Rural vs Urban: the Greatest Divide in Modern America


A month or two ago, a close friend of mine sent me an article that she thought I’d appreciate.  The article explains why Trump, despite his many obvious flaws, became such a viable presidential candidate, especially for folks in rural areas.  But more importantly the article addresses the massive cultural divide that separates rural & urban American which is largely either ignored or vastly over simplified.  As someone who has lived on both sides of this cultural divide, having grown up in a very rural area & now living in an urban area, I have witnessed this cultural divide in a very personal way.  In fact as I read this article, I kept thinking to myself “I could have written this about my own hometown.”  The truth is that when I’m in my hometown I worry I’m viewed as some kind of snob who chose to leave & now thinks she’s better because of it.  But when I’m home here in the city I worry I’m viewed as a bit of a redneck, albeit an intelligent, educated one.  Perhaps it’s all in my head & I’m just too self-absorbed to realize it, but I guess what it comes down to is that I never feel 100% at home anywhere. 

Sign reads: 'Small town ahead - don't believe a word you heard.'

As much as I am not thrilled to see Donald Trump as our next President (though I’d have been equally disappointed to see Hillary as our next President but for different reasons), I must admit I am horrified to see so many supposedly tolerant liberals suddenly categorizing anyone who voted for Trump as racists/misogynists/sexists/idiots.  These are the same people who constantly remind us that not all Muslims are terrorists & shouldn’t be treated as such just because a small fraction of them are.  And I absolutely agree with that sentiment.  However, it is very disappointing to see some of these same “tolerant” folks lumping anyone who voted for Trump into various unsavory categories without actually knowing anything about these folks.  Trust me, I am equally horrified that many of my own conservative, religious friends & family somehow rationalized voting for Trump.  It’s cognitive dissonance at its finest in my own mind.  But the fact of the matter is I know, love, & respect many people who voted for both Hillary & Trump, neither of whom I could find it in my own heart to elect, & my opinion on their character has not changed one iota based on who they chose to vote for.  I fully realize that many people truly felt like they were choosing between the lesser of two evils.  Furthermore, my husband & I didn’t even vote for the same person this year & yet it has not affected our relationship in any way.  So I figure if we can be married (& expecting a baby in just a few weeks) & not allow this to harm our relationship, what the hell is wrong with all these other people who are suddenly incapable of tolerating opposing viewpoints from people they don’t even know?MLK love

To return to the rural vs urban issue, when I was in college & even more once I moved to an urban area, I started realizing how much America’s inner city ghettos & rural America have in common.  The hopelessness, the poverty, the high teen pregnancy rate, the drug usage, the prevalence of single moms & the absence of fathers, the high school drop-out rate . . . All of these are major issues that both communities face.  The difference is that in rural areas instead of crappy apartments there are shitty trailers, & there are probably fewer actual gangs & hard drugs, though the violence is still alarming.  Just a few weeks ago, I was explaining this phenomenon to a coworker & somewhat jokingly stated “the rural areas just have less heroin.”  Just a few days later I found out a classmate of mine died of what was likely a heroin overdose & suddenly I ate those words.  The other glaring difference of course is that a lot poor folks in rural areas are white, & one can’t help but wonder if that is one reason they elicit less sympathy from the masses.  Obviously the population density is lower in rural areas so superficially things may seem different, but dig a little deeper & you’ll realize that these communities are facing many of the exact same issues that poor urban areas are facing . . . & often with even fewer resources to assuage & combat these problems.

rural-poverty

Scenes like this are a dime a dozen in my hometown & in so many others like it.

It’s rare that I allow someone else to speak my views for me.  But when I do find that someone else has expressed my own thoughts so eloquently, I am happy to allow their words to speak for me.  So today I implore my readers to read the aforementioned article & seek to understand this very important & largely neglected issue.  I think the words that spoke to me the most, the words which had me nodding along the hardest, are these:

“In a city, you can plausibly aspire to start a band, or become an actor, or get a medical degree. You can actually have dreams. In a small town, there may be no venues for performing arts aside from country music bars and churches. There may only be two doctors in town — aspiring to that job means waiting for one of them to retire or die. You open the classifieds and all of the job listings will be for fast food or convenience stores. The “downtown” is just the corpses of mom and pop stores left shattered in Walmart’s blast crater, the “suburbs” are trailer parks. There are parts of these towns that look post-apocalyptic.

I’m telling you, the hopelessness eats you alive.

And if you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege. Already, someone has replied to this with a comment saying, “You should try living in a ghetto as a minority!” Exactly. To them, it seems like the plight of poor minorities is only used as a club to bat away white cries for help. Meanwhile, the rate of rural white suicides and overdoses skyrockets. Shit, at least politicians act like they care about the inner cities.”left_a_small_town_,-20749

If you’re reeling over the results of this election & wondering what the hell is wrong with our country, I hope that reading this article will help you understand why so many people did vote for Trump & to appreciate that not everyone who voted for him is some horrible, hateful person.  Just like not everyone who voted for Hillary is some corrupt lifelong bureaucrat.  Also to the people leading violent protests against Trump, defacing historical monuments, & beating Trump supporters in the streets, please grow up & realize that your actions prove you’re just as intolerant & despicable as you say the people who voted for Trump are.bleed-red-lyrics

This is not a time to hate each other.  This is a time to remember the essential humanity that unites us all.  To end this post, I’d like to share one of my favorite songs which I think is especially germane at this point in history.  Lyrics are posted below.

Let’s say we’re sorry,
Before it’s too late,
Give forgiveness a chance
Turn the anger into water
Let it slip through our hands

We all bleed red,
We all taste rain,
All fall down,
Lose our way,
We all say words we regret,
We all cry tears, we all bleed red

If we’re fighting, we’re both losing,
We’re just wasting our time
Because my scars,
They are your scars & your world is mine

You & I, we all bleed red,
We all taste rain, all fall down, lose our way
We all say words, we regret,
We all cry tears, we all bleed red

Sometimes we’re strong, sometimes we’re weak,
Sometimes we’re hurt & it cuts deep
We live this life, breath to breath,
We’re all the same, we all bleed red

Let’s say we’re sorry before it’s too late

We all bleed red,
All taste rain, all fall down, lose our way
We all say words, we regret,
We all cry tears, all bleed red

Sometimes we’re strong, sometimes we’re weak,
Sometimes we’re hurt & it cuts deep
We live this life, breath to breath,
We’re all the same, we all bleed redall bleed red

 

We All Bleed Red


As you may know if you follow this blog regularly, my favorite kinds of music are rock/metal & classical.  However, I do still listen to country music from time to time.  In fact, I can honestly say there isn’t a single genre of music that I don’t like at least occasionally, the reason being that good lyrics can transcend any & all genre lines.music quote

In any case, while running some errands this morning I was listening to In This Moment’s steller 2014 album Black Widow.  When the eleventh song Natural Born Sinner came on, I was struck by how the song is so relevant to our world today with all of the polarization that is so rampant in light of recent world events.  I wrote a post a while ago about that song & how I feel it is so meaningful for those of us who support gay rights.  But as is the case with any truly great song, the lyrics can be applied to many different situations.  black widow ITM

Anyhow, as I thought about how important it is for each of us to not get caught up in the polarization that makes us view the world with an “us vs them” mentality, I was reminded of one of my favorite country songs, Bleed Red by Ronnie Dunn.bleed red 1

As my thoughts revolved around current world it events, it occurred to me, as it often has before, that while religion was theoretically created to inspire love & peace, quite often it is used for just the opposite purpose.  One can plainly see this in our world today.  Just to be clear, I’m not one of these naive social justice warriors who thinks everyone should just hold hands & sing Kum Ba Yah & that there aren’t some truly evil people in this world.  Of course there are.  We can see this quite plainly with the recent terrorist attacks in Paris & California & various other places across the globe.  terrorism words

However, I see nothing worthwhile to be gained from continuing with the “us vs them” mentality that so often rises up after such tragic events.  As much as I feel that these acts of terrorism can never be justified, I am also smart enough to realize that many of the actions the US has taken in the Middle East over the past few decades have done nothing but feed the fires of hate that fuel such attacks . . .us vs them

It’s also occurred to me recently that the US was quite literally founded on the basis of terrorism . . . or at the very least genocide.  Hello, what else can we rightly call the widespread destruction of the Native American people?  I’m by no means saying that their cultures were all 100% peaceful & perfect before the Europeans entered the continent. But the manner in which these people were treated for hundreds of years cannot possibly be considered humane in any way, shape, or form.  I don’t see how we can overlook the similarity between the systematic destruction of the Native Americans, fueled largely by racism & religion, & current terrorist events which are likewise fueled largely by racism & religion.all bleed red

Anyhow, allow me to return to the song which inspired this post.  I think it would behoove each of us to read these lyrics & take them to heart.

Let's say we're sorry
Before it's too late
Give forgiveness a chance
Let the anger turn to water
Let it slip through our hands

We all bleed red
We all taste rain
We all fall down
Lose our way
We all say words we regret
We all cry tears
We all bleed red

If we're fighting
We're both losing
We're just wasting our time
Because my scars
They are your scars
And your world is mine
You & I . . .

We all bleed red
We all taste rain
All fall down
Lose our way
We all say words we regret
We all cry tears
We all bleed red

Sometimes we're strong
Sometimes we're weak
Sometimes we're hurt
And it cuts deep
We live this life 
Breath to breath
We're all the same
We all bleed red

Let's say we're sorry
Before it's too late

We all bleed red
All taste rain
All fall down
Lose our way
We all say words we regret
We all cry tears
We all bleed red

Sometimes we're strong
Sometimes we're weak
Sometimes we're hurt
And it cuts deep
We live this life 
Breath to breath
We're all the same
We all bleed red

 

This song was released 4 years ago but the power of the lyrics is timeless, which of course is the mark of a truly great song.  To many people, music is just disposable, something to listen to to make them feel good for a few minutes & then to throw away the minute the next mindless hit comes along.  Such a mentality towards music angers me to no end because to me music is my religion, my way of life.  It’s the very force that empowers me to face an often chaotic & seemingly uncaring world.fear

 

Anyhow, the next time you’re tempted to allow fear to overcome you & thus hate to enter your heart, I hope you’ll remember we all bleed red.

Things I Learned From Country Music


For those of you who don’t know, I am a huge music nerd.  I listen to music almost constantly & firmly believe everything in life is better with musical accompaniment.  I love all kinds of music though I usually spend more time listening to rock than any other genre.  However, I go through spells a couple times of year when I also listen to a lot of country music.  I suppose that is somewhat inevitable when you live in the South & grew up in a small town.  This past weekend I got a notion that I should try out a short blog series featuring “things I’ve learned from such & such genre of music.”  Since I’ve been on a country kick lately, I decided to start with country music.  It was hard for me to choose only a handful of songs that have great meaning to me, but I don’t want these posts to be ridiculously long so I limited myself to five songs.  I’m going to attempt to write one of these posts for every major genre of music (though I’ll admit rap might not happen but I will give it my best effort).  For those of you who think country music is only about wearing cowboy boots, fishing, skinny-dipping, or drinking beer, please check out the songs listed below which I hope will serve to broaden your horizons a bit.  I have conveniently included YouTube links to each song because I am awesome like that.  😉

follow your arrow

  • Follow Your Arrow by Kacey Musgraves

    • No matter what you do, there will always be naysayers & one of the greatest lessons in life is that you truly cannot please everyone. Thus it’s better to just do what you know in your heart is right for you because at the end of the day you are the one who has to answer to yourself for your own life. I think in small towns this sentiment is especially true because everybody knows each other so rumours & gossip can start & spread so easily. I like how Kacey points out that life is often viewed in extremes; for example, “If you save yourself for marriage, you’re a bore/if you don’t save yourself for marriage, you’re a whore-able person” (great play on the word horrible, isn’t that?) when in reality the truth often falls somewhere in between such extremes.  And, yes, this is probably one of the only country music songs to ever openly support gay rights, which I love.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kg4YdXUaCg0 P.S. This entire album is AMAZING & you would never guess that Kacey is a mere 25 years old. Her song-writing skills & insight into life are superior to many who are two or three times her age. Even if you don’t usually like country music, I beg you to look up Kacey Musgraves on YouTube & give her songs a listen. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

  • I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack

    • This is one of those classic songs that just never gets old because it’s so beautifully written & the message is one that bears repeating. This song reflects on the importance of never losing the wonder of being alive whether it be standing in awe at the sight of the ocean, dancing every chance you get, or learning that love sometimes hurts but it’s worth the chance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV-Z1YwaOiw

  • Bleed Red by Ronnie Dunn

    • This is one of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard. The message is so simple but so beautiful: we are all human beings with struggles, scars, fears, hopes, & dreams trying to make the best of our lives. We all make mistakes & need forgiveness from time to time. At the end of the day despite differences in race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, or any other “external” factor at our deepest core we are all the same: “We all bleed red.” If every one of us took this song to heart every day of our lives I’m quite certain we could end (or perhaps even avoid) a lot of conflicts, including everything from squabbles between husbands & wives to international wars. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AMcwxAug1Q

  • Life Ain’t Always Beautiful by Gary Allan

    • Gary Allan’s rough voice adds to the magic of this song for me because it seems to perfectly match with the message of the song: “Life ain’t always beautiful but it’s a beautiful ride.” Truer words have never been spoken for indeed life is often difficult, challenging, & scary but in the end it’s still a fascinating, wonderful journey & the hard times really do make us stronger & wiser. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VDNMtn0t2A

  • I Drive Your Truck by Lee Brice

    • The best way I can describe this song is achingly beautiful. I heard it for the first time as I was driving into Appomattox on 460 for my dear uncle Robert’s funeral. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The song is written from the perspective of someone who lost a soldier friend but the feelings behind it are applicable to anyone who has suffered the loss of a close friend or family member. I love that the song addresses both the pain of such a loss as well as the anger that we all experience as we beg God/the universe why it happened because no matter the circumstances death is never easy for those left behind. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCSMCgqlc-0