Since we inaugurated our first Black President we have seen a not insignificant uptick in overt racism in our society. This should be no surprise. The President signifies a shift away from attitudes these sad troglodytes have held in secret for over a generation. It is too much for them to handle so some of them explode in a fury of resentment and bigotry. Others fumble over none-too-subtle code words for “those” people. In all this mad scramble to lash out the hated Him, they have exposed their hatred for other groups. Most notably, besides PoC, city dwellers.
Nowhere is this more obvious than the right-wing blogoshpere, and some Fox news personalities, obsession with New York. It is the archetype big city. There is good reason for this, of course. It is the largest city in the US (though it is curious that for all their hatred of it, many on the right would gladly gloss over the fact that Mexico City is larger, because, you know, patriotism.) It accounts for roughly 3% of the population of the entire country. That is a big chunk of people for a nation the geographical size of ours. When they try to wrap their heads around that it scares them.
It scares them because it brings up an uncomfortable truth. This truth becomes more obvious the more they think of cities that are not too far behind NY in population: Philly, Chicago, Houston, LA, San Fran. It eats them all the more when they think of those “second tier” cities: Seattle, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Denver. Throw in the hundreds of mid-sized cities, your Buffalos, Portlands, Des Moines, and more besides and it becomes increasingly clear that “their” America, does not exist. The tiny communities of white picket fences, of Firemen’s parades, of bake sales, and of homecoming kings and queens is out there, but it is not America.
Which is not, I hope you realize the difference here, to say it is not American. That last letter is important. These people are as American as any of their big city cousins. They are a part of our country, and when they aren’t being led by the nose by hate mongers and cynical politicians they are one of the good parts of America, just as much so as the bistros, museums, stadiums and tenements of NYC.
Some of the people in those communities, however, hate the idea that their life, the quiet one in the burbs or in rural towns and villages, is not the American idea anymore, if it ever was. They hate the idea that they do not get to dominate the discourse in this country. It is not enough that they get to live life as they like it, they have to be able to tell others how to live their lives, and when it becomes obvious, by sheer demographics, that they cannot they go into spasms of loathing. They idea that “their” tax dollars, go into “those” cities (the by now obvious fallacious nature of that idea aside) creates the illusion that somehow the very existence of cities in general, and NYC in particular, is victimizing them.
I find it easy to get angry when I hear, or read, people like that tell me that we city dwellers are not real Americans. We are just as American as the rest of you. We build our communities, we care for each other, and we send our best and brightest off to fight for this country, just like you do. We celebrate the Fourth of July with massive fireworks displays. We honor our mixed cultural heritage in festivals all summer long (something I know some of the bigots out there hold this up as proof of our un-American streak. Your loss.)
I should not get angry though. I should pity them. So many of them shut themselves out from the larger part of the American experience. We are farms, we are villages, we are suburbs and we are cities. We are lighthouses in Maine and the Port of Los Angeles. We are Chugwater, Wyoming, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If you want to hide in your gated communities, or tiny hamlets, that is your prerogative, but you are missing out. You are welcome to join us, if you can be civil. Maybe I’ll even buy you a falafel.