I am so sick of this trend in columnisting. I am so sick of all the column-inches wasted on telling "liberals" that if only they would reach out to Trumpanzees and get to know them and try to understand them, then. . . I don't know, we'd all join hands and sing My Country, 'Tis of Thee and work togather for the greater good or some such bullshit. I have yet to see a single word written telling Conservatives that they should go out and shake hands with some real progressives and see that they're just like you in so many ways! No, it's always assumed to be incumbent on us, those of us on the leftward side of the spectrum, to be the ones to reach out and try to understand and make common cause with people who are literally fine with tearing children away from their parents and locking them in cages.
Here's the latest example I came across by someone named Salena Zito in the New York Post:
Check out this headline:
Honestly, it sounds like the tagline for a sequel to Deliverance.
What the hell happened to these poor kids out on the "Heartland?"
Let's find out, shall we?
On a blustery afternoon in April, I filed into a van along with 10 students from Harvard. We had just spent the last two days in Chicopee, Mass.
Woah, woah, hold on a second. You never left Massachussets? And you think you were in the "heartland?" You gotta go to like Kansas or Nebraska or, you know the heart is in the center, right? Okay, so what did you all do on your adventure into the forbidding hinterlands of Massachusets, a daunting 85-mile trip?
We had just spent the last two days in Chicopee, Mass., where we had chatted with the police chief and his force, the mayor and his staff, small-business owners, waitresses and firemen about their struggles living in small-town America.
The mayor, the police chief, cops, mayoral staff, business owners. . . you know - reg'lar folks!
The undergrads were buzzing with their impressions. Chicopee is about 90 miles west of their prestigious university in Cambridge, but when it comes to shared experience, it might as well have been 1,000 light years away.
HOW? You didn't go to fucking Borneo, you went to the 'burbs. It's not like the people in Chicopee don't have paved roads or indoor plumbing. It's not even like they don't get the same cable channels.. They live in Massachusets. All you have to do is talk about the Sawx or Tom Frickin Brady. It's not like you needed a translator or anything.
“So,” I said, “who do you think most of the people you just got to know voted for president?”
None of the students had an answer. It hadn’t come up in their conversations and they didn’t know I had privately asked each person whom they’d voted for.
So I let a minute pass and told them.
“Nearly every one of them voted for Trump.”
My students at first looked stunned.
Oh my God this is such bullshit.
We're honestly expected to believe that these Harvard students, these scions of old-money dynasties and internet libertarians, were completely unfamiliar with Trump-voting Republicans. Because, of course, we're meant to assume that the wealthy "elites" are all limousine liberals and only the salt-of-the-Earth small town proles voted for trump!
We were only a few days into a new course I had developed with Harvard’s Institute of Politics, called the Main Street Project, where students are immersed in small-town America. Even though these kids had almost all been raised in the United States, our journey sometimes felt like an anthropology course, as though they were seeing the rest of the country for the first time.
See, but no one would ever suggest that maybe the good people of Chicopee might benefit from a trip to Boston or New York or San Francisco. It's perfectly fine that small-town Americans are completely unfamiliar with the locales where the majority of Americans live, it's only the city slickers who are assumed to be missing out by not having visited the "heartland."
I have been a national political journalist for nearly 15 years. Whenever and wherever I travel in this country, I abide by a few simple rules: No planes, no interstates and no hotels.And definitely no chain restaurants.No Interstates?
You literally travel the country via the back roads? Like some 1930s wandering troubadour?
And by the way, if you want to meet these real Americans of the heartland, the first place to go would be chain restaurants. Who do you think keeps shit-merchants like Applebee's and Chili's in business?
It's not big-city folks. We have our choice of many fine eateries from greasy-spoon diners to Michelin-star cuisine. I've lived in Atlanta for about 13 years now and it took me about 10 to figure out that once you get out into the sticks, you might as well look for an Outback or a Carraba's because all these tempting-looking little mom and pop restaurants - the ones who spell "Kountry Kookin'" with Ks, they almost universally suck. Hard. You'd think, you'd expect, that little local restaurants out in the country would have that good old fashioned southern cooking that you've heard so much about, but I have yet to find it. Anyway, I'm getting off topic here. Please do go on.
The reason is simple: Planes fly over and interstates swiftly pass by what’s really happening in the suburbs, towns and exurbs of this nation.
Nothing is happening.
People are watching sports on TV, playing Call of Duty or Fortnight or whatever on their X-boxes and posting memes to Twitter and Facebook, same as we're doing here in Metropolis.
Staying in a hotel doesn’t give me the same connection I can get staying in a bed and breakfast where the first person I meet is a small-businessperson who runs the place and knows all the neighborhood secrets.
Oh, yeah, that's totally something these Harvard kids wouldn't get. No rich person would ever stay in a quaint B&B in a small town in New England. That's something that only us reg'lar folk can appreciate!
Also, you have to spend time in a community to really report on it. Parachuting in for a few hours to interview the locals can lead to flawed evaluations. When you are short on time, your instincts can get blurred and you gravitate toward the shiny objects, the oddball people and conditions that make the most noise, instead of taking a broader focus on the bigger, fuller picture.
Yes, you have to take the time to get to know the mayor and the chief of folice to really get your finger on the pulse of the average small-town resident.
Those simple rules are what intrigued students at the Harvard Institute of Politics (IOP) after hearing me speak at a Pizza and Politics event on the school’s campus last fall.Your daily job? Your daily job is writing columns for the New York Post and Washington Examiner and appearing on CNN. So it would seem that you are immersing yourself in New York, DC and Atlanta. And seriously, are you taking the back streets from New York to Georgia?
Days after my speech, two IOP directors said the students wanted to learn more from me. I told them the best course would be a total immersion into the less-populated parts of the country, no different from the way I approach my daily job.
Chris Kuang, a 20-year-old sophomore from Winchester, Mass., and Sam Kessler, 21, a junior from Blue Bell, Pa., led the charge, recruiting 18 other students for the class, which began in February.
Okay, wait a minute. Blue Bell, PA is a town of about six thousand residents outside of Fort Washington State Park. Winchester is a Boston exurb with a population of around 20,000. You're taking them to a town of Fifty Five Thousand to teach THEM about life in small-town America?
“The best way to blow apart a stereotype is to challenge it,” Kuang, an applied math and economics major, told me.
Yes. That is exactly the way we humans speak. This is clearly a real thing that a fellow human has said out loud.
So, before we started traveling, we held several workshops to discuss their ideas about the “other” America.
They admitted they had been fed a steady diet of stereotypes about small towns and their folk:
Okay, I hate to keep harping on this point, but I notice that no one ever bemoans the fact that people in the rural south or midwest are fed a litany of stereotypes about the "coastal elites" in big cities. People from the flyover states have generally been led to believe that Southern California is Baywatch, San Francisco is RuPaul's Drag Race and Oakland is The Warriors. (the movie, not the basketball team.) And I get it. Before I moved to Atlanta, all I thought I knew about Georgia came from the Dukes of Hazard and Deliverance. I don't blame people for their misconceptions about blue state cities, I just wonder why it is that no one feels like they need to be disabused of their misconceptions the way we are always urged to get to know the "heartland."
“backwards,” “no longer useful,” “un- or under-educated,” “angry and filled with a trace of bigotry” were all phrases that came up.
Whaaaaaat? Where would anyone get those impressions?
As my students took their seats in the crowded restaurant, they couldn’t help but notice a 37-member family seated nearby celebrating an 11th birthday for Jasmine Smith, complete with a sparkly unicorn cake.
Jasmine quickly struck up a conversation with the students and was thrilled when she found out they were from Harvard.
“Well, you know, I am going to go to Harvard,” she proclaimed confidently.
Her mother, Monique, smiled and shook her head in agreement. “That is all she has talked about doing for as long as I can remember,” she said.
After devouring her cake, Jasmine sat with the students to talk more.
“I want to go and be the best I can be at something that will help change my community,” she said. “I want to help make things work. I don’t want to leave and forget where I came from.”
Oh. Uh, Yeah. That is exactly how an 11-year-pld cjild speaks. This is obviously an actual person to whom you actually spoke and not a made up phony anecdote at all.
In our final week, the class attended Mass at St. Stanislaus, a Polish church in the Strip District of downtown Pittsburgh. Before then, only two of my students had set foot in a Catholic church.
Oh, yeah. Can't find a Catholic church in Boston! You really gotta go out into the boonies to fing Catholics! Oh, it must have been like observing the headhunters of New Guinea in their natural habitat. Actual living breathing Catholics, can you imagine?
You know, if you want to talk to some typical Trump voters, may I suggest a Pentecostal congregation in Alabama? Or a prosperity-gospel mega-church in any affluent suburb?
At the end of Mass, an older gentleman came up to me and said how nice it was to see young people dressed up and going to church. When I told him they were students from Harvard, he beamed.
“I have been reading for years that college kids these days are thin-skinned, what’s that word … ? Snowbirds, snowflakes, anyways … that they have no easiness with meeting someone new or trying something different or won’t be open to opposing opinions,” he said.Oh, bullshit. If this was a real person with whom you had an actual conversation in real life, he would have known EXACTLY what the word was.
And not to go off on a tangent, but have you noticed that there are two kinds of articles conservatives write about college? The first is "Oh, these dumb liberal snowflake college kids want 'safe spapces' blah blah blah. . ." And the second is "Waaaah! I don't feel safe expressing my coinservative views on campus!"
Anyway, the article pretty much ends there without it ever occurring to Ms Zito that perhaps the imaginary Catholics of Pennsylvania might want to pile on to a bus and shake a few hands in Manhattan or Philadelphia and maybe learn that their stereotypes of "coastal elite liberals" might be unfounded.