How Do We Handle the Urban-Rural Divide?
New date: January 17th (rescheduled from December 20)
Is the political division that shows up in our voting patterns and COVID statistics a permanent feature of American life or a passing phase? In 2016 rural areas and small towns that voted for Barack Obama in 2012 voted for Donald Trump. Why the switch, and what could make folks switch back? In the not so distant past the solid Democratic South — the Dixiecrats — became the Republican base. California went from electing Nixon and Reagan to becoming the bluest of blue states. A score of years from now where will we be divided — along the same fault line, or across new chasms unimaginably wider? Do we handle our divide by building bridges or by waiting for the next big sinkhole?
Is rural America a stronghold of pro-Trump, anti-vaxxer, and racist rednecks, or is it the true America uncluttered by trendy progressive causes? Is urban America the bastion of woke culture, police defunders, and doubtful sexual practices or a vibrant place where people actually think and question authority? Are the suburbs merely a collection of folks who hate taxes but want to smoke marijuana and have abortions? Is it only misinformation from polarized media that divides us, or if we really tried to cross our divide and talk to each other would we find even more areas of disagreement? Is the true America waving fields of grain — or alabaster cities?
Do we wrongly assume that facts and reason are the only basis to choose a side? Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion showed that the conservative mindset values loyalty, authority, and sanctity — while fairness, liberty, and caring are liberals’ main values. Are we able to say who is correct, or that the other side is completely wrong? Are there contradictions on both sides? Do both sides have their own version of “political correctness”? Is to refuse to be vaccinated “liberty” or “disloyalty” to the common good of keeping everyone healthy? Was “loyalty and authority” enhanced at the expense of “fairness and liberty” by the January 6 riot? Do rising crime rates take away our “caring” for law-abiding citizens or accommodate the “sanctity” of our Second Amendment right to carry assault weapons?
Are there liberals out in farm country, and conservatives in the heart of the city? Is “urban-rural divide” shorthand for a deeper division in the country? Are farmers a special interest group, as dependent on government subsidies as anyone on welfare and food stamps? Is a small storekeeper in the inner city as rugged an individualist as the cowboys portrayed by John Wayne and Clint Eastwood? If rural America is called “backward,” why do so many city dwellers have lake cabins and go hunting? If cities are “cesspools,” why do so many rural folks drive there for shopping and holidays? Do we really believe our stereotypes?
What can be said of suburbia, which seems to hold the balance these days? Do they have the “best” or “worst” of both ends of the divide? Do lawns and gardens make one rural? Do sidewalks, pools, and patios make one urban? Is “The Hy(brid) Life” politically now the battleground between our divides? What does economic conservatism and social liberalism make one? Will it change from election to election, or will the suburbs permanently shift from one leader to the other? Are all suburbs the same? How do we handle concepts like inner-ring and outer-ring suburbs, much less exurbs? Is there some way to predict what will happen to our Great Divide?
On Monday, January 17 from 7-9 PM by Zoom Inter-belief Conversation Café will try to see if farmers and city folk can be friends. We will use our (non-divisive?) agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality to bridge our chasms — or at least keep them from moving farther apart. Whether you’re a cowboy or a city slicker, you are welcome!
As 2021 fades away (But We Still Have to Deal with COVID!!) Inter-belief Conversation Cafe meets again through the magic of Zoom. This protects us from all COVID variants, allows out of town and even out of country guests to participate, and means we don’t have to search for an in-person meeting space. The Zoom link is http://www.zoom.us/j/99973128471. Below is what we will be talking about. Hope to see you all. No Zoom bombers please.