I consider myself a lucky man. I was born in what I am convinced is the greatest country on earth… and I’ll bet you feel the same. In fact, no matter what differences we may have, I’m sure that’s one piece of common ground where we will mostly agree. I say mostly because, just like no two snowflakes are alike, no two people have exactly the same opinions on every single topic.
But that should not be surprising. We are humans, not machines, and each one of us is unique. Each of us is shaped by personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences. We have our own likes and dislikes, our own strengths and weaknesses.
Part of what makes each of us so different… and so special… are the influences of our surroundings. Where we were born, where we were raised, where we have lived, learned, worked… each of these places has given us opportunities to grow, to expand and enhance how we make decisions in life.
Each one of us is different, yet each one of us is uniquely American. So why are so many people trying to drive us apart?
In recent history, we’ve heard many politicians talk about “real Americans”, as if some of us are more worthy than others because of where we live. During the 2008 campaign, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, in an appearance in North Carolina, referred to the “wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America”. She later apologized for suggesting that certain places were more pro-America than others, but the message was delivered: Palin and others like her were clearly saying that some of us are less patriotic because of where we live.
Typically, it’s the small towns that tend to get the good vibes from such politicians, while our nation’s cities are pointed out as examples of what’s wrong. And that’s not entirely fair.
Sure, it’s easy to look in the urban areas of America and find fault. Every city from coast to coast has its less pleasant neighborhoods: rundown housing, abandoned businesses, areas you would rather avoid. But I challenge you to take a closer look in your own hometown. I’m sure you’ll find the same kind of decrepit homes, empty storefronts, and piles of garbage. It’s just that the cities have more people living closer together… more people per square mile than the rural areas… so we’re more likely to turn a blind eye to the problems close to home. Does the happenstance of such negatives in the cities make the people there less worthy of the label “American”?
Some folks say that the problems are found mostly along our East and West Coasts, and they’re partly correct. But the reason is because those areas are where you find the highest concentration of people. Naturally, you’d expect to have more concerns in areas of larger population. It’s just plain common sense. But is it fair to blame the cities?
Sen. Ted Cruz must think so. Recently, his campaign ran an attack ad against fellow Republican candidate Donald Trump. In it, Cruz points out the differences between himself and his rival by saying that Trump represents “New York values, not ours”. Clearly it had an impact, because Cruz credits that ad for helping him defeat Trump in the Iowa caucuses.
I have to chuckle at the irony: Ted Cruz was once the beneficiary of a Sarah Palin endorsement, but now that she’s a recent addition to Team Trump, she finds herself in public opposition to a man she once strongly supported. Oh, how quickly they turn on each other!
But what’s so bad about “New York values” anyway? Isn’t the Big Apple the same city that we all looked to with admiration through tears on 9/11? Didn’t we all feel the pain with the devastation of the terrorist attack? Didn’t we all feel the sense of pride and determination as the city not only recovered but has flourished in the years since? Don’t we all point to the rebirth of the area that once was the home of the World Trade Center towers and say, “This is what we Americans do: we bounce back, better than ever”?
But demonizing the biggest city in the nation is exactly what Cruz did, and it worked.
Isn’t it time we bring an end to this divisiveness? Shouldn’t we stand up to people like Palin and Cruz and tell them we’re sick and tired of being told that some of us aren’t as good as the rest?
We’re all Americans. We’re all, each and every one of us, part of the greatest country on the planet. We come together when one of us is attacked by a foreign enemy; we likewise should support each other when one of us is condemned by a mere politician.
(Originally published in the Morrisons Cove Herald February 4, 2016.)