Sen. John Edwards has wrapped his campaign about defining “The Two Americas”. In that view he sees one America as thriving, and where things are going well; in the other America, want and desparation along with a sense of malaise paint the landscape and set up a paradigm founded on an “us vs. them” mentality. He may have some points, but I think he needs to open up his eyes and see that America is not simply defined as “two”.
I spent the past two days travelling from my suburban – racially diverse – mixed economy home and headed to a different part of my home state, New York. Actually, I left for this part of NYS from my affluent, well educated, white collar and white complexioned work habitat, where I labor in a school. This school is one of the better ones in New York State, and has been recognized not only for its extracurricular achievements, but also for the performance of its students upon standardized tests.
There are signficant differences between the school where I work, and the school which I support with my tax dollars, and where my children attended. The differences between these two schools, which are rather signficant are dwarfed by the school where I recently interviewed for a position as a Jr/Sr High School Principal. Within a little more than a stone’s throw from where I work and where I live one can find schools and communities which are radically different from the three that I’ve mentioned. If you take that to about a fifty minute drive, you end up in NYC, where you have an entire system involving about oh, one million learners, which is still radically different from the previously mentioned groups.
In New York State schools are classified by a number of factors. As an example, there are six basic groups formed upon needs of the student body and the ability of the community to handle them. However, there are close to 50 subsets of such “Similar Schools” in New York alone. Do you see what I am getting at – about “Two Americas”. As I was driving I began to understand or to have something reaffirmed within my own mind – the vast diversity of this country – and I was only driving through New York State. As I was going along I was thinking to myself, “Jeff, you ain’t on Long Island anymore.” Actually, the thought that really was going through my head – which would have only been amplified by my wife, and amplified to the point of eardrum discomfort – , Where the F*** am I, BumF*** Egypt”.
This actualization of the “Where in the (expletive deleted, but you can pick one) am I, was not just based in the manner in which peopled were housed, or the relative number of McDonalds, Targets/WallMarts and other “Big Boxes” that could be found. I also noted a difference as I went to the local supermarket, thankfully this area has one, as I may be living there, I noticed the difference in the way the people dressed, and people in rural Upstate NY do dress differently than where I am from. However, I saw people who could have fit into my town and certainly there were no small number of them. I noted that where I am from, when you go to a fast food place, grocery store or other establishement of that nature you will find a large number of ethnicity working there. When I go to the same type of place where I work, there are few ethnicities other than White to be found. The same color was found in this rural small town in New York, but I have a feeling that the level of income and many other differences were to be found among this set of workers. Then, on my travels back towards my home, I went into a gas station/convenience store, and none of the workers spoke English as a native tongue. Quite a few Americas just on my little trek across New York State.
This doesn’t even broach upon the other ways that America is split up into segments that can be easily broken into more than two groups. If you consider the blogs that are listed as links on this humble little blog you will find many views from this basically Centrist view to others which are much more Conservative and others more Liberal. I see regular posters and readers who are drawn to a religious theme, and there are others who are atheists. There is probably every representation of the religious spectrum, each with their own perspective filtered by that part of their life, certainly there are more than two views within this group.
If we head into social policy, there are probably many supply siders, and others who kind of like The New Deal and The Great Society, and want more of it. Two America’s? Hardly. This extends to any other issue, such as gay rights/same sex marriage, those who differentiate betweent the two and those who don’t, abortion on demand to never ever never abortion; try as one will, it is hard to classify any multi-faceted groups into simply two, although there is some temptation to do so with regard to Iraq, but that is another post for another time.
So, why does Sen. Edwards, whom I consider to be a rather intelligent man, spew forth such a ludicrous proposal of the “Us vs. Them” in his view of “Two Americas”. Perhaps it is as old as the haves against the majority of have nots. Perhaps he is trying to court people and use emotion, which is certainly valid in winning people to your cause, rather than truthful analysis. Perhaps it is because that despite our differences, and there are legion of them, this may be a source of pride and strength which should give our nation resilience rather than be a stigma of shame. Don’t misconstrue that statement for a lack of resolve to right the social inequities of our shared public institutions – and the inherent lack of quality that these “public institutions” have in areas which are more remote or less wealthy than other parts of America. If anything, my little trek across my own state has helped me understand that message, and those who would wish to have legislative and executive authority had better realize that same truth also. However, to put this in the final analysis as what you see, is to have a truly limited vision, and again, since I consider Sen. Edwards an intelligent man, there must be some other motive.
The best thing that could happen to this nation would be to realize there are as many Americas as their are citizens. Each of us bring a perspective from our own particular vantage point, and each probably consider that perspective correct. This means that catchy slogans which appeal to emotion rather than intellect must be rejected. Those who can’t see the muliplicity of the issues and vantage points of this nation, need new glasses. There is also a type of shortsightedness which would see this diversity as purely a problem. Perhaps it is really the solution.