see them as tools. There are lifestyle differences here, but also differences of political philosophy and viewpoint that shape how people look at the issue.

Gun crime is to rural people an urban problem, and about this they are largely right.

The latest report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shows an average overall murder rate of 9.6 per 100,000 for cities of 250,000 people or more. That drops to 5.9 per 100,000 for cities of 249,999 to 100,000 people and keeps falling to 3 per 100,000 for cities under 10,000 and “suburban area.”

It is as easy, and reasonable, for rural Americans to look at gun control and conclude it is more red-tape added to their lives for no good reason. Just as it is easy, and reasonable, for urban Americans to look at gun control and conclude it is the best way to make life safer.

And urban Americans are much more about safety than rural Americans, who still live in a world where death is much more a part of life.

That they have trouble understanding the fears of urbanites is even more understandable. Among the people in the United States today most worried about guns are white women who have the lowest chance of anyone in the country of becoming a victim of a firearm homicide.

A report from the Violence Policy Center indicates the overall rate of females killed by men is now around 1.3 per 100,000. 

That is lower than the general homicide rate in Canada and only slightly higher than the general homicide rates in England, Denmark and Sweden. 

The rate for white females falls even farther to 1.03 per 100,000 – less than half the 2.85 per 100,000 rate for black females, according to the study. The former is below the general homicide rate for England, Sweden, France and near the 0.90 per 100,000 rate of Iceland. 

Furthermore, the Violence Policy report notes only 8 percent of female homicide victims were killed by strangers, putting the random stranger homicide rate down at about 0.1 per 100,000 – near the lowest homicide rates in the world, according to the World Atlas.

Of the women killed by men they knew, about 56 percent were killed with firearms, according to the report. So banning guns would drop the overall rate for women to about 0.7 per 100,000 if the male perpetrators of homicides didn’t just choose to use another weapon, but it’s quite possible they would choose to use another weapon.

Rural Americans, being practical people, look at data like this and conclude the best thing for a woman in a dangerous situation is to buy a firearm to protect herself. It is a reasonable conclusion the  Washington, D.C., based Violence center accepts before going on to advise against it.

The group cites a variety of studies concluding that women who buy guns for self-protection are more likely to become victims of homicide. The argument appears to be that women aren’t capable of protecting themselves with a firearm.

Rural Americans would scoff at that idea for the simple reason they are more accustomed to taking care of themselves than expecting others to do so. It’s part of life in rural America, and it shapes how one views the world.

Clueless

To observe that the country’s largely urban-based mainstream media fail to grasp the fundamental differences between rural and urban America would be an understatement.

Thus big-city journalists struggle to link the Heartland’s acceptance of Trump as the best presidential alternative to a white supremacist movement or QAnon or simple “misinformation,” because surely middle Americans would only vote for Trump because they were misled or stupid.

“As (Sarah) Longwell explained it to me, Trump supporters already believed that a ‘deep state’ – an alleged secret network of nonelected government officials, a kind of hidden government within the legitimately elected government – has been working against Trump since before he was elected,” writes Peter Wehner in a story in The Atlantic headlined “The GOP Is a Grave Threat to American Democracy.”

Longwell is a Republican product of the Beltway who found Trump as repulsive as did many other Republicans, most notably among them the late columnist Charles Krauthammer, who fingered Trump as a man living “in a cocoon of solipsism where the world outside himself has value – indeed exists – only insofar as it sustains and inflates him.”

But Krauthammer well understood the nation’s problems went deeper than Trump. Krauthammer in 2012 accused Obama of doing exactly what Trump was later accused of doing – “pandering to one group after another, particularly those that elected Obama in 2008 –  blacks, Hispanics, women, young people –  and for whom the thrill is now gone.

“What to do? Try fear. Create division, stir resentment, by whatever means necessary – bogus court challenges, dead-end Senate bills and a forest of straw men.”

That such tactics work for both Democrat and Republican pols stems from the fact the voting electorate is now hugely exploitable across the rural-urban divide.

You can scare urban voters with rural thinking as easily as you can scare rural voters with urban thinking. The “deep state” is not some myth to rural Americans.

The deep state is the large, entrenched, nameless, faceless army of urban-based federal bureaucrats who exert control over rural as well as urban America.

To someone in the so-called “fly-over country” around Podunk, Neb., or Nowhere, Wyo., those ‘crats can look a lot like the British overlords against whom the residents of the American colony revolted almost 250 years ago.

These rural residents are the people, lest anyone forget, who embraced Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of the nation’s capital.

“Trump said the (swamp) proposals…would restore faith in what he repeatedly called a rigged system that rewards the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of the common man,” USA Today reported at the time.

To believe that the denizens of the swamp would do everything in their power to stop the swamp from being drained is only logical, and the red-state belief that “non-elected government officials,” as Wehner calls the bureaucrats, sabotaged Trump is rooted in that logic.

Much more springs as well from this line of reasoning:

If an election were to be fixed, as some still believe, who better to do it than those inside the system? If you bought the idea that the Russians could swing an election with some propaganda on Facebook, how could you not buy the idea that some bureaucrats could sway the election by tampering with voting machines?

For the record, I don’t believe the Russians won the election for Trump or that nameless, faceless U.S. bureaucrats stole the election for President Joe Biden.

In the first case, Americans don’t swallow propaganda unless they are already hungry to believe it. In the second case, if you’re going to steal an election, you don’t leave the vote as close as in 2020. Instead, you stage a Reaganesque landslide.

But it’s not hard to see how good people living far from the seats of power might think otherwise, to see how rural Americans might come to believe they are being dictated to by urban Americans, to understand their view that they have become secondhand citizens in their own country.

How one bridges this divide to fix the problem, I have no idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 replies »

  1. First off the Violence Center of DC is anti-gun, and bit sexist evidently.

    Second, we Are being dictated to, by urban America, and if that doesn’t work they move in to where we live and take it over with their big government ideas, but real nice how we were patted on the head and told how you understand how we might believe this is happening, But it really isn’t happening, But we understand how you might think this is happening, But it isn’t…..Now let’s bridge that gap….ha

    Now I will say something here about my above second statement, there are a lot of urban people who actually don’t care for the urban control ideal, not all them feel much different than us rural people. With that being said, I feel this is more of an ideal issue than a demographic issue, however you will find a greater number of urban control idealist in urban areas, so maybe it is a demographic issue as well.

    Third, When you have normal urban and rural everyday people, not just Trump fanatics, believing the election was rigged, I would have to disagree with you for comparing some kind of Russian propaganda on facebook to what happened in this last election.

    Fourth, it more than likely will be a steer chewing on its cud going to the kill plant, than a heifer. See, even the female cattle are less susceptible to being killed.

  2. The differences are stark to be sure and one group relies more upon the other. Today we have celebrities that are famous simply because they are famous. We have cryptocurrency that it theoretically worth something just because it is theoretically worth something. We have actual currency that isn’t actually currency but simply a number on a spreadsheet, and we are simply making more of that on demand when we choose to shift the balance from this column to that column.

    How many people actually produce something fungible in today’s world, as in an actual good that has actual value? How many of those people live in an urban environment vs a rural environment?

    I don’t think our differences will be our downfall, it will be who ultimately foots the bill for all of the nonproducers that will cause the house of cards to come crashing down. While we continue to offshore our production from urban and rural parts of our country to third world countries, sooner or later we will end up not producing anything and we won’t have anything left to exchange for the goods we desire or even require.

      • Leo, is it possible you over simplified the question? Resulting in an inaccurate picture often used for political leverage? Is paying 10% more per capita considered footing the bill ? When i foot the bill to do something I generally pay 100% Thats footing the bill. So most blue states pays a significant amount more of the federal budget is true . Part of that is population density. As well as high paying jobs and economic opportunity. Some of the “ red voters” in a blue state are often high earners who pay a significant percentage equal to their “blue” counterparts. So it really has nothing to do with red or blue and more to do with state location, age of state and infrastructure development,and availability of economic opertunity through resources, population density efficiency, ports , retirement states – Arizona Florida ect versus youth states ,fertile climate and ground and whatever. Often its a blue state because cities hold a large base of very poor people who vote blue . So it’s incredibly important to recognize its a false picture or even a technical lie to give credence to the concept that blue states foot the bill . Its an over simplification to the extreme used for political purposes to drive a wedge between brothers. Pay that red herring no mind and kick a politician out of office who would use it as an excuse to force his personal view and lifestyle onto others . It has little bearing in an honest conversation.

      • Footing the bill….haha….They are the ones mailing their bills out to the rest of us.

      • Leo,

        How’s that exactly? Does the urban population in blue states produce the iron and timber for their buildings? Do they produce the gas and oil to heat those buildings? Do they produce the meat and grain they eat? What happens when they don’t have the iron, timber, gas, oil, meat, and grain…what then? Who’s footing the bill again Leo? The products required to actually live come from the land, one way or another, the land is rural and not urban. Rural folks rule this land and the sooner we realize it the better it will be for rural and urban folks alike, thankfully our forefathers understood this ideal and built our country upon it.

      • Zip,months ago Craig posted a website with anchorage population demographics link for some topic who knows what, but it was incredibly insightful in a way that only data and graphics could expose.
        To bring it back around, somewheres Im sure google could probably throw out a demographic chart of where the say 1-5%ers live.My $’s are on the Coasters,just sayin’.
        Id think with your experience as a long haul trucker which you allude to, and which I take at face value,youd have seen that too.
        And those 1-5%er Coasters I suspect whether they are your peeps are not, probably are disgorging a huge tax base.How else could you afford to live in a place like S.D,Frisco,LA,Sea,or even Portland.
        Cant really speak to the right coast,as Ive never been there.But suspect its quite similar in terms of overall tax base, and maybe Im wrong, but Ill bet data/graphics would prove that the case.
        Theres a lot of people “getting by” in the Great Basin,not a whole lot of tax base in “getting by”.
        And I suspect theres a whole lot of “getting by” in the area east of Rockies like Ohio/Missouri/Mississipi River valley and delta,appalachians,adirondacks.
        Some of that is personal choice,alot of that is lack of regional opportunities and where we are at in the cycle of of Capitalism.I suspect in modern times this is something we haven’t experienced.
        Thats the problem with history and cycles, they just aren’t the same every time.
        And finger pointing aint gonna do a thing ‘cept raise the blood pressure.
        Captilalism needs the paddles, otherwise we are stuck in a 2-3% GDP world, and slow downward spiraling demographics, which puts strain on US finances(demographic headwinds are a global problem, outside of Africa/S.America,maybe Phillipines).
        Im ok with a 2% GDP world, but theres a whole lot of people who aren’t and dont understand why they are in that boat.
        And when everybody runs to one side of the boat, guess what happens?

      • Dave and Leo, red/ blue state payment ratio / footing bill is a red herring talking point used by dumb or dishonest divisive politician and others. First blue states only pay aprx 10% more of out go – returns ratio per capita . Thats not technically footing the bill. Its more like a tip . Secondly its a red herring because the republicans who are in the “ blue “ states are the ones paying a higher percentage of their income due to tax brackets which make this difference possible. Per stats as your income raises so does the likelihood you are a republican. 9/10 of richest families are republicans. So yes there are more blue voters in blue states but that has no bearing on who foots the bill . The highest earners tend to be republicans aprx 60/40 with the richest 9/1 . So dont fall into the bs lie about blue states pull more . Remember republicans live in blue states so color has no bearing. If you wanted to say coastal states then you are a little closer to a true picture. Red blue bs is divisive rhetoric and any politician who uses it should be voted out !!! As steve o says – we need everyone to make it work. It’s team work that makes this nation and the sooner we quit the red blue bs the sooner we can focus on the details of the problems and find solutions. ( blue states and red states inherently have different resources and opertunity than each other but each is equally important) stop buying into political lies

    • Nietzsche is dead.

      The odds on God being alive are much better.

      The arguments for the existence of God are very strong.
      Here are five.

      the cosmological argument from contingency

      the kalam cosmological argument based on the beginning of the universe

      the moral argument based upon objective moral values and duties

      the teleological argument from fine-tuning

      the ontological argument from the possibility of God’s existence to his actuality

      PEACE

  3. Its nice to see a writter actually dig to the meat of underlying issues causing social and political turmoil in this country. Rather than Mainstream Medias go to method of demonizing one group or another then oversimplification of the problem until the picture is so inaccurate its not applicable . Its rare in this press landscape to find a writer who can try and make an honest thoughtful effort to decipher the situation. Great Job Mr. Medred!

  4. The difference is quite clear between the divide you mention – you are either a heartland, Constitutional patriot supporting the fruits of Capitalism which rises all boats (yes, to include black boats) or you are part of the elitist urban cancer supporting Obama’s “war on police”, radical Marxism/Socialism/Communism and the degradation that always follows. Not to mention the fraudulent “media” parroting lying “talking points”..
    America wasn’t broken, Democrats are broken.. Even a moron can see the wake of destruction they leave everywhere they go.
    Just another example along with Biden’s laptop:
    https://www.foxnews.com/media/mainstream-media-no-mention-cuomo-bombshell

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