Sunday, March 06, 2005

Responding to an accusation of "David Brooksian rumination"

Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly blog accuses me of "David Brooksian rumination." What can I say, it wasn't intentional, but maybe that's just what we're taught to do at Chicago.

But, to respond to Drum's complaint, which is:

I have to confess I don't get this — the same way I don't really get it when Brooks does his schtick either. I was born and raised in suburban California, so I'm pretty thoroughly blue, but I've also visited red states plenty of times on both business and pleasure and it's never seemed like that big a deal.

Lots of churches? Yeah, I guess so, although we build ours a lot bigger here in Orange County. I just drive by them. Quieter? Definitely. Restaurants? About the same, really. There are regional differences, of course, though with the growth of chains even regional differences aren't that dramatic anymore. Accents? Yeah, but I've never had any trouble understanding anyone. More Wal-Marts? Sure, but I've got two CostCos and several K-Marts within ten miles of my house. The difference isn't that noticable.

Suburban California, I'd imagine, is quite different from the center of Manhattan, which is where I grew up. For starters, cars. My family never had one, and I never thought that to be especially odd. Where would we have put it? What would we have done with it? I took the subway to school, and my family and friends also took public transportation to get around. As for abundant churches or Wal-Marts, again, not things I grew up with. Does that make me better? No. Provincial? Yes. Those who choose to read this blog must accept that they are reading the musings of someone who, until quite recently, didn't get out much. And I also noted in my post on visiting a "Red State" that the difference is also rural vs. urban, so there's no reason some "Blue State" experiences, such as Drum's, might resemble stereotypically Red State ones more than my own has. My post was about going from extreme-blue to extreme-red, and I maintain that it was, well, weird. Does that mean that I cannot connect with people from the "other side"? Hardly, or else I wouldn't have been in Rolla in the first place.


Nick said...

I like how Mr. Drum is completely ignorant of what I consider to be the most important role of cities--that of the protector of "others." For centuries, cities have served as a meeting place for subcultures of all kinds: religious, racial, and sexual.

Mr. Drum's analysis clearly indicates that he's never faced the dilemma of being a young gay man traveling in rural towns--or even some Chicagoland suburbs--in the Midwest, where, like it or not, it's not okay to be gay. Luckily (!) I've never faced the dilemma of having to travel to such places with a boyfriend, but I can assure you that it's not something I look forward to.

So in short, Mr. Drum, I'm simply not very persuaded by the fact that you "don't get this." Because some of the rest of us...well, we do.

From The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert:

"We all sit around mindlessly slagging on that vile stinkhole of a city of ours, but in some strange way it takes care of us. I don't know if that ugly wall of suburbia has been put there to stop them getting in, or us getting out."

Anonymous said...

I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, which is not the reddest of the red and it's more urban and suburban that rural. The consumer culture is fine -- restaurants, museums, shops, etc. But the people...

They're so conservative I can't have a conversation about politics without getting really pissed off. The worst thing is the assumption that everybody's conservative. So, I'll get in a conversation with other parents at my kids' school, and they'll feel perfectly comfortable stating that, for instance, gay teachers should be fired, expecting that everybody agrees with this "commonsensical" opinion. Same with religion: First time I meet anyone, the second question is, "Which church do you go to?" Everyone goes to church, right?

It's this assumption of being red that makes feel totally alienated. I want to move somewhere where the assumption is the opposite, where jaws will drop if you start arguing that kids should be hit upside the head by teachers, or you can't have gay teachers.

The question is where? NJ? NY? CT?

Knemon said...

Come to Berkeley. Anyone holding such beliefs would be run out of this town on a rail.

As a reddish-tinged person, I can assure you that blue-group-think is in full, stifling effect here.

You'd love it.

Knemon said...

Come to Berkeley. Anyone holding such beliefs would be run out of this town on a rail.

As a reddish-tinged person, I can assure you that blue-group-think is in full, stifling effect here.

You'd love it.

Traveling Mattie said...

I've lived in two very Red States and two very Blue parts or very Blue states, oh, and urban Sacramento, which is very purple.

If you want your kids to be provincial, in a blue way, just look at the last election map, county by county. Chicago, urban Michigan, New York and very South Florida are your best bets, along with the Bay Area, Santa Monica (and other areas of LA, but it depends--most places won't shun or crucify conservatives, too laid back. U usually have to find cold NE'n cities, and cold NE'n people for that), and much of Seattle. Oh, or, duh!, anywhere in Massachusetts. That state is 13% Republican. Wow.

Now to be preachy, your kids won't be very Progressive if they don't have to figure out why they're Progressive, by being challenged in their ideas. Dare to escape your comfort zone. It's like kindergarten, you've got to go learn to get along with the other kids in class.

I'm neither red nor blue, so I'm just gonna go somewhere diverse poltically/racially/religiously and let my kids see and hear everyone. I don't want them stifled by Left or Right Orthodoxy.