True or false: The average resident of New York City, Boston, Washington, Los Angeles or San Francisco knows more about life in France than they do about life in South Dakota. That question came to mind while listening to some of the establishment Democratic media discuss November's election results.
For just a little while, they noticed the rest of the country. I heard one correspondent joke that maybe they should send some foreign correspondents to the Midwest. Urban, blue state opinion is so uniformly liberal, it was hard for them to believe Bush could win. They didn't personally know many Bush supporters. They're seldom exposed to opposing points of view, and they never have to intellectually defend what they believe. For them, every election like this is a reminder of how strange we red staters must be.
One reason is that, despite the homage the urban liberals pay to the idea of diversity, you have to live in rural, red state America to experience intellectual diversity. We hear both sides of the story. On abortion, the environment, gay marriage, war, and taxes, we hear the liberal side from the national media, and we hear both sides in the local media and radio. Sure, we hear the liberal side twice, but at least we hear the conservative side once.
Another reason liberals never hear the other side is that they're such bullies. Intellectual bullies, that is. I'm sure Manhattan has conservatives, but they live in such an intolerant environment, they probably keep quiet. Things like this are hard to quantify, but you can detect it in how liberals argue their political positions. Consider hate crimes laws. They criminalize thought. We can all agree that things like assault, murder, and theft should be illegal, but only an intellectual bully is interested in whether you had the correct thoughts about those you were murdering or assaulting.
Or consider sex education. Liberals oppose laws requiring abstinence education. These laws don't forbid schools from continuing on with the traditional "we know you're going to have sex, so here's a condom" philosophy, they merely require that schools also inform kids of the benefits of abstinence. Only intellectual bullies would feel so threatened by the idea of students hearing both points of view.
Another trademark of intellectual bullies is that they can't resist calling people names. They honestly think their opponents are evil or stupid. We're homophobes. Patriarchs. Greedy. Fundamentalist. Bigots. Gun-toters. White trash. Bible-thumpers. It's hard to listen to new ideas with these thoughts in your head.
This blue state bullying and biased media go a long way explaining how little they understand about us red staters, but it goes deeper than that. I have a childhood friend who moved to a very urban part of a very blue state, and we made a game of blue state ignorance about life here. When he'd call, I'd ask things like, "Did they believe the story about the renegade buffalo herd that destroyed the clothesline?" They bought it. Did they believe the story about how local employers require their workers to attend church? Totally.
These city folk are victims of a new cultural hegemony in America. Whenever we turn on the TV or watch a movie, we learn all about life in their little corners of the world. They seldom get a glimpse at us.
I tried to think of current TV sitcoms or recent movies which tell our story. There aren't many. The closest I came was "Northern Exposure," a '90s show about a New York medical school graduate forced to practice in a small town in Alaska. But I ruled that one out. It was about a New Yorker. And towards the end, the story line was hijacked by two gay men who moved to town to operate a bed-and-breakfast and an environmental wacko who lived in an air-tight dome and claimed he could sense releases of toxic gasses thousands of miles away.
Those plots are really about Hollywood life, not ours. Almost every episode of "Northern Exposure" featured footage of a logging truck chugging down Main Street. Logging seemed to be the main industry in that town. I awaited plot lines involving loggers and millworkers. None.
I think the TV series "Roseanne" was set in a red state, hence the blue staters' belief that we're mostly fat, poor, and stupid. It's very hard to think of a recent movie or TV show which sympathetically portrays our lives. "The Waltons," "The Andy Griffith Show," and "Petticoat Junction" were set in red states, but they're all set in the past. A few movies, like "A Walk to Remember," are sympathetic portrayals of contemporary rural American life, but they're the exceptions that prove the rule. If you want to see a small-town southern preacher who is wise and compassionate, watch this movie. You won't see it again soon.