Middle America Explained

In December 2001, Daniel Brooks headed to Franklin County, Pennslyvania, a short distance outside Montgomery County Maryland (just outside of DC), to see what life was like in a Red area, shortly after the election. What he found is what those of us who have lived in both areas already know, that there isn’t a class divide between these areas. These are not the areas of the poor and downtrodden, these are the areas of the content. These people think they have it pretty good, and largely they’re right. They’re hurting, they’re losing their good-paying middle class jobs offshores and have been for years and now the jobs they’re sending their kids to school for are being outsourced as well, but overall they’re a very happy and genial people. These are the people I was raised around, and overall they’re just a much happier people. It’s not that they’re friendlier, they’re just happier. Life isn’t about getting ahead, it’s about providing something a little better for your children. They’re much more concerned with what people in the neighboring county or the neighboring block have than the rich opulance of the cities within driving distance of their hometown. We have not so much a class divide in this country as a cultural one, and until the left can come to understand these people as people who already feel they’re rich, no matter what disaster the Republican Party finds themselves in, they will continue to lose election after election. Reaching these people is about telling them not how politicans are going to improve their lives and help them better themselves, it’s about telling them how those politicians agree with their way of life and their choices. As someone who’s lived in Red America and someone who is seriously considering if not already decided to move back there, I know that’s what I want to hear. A choice quote from the article:

The kinds of distinctions we make in Blue America are different. In my world the easiest way to categorize people is by headroom needs. People who went to business school or law school like a lot of headroom. They buy humongous sport-utility vehicles that practically have cathedral ceilings over the front seats. They live in homes the size of country clubs, with soaring entry atriums so high that they could practically fly a kite when they come through the front door. These big-headroom people tend to be predators: their jobs have them negotiating and competing all day. They spend small fortunes on dry cleaning. They grow animated when talking about how much they love their blackberries. They fill their enormous wall space with huge professional family portraits—Mom and Dad with their perfect kids (dressed in light-blue oxford shirts) laughing happily in an orchard somewhere.

Small-headroom people tend to have been liberal-arts majors, and they have liberal-arts jobs. They get passive-aggressive pleasure from demonstrating how modest and environmentally sensitive their living containers are. They hate people with SUVs, and feel virtuous driving around in their low-ceilinged little Hondas, which often display a RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS bumper sticker or one bearing an image of a fish with legs, along with the word “Darwin,” just to show how intellectually superior to fundamentalist Christians they are.

You have to read this article. It’s a detailed account of the differences in our society that everyone should read. Yes, you did read right, I am currently seriously considering moving back to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Sometimes you don’t realize what you’re missing until it’s gone. More postings on this subject later. Other words of wisdom for the day, “The love you take is equal to the love you make,” John Lennon (I’m assuming, could be McCartney).