Monday, July 07, 2014

Of city mice and country mice

Since I've just driven across Montana, a corner of Wyoming, and entered South Dakota, I find it easy to be fascinated by this map from the Business Insider. The 146 most populous counties, shaded blue, contain more than half the population of country. You can find the list of the counties at the link.

Not all these counties are "blue" in the contemporary journalistic sense. I see Orange County, CA among them. It's on its way to becoming Democratic as the Latino vote increases, but it isn't there yet.

But mostly I see that people who live outside these places might feel alienated from the country's dominant culture. I've got my own beefs with contemporary Americanism, but at least I recognize the world in which it is happening.

But people in the vast countryside and it smaller towns, probably not so much so. Their lives and reality are simply different than lives where most of us reside. Hence the attraction to some, across broad swaths of the land, to flat-earth religiosity and white supremacist assumptions whose time is over.

As Digby wrote in sharing this map:
But one of the oldest and most enduring forms of polarization --- everywhere in the world --- is that between the city mice and the country mice.
The history of the modern world is that the country, the peasants, carry much of the burden of material progress. Countries industrialize by stealing any possible surplus from farmers to build up modern industry. Mature capitalism literally takes the ground from under the feet of country people. I saw that vividly as we drove past the huge open pit coal mine on I-90 in Gillette, WY today. City people suffer other ills, but their congested location is where invention, modernity, imagination and individual freedom thrive.

I can scarcely object to the dominance of the values of the populous places in our national life. Country values would too often exclude and suppress my kind. But I love the beauty of the land and can only wish its people better than they'll naturally get from the churning of our economy and social mores.

They know what they are up against.
From Blackfeet land, Montana

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