Once again this week, the massive rift between philosophies, values and political priorities was gashed wide open. Half of the nation was left lamenting and pledging to flee to Canada and the other half was silently smirking at their televisions as newscasters tried to veil their confusion and outrage while blinking back tears to preserve their liberal media makeup jobs.
A quick glance though social media indicates that many on the losing side of this election feel votes were cast out of hate, fear, ignorance, and malice and that is the direction this country is now heading. The winning side seems to think finally things are on the right track to moving away from hate, fear, ignorance and malice.
This election very clearly had no perfect candidates running for President, but no election ever has. Regardless of which candidate you voted for, I don’t think you voted because you hate anyone, or because you are ignorant or because you harbor an underlying malice for anyone. Are there exceptions to this? Probably, but I do not believe that is the norm.
I do think that, by in large, people voted because their scope of reality, when combined with their knowledge base and personal priorities, pointed them in a general direction politically. They then voted for the candidate that best represented those views. Of those factors that shaped individual votes, the scope of personal reality and experience are among the most powerful, which is likely a very significant contributor to the rural/urban divide that was clearly indicated again in the 2016 Presidential Election.
The differences in daily realities in rural and urban areas are as impossible to deny as the red and blue counties on the U.S. map after this election. As a general rule, those in rural areas tend to be more in contact with the front lines of the realities of food, energy and natural resource production and use. Urban folks tend to reap the benefits of these labors with an extra layer or two of insulation from the tough realities on the front lines. Part of the difference between the red and the blue counties is that it is just easier to see the realities behind the thin threads holding up our civilized society from the porch swing of an old farmhouse than the balcony of a high-rise luxury apartment downtown.
In many ways, the political differences in this country are, at their core, largely based on the varying levels of insulation (and our level of understanding regarding that insulation) we have from the harsh realities that surround us. If the fridge is full of food, the lights come on with the flip of a switch and the furnace kicks on when turning up the thermostat we have the luxury of discussing the minutia of all the political whims of the day. When you are hungry, cold and sitting in the dark, none of those other things seem to matter too much.
We are all so fortunate to be very insulated from nature’s wrath on a daily basis in this country — VERY fortunate. And, there is nothing wrong with that insulation. It, in fact, should be celebrated. Rather than lamenting the voice of rural America, urban America should be recognizing the role of those in the countryside. And those in the countryside should be recognizing the fact that their efforts to insulate the rest of society from harsh realities have been so successful due to their urban neighbors. Those different resulting perspectives are a large part of what is great about our country and also a big part of the rural/urban divide that continues to show up at election time.
There was an excellent, insightful article from “Forbes” written after the 2012 election on this topic that incredibly foreshadows the trend of what took place over the most recent presidential race. Here is an excerpt from the article by Mark Hendrickson: “Affluent denizens of our metropolises see no inconsistency in supporting the Democratic jihad against ‘greedy corporations’ and ‘the rich’ while also expecting their every whim to be supplied, often by those same corporations and successful entrepreneurs. This is because they are removed from some of the harsher daily realities of life that confront those who are on the front lines of mankind’s ongoing economic struggle. They have forgotten that mankind’s natural state is poverty and that strenuous, heroic efforts are required to produce the astounding affluence and abundant paraphernalia of our modern, affluent lifestyles. To use Marxian terminology, urbanites have become alienated from economic reality.”
The people so quick to point to hate and ignorance as the cause of the outcome of this election (and others) seem to fail in considering the role of our nation’s rural front lines and the impact of how that scope of reality shapes their politics. The truth is that both rural and urban America are vital components of this great nation that provide valuable insights and views based on differing scopes of reality.
In the end, our philosophies, mindsets and political leanings are not really all that different in many cases, but the realities of our daily lives are, depending on where we live and our lifestyles. Within the wide rift between rural and urban America there is more common ground than either presidential campaign would have us believe. Both sides are missing something by failing to acknowledge this.
I think if we simply take some time to view life through the reality experienced by the other side, we’d go a long way in closing up the gaping rural/urban gap. And, rather than cry or celebrate, lament or smirk, we can all be more content that voters have spoken, realize that things won’t be as bad or as good as either side hoped, and rejoice that (mercifully) this ridiculous campaign season has ended.
Saying a prayer or two sure won’t hurt, either.