There are two Americas.

Last week, I wrote a post about the Future of Leisure. I was toying with either that, or something about the political season we’re in, the future of… well… the future. I think instead I wrote my post about Leisure, kind of thinking about where I see the future going. Well, since then I’ve read something that does a pretty nice job of exploring that changing landscape.

But the geek in me wants to lay out some geeky context as well…

In thinking about this, here’s what I got to thinking about – comics. About a reboot of the character Hyperion from Marvel, a character that originally was basically just a Superman ripoff, but plot twist! he was a villain. This alternate reality version of him is being brought in as a hero, as a future Avenger. And so when they go through the work of introducing him, well… it’s stuck with me.

avengers-4-1

avengers-4-2

avengers-4-3There were two Hyperions. And there are two Americas.

Maybe you’ve seen this bouncing around Social Media, but there was an editorial recently on Cracked about there being two Americas, or, well, about how Trump supporters might actually make some sense. Warning now: language.

Here’s where I want to reference Hyperion: looking beyond the macro level, beyond the society level. We talk so much in America of “red states” and “blue states,” we talk monolithically of Democrats and Republicans, of Liberals and Conservatives. And that’s one way of looking at it all. This article does a good job of pulling back the curtain, of stopping and looking at the pieces that make up the whole. Looking at the people, and what they’ve gone through to get to this point.

If you’re looking for a TL;DR, basically, it comes down to the difference between the city and the rural areas, which is probably a much better way to break down the country and think about things. There are inherently different problems – and therefore inherently different opinions about how to deal with those problems – between those two regions.

I wonder if there’s an article written in the same style but focused the other way, like, “hey Trump voters, here’s why the City Folk vote the way they do.” If you know of one, link it below!

Hopefully it’s clear on this site that we like to look at problems in a much bigger, or different, view than just the conventional wisdom – and we like to avoid addressing real world problems by looking at them through the lens of solutions or alternatives. But if I may be bold, part of the reason I prefer local politics is because of this difference in regional needs, because it’s hard to come up with a one-size-fits-all-solution. Which is I think why we seem to pendulum back and forth between the two big parties, as we go down the road of one set of solutions, then backlash to the other side.

I’m a third party kind of guy, but let’s leave the third party talk aside (since that’s getting really polarizing this political season as well). Instead, given my hatred of dichotomies (like there being two Americas), let me actually present to you a third.

America from the Suburbs

I think reading the Cracked article really got me thinking back to my origins in the suburbs, and all my various opinions about that. For instance, there’s this section:

Where I’m from, you weren’t a real man unless you could repair a car, patch a roof, hunt your own meat, and defend your home from an intruder. It was a source of shame to be dependent on anyone — especially the government. You mowed your own lawn and fixed your own pipes when they leaked, you hauled your own firewood in your own pickup truck.

When you hear complaints against masculinity, it may be because there’s a whole host of people like me. If that’s your definition of a “real man,” well… I can literally do none of those things. Wait, I think I can mow the lawn now, hopefully this third lawn mower we have now is the trick.

To bring things back to where I started – talking about my opinion piece last week – I think that the invisible adversary I was arguing against was this rural thinker, this person who thinks that this checklist of practical skills is what we need in life. And as the Cracked article points out, yes, this way of life is dying.

So okay, I’m not rural, but what about city? Well, I don’t think the Suburbs really fit that bill either, as the close living, the cost constraints, the diversity, the opportunity – none of that is there either.

For instance, the Cracked article says this about the city:

In a city, you can plausibly aspire to start a band, or become an actor, or get a medical degree. You can actually have dreams.

His point being, there’s opportunity and jobs and education and all to actually do those things in the city, but not in a rural town. In the Suburbs, it’s more complicated than that… We were all told that we could have those dreams, but we lacked either the “get out of here” mentality of the rural person who has a dream and strikes out to the city, or the opportunities and cultural environment of the city to join in with. The dreams are something we know we could have without having any understanding of the how to actually make them come true.

Basically, I think I’ve just explained the Millennial and maybe another generation or two back.

I think that the suburbanites are maybe a transition from the rural life to the urban, because I do feel like the suburbanites – in an abstract way – understand the problems of the city. Maybe the rural ones too, might all depend on where you’re from or how long you’ve been away… And I think that the future is likely headed towards the way of the city. The science fiction thinker in me envisions giant megacities like in The Fifth Element, you know?

So what do you think – are there two Americas? Do they know how to even begin to understand or to speak to one another? Are there three, with a group that really can’t identify as either? Are there countless more (like Businessweek presented recently)? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below!

2 responses to “There are two Americas.

  1. There are way more than two Americas.

    I’d argue that the suburbs were a transition from the urban back to the rural.

    Bunch of people who made good in the city, but see the problems of the city. Don’t want to pay the taxes, but don’t exactly want to move back to the farm, either. So they move into a developed community where their children can have all the advantages of both.

    Then the children grow up, and they realize the suburbs are a place you move to after you make your fortune, or long for after you sink into the rural swamp. There’s no real businesses in the suburbs. No such thing as a suburban college. No mass transit. None of the stuff that eases the way for young people.

    And yeah, you explained at least one more generation back. Gen X at this point means “Millennial born before the internet was invented.” The Millennial/GenX divide is mostly an arbitrary thing done for the convenience of demographers. The only difference between GenXers and Millennials, really, is that the GenXers know a lot more about Jane’s Addiction. (Yes I am being silly now.)

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    • After writing this I started thinking back to the French Revolution, to the different estates. To a counter-revolution from the rural folk.

      History will probably have a better sense of how we all break down than we have here in the middle of it. And I doubt their breakdown will be Red State v. Blue State!

      And yeah, the suburbs. You don’t get any of the environmental motivations. The environmental benefits. You don’t get local business (some but not a lot). And I was thinking that about colleges, as well. Rarely does someone start, stay, and finish in the suburbs – whereas a rural or urban born person may well do just that.

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