Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Out Into The Great Wide Open

My family and I are soon taking off on a road trip vacation, part of the reason I have not been writing much. (Lots of prep work to do.) Our ultimate destination in my hometown in rural Nebraska, for a much needed visit with my parents and sisters.

We are also planning on seeing a lot of stuff and old friends between here and there. We first did this two years ago, and it was quite a memorable trip. This time, however, I am approaching things with a bit of trepidation. A lot has happened in the world over the past two years, and much of it makes me feel as if the world I grew up in back in Nebraska and the one where I live and work now in New Jersey and New York City could not be further apart. 

I am in a group I like to call "bubble jumpers." I grew up in a bubble that was overwhelmingly white, Christian, and conservative. I have move to a new one that is more diverse, cosmopolitan and liberal. Neither seems capable of speaking to the other, and both view each other with complete ignorance. I am sometimes shocked at just how little supposedly educated people in both bubbles know about the other parts of the country.

I've been lucky to live in many parts of this country, from big cities like Chicago to midsize ones like Newark, Omaha, and Grand Rapids, from college towns like Champaign to small towns in Nebraska and Texas. During my life I've traveled to 45 of this country's 50 states. I've had Runzas in Nebraska, roadside tamales in Texas, "Italian" hot dogs in New Jersey and fish tacos in San Diego. That experience has given me the knowledge that this is a country of many regions, not a simple "blue state-red state" divide. It is a geographic diversity that I am excited to experience again on my trip.

However, I've been thinking a lot about the fact that many of the regions I will be traveling to -including the one where I lived half my life- voted overwhelmingly for the current occupant of the White House. It's made my relationship with those places, especially my hometown, much more fraught.

But this morning I got a reminder of how much this "red-blue" talk blinds us to the ubiquity of the political poisons in America. This morning, after dropping my daughters off at school, I went to the Italian bakery/deli to get some stuff for our trip. As I came in, I heard a woman finishing a rant (which I couldn't quite make out) angrily mentioning that there is no "White Lives Matter" movement or "White History Month." The hate and bullshit that gave rise to the Trump presidency is not a regional matter, it is deeply woven into White American culture in all the nooks and crannies of this nation, whether they be the on the coasts or in the middle. As I make my trip, I will be reporting back on this blog, hopefully with some worthwhile insights.

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