November 7, 2004

A Riff on the Apple From Flyoverland

We have a private family blog on which my wife and I are the lone Bush voters. It gets heated, which scares some of the young 'uns, and a lot of it is about the Red-Blue, religious-secular, coastal-flyover dichotomy. I saw a post by the charming and witty James Lileks and decided to quote it at length.

It's worth reproducing here:

One of my favorite bloggers (and also a professional columnist) is James Lileks, who was born in Fargo, I think, and lives in MPLS. He writes about his daughter, "Gnat," various kind of memorabilia, and just published a book on bad décor. Here he has some typically warm-hearted but incisive comments on the blue-red, bicoastal-flyover foofaraw occupying the blogosphere these days (forgive me, Jim, if I quote you at length -- I'm introducing you to potential new readers):

In the New York Times, some angst from our betters:

"Everybody seems to hate us these days," said Zito Joseph, a 63-year-old retired psychiatrist. "None of the people who are likely to be hit by a terrorist attack voted for Bush. But the heartland people seemed to be saying, 'We're not affected by it if there would be another terrorist attack.' "

Sir. Please. First of all, on a purely practical level, if New York takes a hit, the economy takes a hit. There are people in North Dakota who write financial management software used by big companies. The economy goes south for a year, they might well go south forever. On an emotional level, an attack on New York is an attack on us all. No one tunes in at midnight on New Year’s Eve to watch the corn cob drop in Des Moines, or whatever they do. For that matter, we simple folk in flyoverland tune in at eleven o’clock to watch New York declare the old year dead. Our own midnight feels like an anticlimax. We don’t even mind that you came up with the next new year first; hell, we’re used to it. We get one more hour out of the old one, and that’s fine.

That said, if I may quote Rita Moreno, who sang the greatest lyric of the latter half of the 20th century: I like the Island Manhattan. Smoke on your pipe and put that in. I could never live there, because I need space and mobility in terms the city can’t provide. But once a year I go there, and I never feel as alive as I do my first day in town. I’m not sure I could take that much exultation on a daily basis, and I would hate to become used to the Chanin Building at night, or the great golden sky of Grand Central. More than that, it’s the small places that abide, the idea that I can walk into Beekman Liquors on Lex and feel as though I stepped back one year, five, ten, thirty. It’s a miraculous place, if only for the sheer variety of ordinary things it provides. Just as every man feels himself somewhat less for never having been a soldier, every man would like to think he could have been a New Yorker in the classic mold, however he defines it. Hate you? I love you more than you know. We may disagree about the means to keep it safe; that’s fine. But don’t assume that someone sitting in a smallish metropolis half a nation away is indifferent to your fate and safety. On the contrary. They touch one hair on your head, they should sleep with the fishes.

We continue, alas:

"I'm saddened by what I feel is the obtuseness and shortsightedness of a good part of the country--the heartland," Dr. Joseph said. "This kind of redneck, shoot-from-the-hip mentality and a very concrete interpretation of religion is prevalent in Bush country--in the heartland."

Sir, speaking as a heartlander who makes it to New York whenever he can, may I kindly suggest you get out of town more often. There’s only one New York, which is why it is so important. But there are a hundred thousand Fargos, which is why they matter too.

As for a “Shoot from the hip mentality and a very concrete interpretation of religion” – well, if you hang around the right corners in New York long enough you’ll probably see a gun battle AND some Lubavitchers handing out literature; this would not make me assume all New Yorkers are gang-bangers or Torah-thumpers. It’s a big country. Please take this in the spirit it’s offered: we watch the news that comes from New York, read the magazines that come from New York, see the shows that come from New York. It’s entirely possible we know you better than you know us. Nu?

I particularly liked the part in red.

I remember when I was a kid, we took a car trip to DC and Virginia. Saw Monticello and the Skyline Drive. I was particularly impressed by playing miniature golf in some western Va. town, and realized there was a world west of Bucks County and south of Staten Island that was very different.

If our bicoastals would be as multicultural for Lutherans and Babdists as they claim to be for Gujaratis and the Hmong, perhaps we can remember that we really are one country. Nu?

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