Urban America is different than rural America. Give yourself a few moments to loudly say, "Uh...duh." This is a topic that could fill books, and so to have it as the subject of a blog entry is limiting. It needs to be looked at in terms of its impact on the American persona in a day and age where our country is nearly as divided as it was before the start of the Civil War. Keep in mind, I am not trying to put one lifestyle down or falsely enhance the virtues of one over the other. These are purely my observations. I have spent my life living in both, and believe me when I say that both can be wonderful and both have serious shortcomings. This is insight from a person who began his life in the city as a conservative and now is a liberal living in a very rural, very conservative setting.
PROXIMITY In the city everything is smushed into smaller areas. A person may have a yard. They may just have a patio, or even just a deck off of their condo for their flower pot garden. The city dweller in a single family home, in the average high density development, needs drapes. The reason is simple of course; nobody wants to see their neighbor, Larry, shaving his back in the house next door which may be situated less than ten feet away from your kitchen window. Few would disagree that Larry is a disturbing image to go with a poached egg and an English muffin.
TRANSPORTATION/RELATIONSHIPS When you live closely together, you may or may not need to drive a car on a daily basis. You might just go for days on end only riding public transportation. Light rail cars are filled to the brim with very diverse groups of people. It is likely that, for all that humanity, you may count on the fingers of one hand the number of conversations that take place between strangers. People live with an electronic device in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. But make no mistake about it; they are getting along for the most part and they tolerate a lot of behavior that would just not fly in the rural setting.
Out here, it is most likely that your family will have a pickup truck and your children may ride the school bus round trip 1.5 hours one way, particularly if you live in a remote area. It is a lifestyle with a slower pace and I have grown accustomed to the reduction in stress. (Many of us look forward to attending the oat threshing party hosted by Carl Olkjer and his family every year just to see his 1916 Case steam tractor still chugging away.) This life style is addictive.
DIVERSITY Population density almost always guarantees racial and ethnic diversity. I have never once seen a woman wearing a Hijab at a public event in Elbert County. I see them every time I go downtown in Denver for any occasion.
RECREATION & RELIGION Living in an urban setting insures that people have more opportunities to try different cultural cuisines, observe different traditions, and certainly affords you the chance to see a wide variety of unique attire. There is a greater number of theaters, museums, parks and recreational facilities. This should come as no surprise to anyone reading this, but there are also many, many more places to worship and not everyone attends a Christian church. I believe that the Founding Fathers envisioned this. City dwellers tend to be more liberal in nature, and while they do not require the vast spaces we have in rural Elbert to live and go about their lives, because of their sheer numbers, they command a lot of political attention, much to the consternation of the rural concentrations of conservative voters.
RULES & ORDINANCES Crowded Americans have more rules to follow. They have rituals that may or may not involve feeding parking meters. There are rules for what you can or cannot do while you are walking your pet dog, and you best not forget your plastic bag. Leash laws and current vaccinations are required in many places in the city.
In rural America, dogs are a common sight, and most owners have little use for a leash. Some dogs are considered house pets, some are working dogs, some have "free-range," and others serve as guards for when the unknown vehicle comes down the driveway. Some earn their keep by protecting livestock against coyotes and mountain lions.
Cats are all over the place. Many of them are feral and have almost nothing to do with humans except to keep barns free from mice and cottontails. Rarely do you see a country kitty with a collar and a name tag.
If you live in a covenant controlled community in the city you cannot paint your house a certain color without permission. You may not hang your country of origin's flag off of the balcony without making sure it is of a certain size or does not clash with the color scheme of your apartment building. You can actually get into a squabble with someone if you are not walking on the right or if you do not cover up a cough.
Rural people are either from multi-generational families and they never have felt the call of the city, or they migrated here because they decided they like the amenities that a slower paced life in a sparsely populated area offers. Neither is a bad option, but it can make for a strange brew of social and political makeups. In keeping with what I said about urbanites above, there are fewer rules when you live in rural America, but when you do come up upon a rule, the consequences of crossing over the line can lead to a much more severe consequence. Unless you have lived in one of these settings, the rule you break might be a tad confusing. This deserves a small discussion.
If you are being honest with yourself and you are living in a rural area, you might know someone who occasionally pees off their porch or might duck behind a tree while on a walk to relieve himself. That person probably has animals that spend their days in their pastures doing the same thing and honestly, he doesn't see that there is much difference. It is a perspective that is pretty rational if you think about it. That same behavior would lead to real complications in the city and it might end up in an arrest for lewd behavior.
In the country, it is not uncommon for families to shoot their guns on their own property. They enjoy it and despite urban myths to the contrary, their prey is generally a target that can be purchased at a sporting goods store. They are definitely not shooting at each other.
I have no reason to bash either side of this equation. Both have highly redeeming qualities. Whether it be a county fair, or a food tasting in a crowded city park, people do take pride in their lifestyles and so they should. Yes, there is crime in cities that often eclipses the amount of crime in the rural areas, but if you look at it in terms of crimes per capita and you add in road rage, etc. the two are not that far apart. Living in the city comes at a higher risk to be certain, but often times, the amount of things that people can experience in an urban setting makes it very much worth it to the city types.
POLITICS There is one thing that I do find very different about the two areas and I would not be me if I did not dwell at least a little bit on the political aspect of our choices of locations for living. My friends in the country feel put upon by the masses of people who live in the city. They believe that far too many rules and far too much legislation comes from the urban dwellers. They complain bitterly about regulations that just do not apply in the rural areas. If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times in the last couple of months about how the rural folks finally stood up and made their voices heard in November at the polls. They showed the city folks that you can't mess around with the country dwellers.
There is an even more curious point of view that springs up from time to time in their logic. I recently had one person argue that rural Americans control 80% of the land in this country. It chapped his hide to allow a group of people who live on only 20% of the land to have control over most of the legislation and get to dictate policy to the real Americans, the heart and soul of this country. To which most city folks say, "Who died and made your vote greater than mine or your tax dollars more valuable than mine?" The bottom line is that elections are won and lost by numbers of voters. There are more people living in a single square mile in Denver's most populated areas than live in the entire land mass of Elbert County, which is the size of a small New England state. It is what happens in elections.
The truth of the matter is that to a certain extent the country folk have it right. City dwellers do not generally think about the people who live in the country. They live in a mass of humanity and can lose sight of the fact that anyone who lives outside of the city has a different point of view. It is estimated that 45% of eligible voters did not show up for the election last November. That was not the case in the rural areas like Elbert. Elbertonians showed up and voted. En masse. It made a difference, but make no mistake about it, had the urban people not grown complacent and disenchanted, there would be a different bunch in the White House. They outnumber the country folks. That is the math of the situation. It is not the way I want it or maybe even you, the reader wants it, but it is the way it is.
I love the country life, despite being in the political minority in Elbert County. I say often in this blog that there will not be any Democrats elected in Elbert County for years to come. That is a fact. But one day, the demographics will change and with it will come political change. I won't be around for that, but it is a pretty good bet that we will not always be rural. Workers have to live someplace and I am just betting it will be a bunch of blue collar liberals that will finally tip the apple cart.