Take Down the Walls
There is No Red or White
A friend from a midwestern state is a died in the wool, unapologetic and proud trumper and said decisively and in no uncertain terms that he will not under any circumstances attend my nephew’s wedding brunch in New York City in August because the city is too dangerous, like a jungle, a killing field, where you take your life in your hands and risk being murdered. I go to New York City all the time and I have never been murdered even once although a late relative once tried to kill me with a serving of shad roe but that wasn’t in New York so it doesn’t count. Shad roe is the egg sac of the female American shad fish, a member of the herring family. Each female shad produces a pair of lobe-shaped egg sacs that look and taste disgusting and can be deadly.
But I digress. Back to New York City, my friend has swallowed the Kool Aid, bought hook, line and sinker into the Republican fantasy that the Democratic majority cities are crime infested pits of carnage. Trump may have lobbed the first anti-city or anti-people of color grenade in his 2017 inaugural speech and it struck a chord with people like my friend, when trump promised to end the “American carnage,” railed against an America overrun by undocumented immigrants, “poverty in our inner cities,” “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation” and “crime and gangs and drugs.” It’s enough to make you want to stay a thousand miles from New York City but then you’d miss the Broadway shows, the rich diversity, Chinatown, Little Italy, the great night spots, the Brooklyn Bridge, Fulton fish market and my nephew’s wedding brunch.
Republicans are not the only ones who are misinformed. Democrats are just as ill-informed and are just as full of stereotypes and can be every bit as bigoted as midwesterners and southerners. It is yet another way to separate us, to pit brother against brother or rather southerner against northerner, midwesterner against Californian, etc. No, the cities are not killing fields, although the non-partisan murder rates have been rising but I do not think that all southerners are Confederate-flag waving, Bible-thumping, gun toting, uneducated bigots, crackers and rednecks who are all called Bubba and who support the death penalty for overtime parking, hanker for a time before slavery was abolished, keep white sheets in their closets just in case and the kids are taught to knit woolen nooses.
Or that anyone from Texas lives and dies with the fortunes of the University of Texas football team, is a wahoo who has an arsenal of military-grade weapons in his basement, believes that anyone from another country is probably a rapist and a killer; or that only monotone-speaking, infernally boring hayseeds live in the farm belt states where education is an evil to be avoided at all costs, where a night on the town is a trek to the WalMart and high fashion is a John Deere hat; and that every resident of Utah carries an AR-15, supports violent revolution and is a homophobic Mormon.
And I know from personal experience and observation that not all people from New Jersey are wise guys or are involved with the Mafia, that there is more to the state than exits on the N.J. Turnpike, that everybody does not shop only at malls, that they are not all incredibly rude, tailgating, bird-flipping drivers who invented the phrase road rage; or that Californians are about as deep thinking as a snail, that they latch on to any new, wacky weight loss scam, that all are vegans and overwhelmingly blonde and tanned. Or that African Americans are all sex crazed, lawless, ignorant, angry, fried-chicken eating drug addicts and that fathers never stay with their families; and that all Latinos are lazy, dumb, welfare-dependent parasites who are born with a leaf blower by their sides.
There are bigots everywhere, in New York and Connecticut; there are wahoos in Massachusetts and Rhode Island; there are wise guys in Kansas and Missouri; and there are gullible weight loss fanatics in Arizona and Montana. Trying to generalize with hurtful stereotypes is a dangerous game, it just builds and reinforces real or imagined walls and the only winners are the politicians who stoke the flames and pit American against American or red state against blue state. Stereotypes keep us from reaching out to each other, from appreciating and enjoying the diversity, from being willing to welcome rather than reject people who we think are so different than we are but who are basically all the same.