I thought this was an interesting interview between Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee because having migrated from a very small town to a bigger city myself, I can really relate with the distinctions between the two … and frankly, some of the same arguments kind of bug the crap out of me, too!
Like the notion folks from Harvard are referenced with a negative connotation, as if higher education is somehow an enemy of the common man because intelligence is somehow insulting to those who don’t have it.
Or I guess even simply the idea not that these two lifestyles are different as much as the small town life is somehow better than living among a larger populace. We used to hear that same stupid argument from Sarah Palin – the idea that you’re not A Real American if you don’t live with a rifle on your shoulder and an oil derrick in your backyard. I mean, I’m sure that in a way some living in these communities may feel outnumbered by bigger cities like New York or LA or whatever, but there’s another very real side of country living that they don’t talk about and it’s the one that kind of drove me away from it.
It’s the lack of diversity, be it religious or political or racial or sexual or anything. If you’re a middle-aged, straight-laced conservative white person, small town American life is great, but heaven forbid you want a different perspective or find yourself going against the status quo with any of your own beliefs.
It’s the lack of options, be it white collar jobs or things to do on the weekend or places other than Applebee’s to eat – choices simply aren’t something that a smaller populace can support, which is why my old hometown is always in a sorry state of sprawl whenever I go home because they can’t support multiple of anything and ultimately it just leaves empty buildings behind in its wake.
Don’t get me wrong – small town America also features some of the most relaxing, serene places in our country and I’ve certainly taken more towards embracing those elements of my hometown when we go back to vacation, but I could never live there because things are just too different – I need opportunity beyond my old $10/hour job at the warehouse, I need good restaurants to enjoy that aren’t chains, I need to be surrounded by people who don’t watch Fox News and say nasty things behind my back because they don’t see me in church every Sunday.
Simply put, small town America likes to tote itself as the real America, but it’s also extraordinarily judgmental and for a nation that needs to figure out how to move beyond the status quo because so many things around us right now simply aren’t working, that’s a dangerous perspective to harbor. Just because certain issues don’t affect you or your brother down the street doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be dealt with, and I’ve never been comfortable with that whole “we’re all about family, but you need to suck it up because that’s what we had to do”-mentality towards their fellow man.
It’s not really a sense of community that I could ever be proud of, I guess because I’d prefer to surround myself with smart people who think all sorts of different things and challenge me with new ideas and new opportunities every day. And maybe that’s the challenge between people from the big cities and small towns understanding each other because over time we all get stuck in our own ways and we all like what we like.
Unfortunately as Jon eludes to, I think both sides like to think that they’re somehow better off than the other, and from their own limited perspectives, they’re both right. It doesn’t make it very easy to have a discussion at the dinner table, though.