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