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Route 20 Report #7

It’s been one month since we returned from our Route 20 cross-country “rediscover America” trip that took us Pacific to Atlantic on the only remaining unbroken non-freeway road that traverses the country. I’m still sorting through what I learned. I thought there would be an ah-ha moment as we explored the 3000-plus miles between the coasts. I was looking for insights into how we, post 2016, find ourselves in a country so deeply divided, so unsettlingly, unremittingly nasty, so angry and hateful to each other and to the rest of the world. I thought I’d find answers on this journey through the heartland.

What I found was prosaic, not revelatory, Or maybe, because it was prosaic, it was revelatory: People value their families. People love their communities. People work hard. People trust more than they fear. People respond to kindness with kindness. People generally like to be left alone to live their lives.

The divisions I was looking for, the divisions I thought I knew all about after two years of staring at Red State/ Blue State maps, after reading endless post-electoral musings about The Coasts v The Interior, were not the divisions I found.

What I found, instead, were overarching commonalities that have been obscured by hate-mongering from on high. What I found were friendly people. What I found was more diversity, more tolerance than I ever imagined. I am thinking about the gay Latino baker who sold pastries in an alcove of a Grange hall as he chatted with VFW guys in camo hats. That should be the image we see. Meme that.

This morning I awoke – and I mean that both literally and in the vernacular — to read David Brooks’ op-ed, in the New York Times based on this eye-opening recent report about who we really are, Hidden Tribes. The deep, searing divide that I thought of as Our Country is really just at the edges and represents less than 15 percent of us. It is the divide between the “progressive activists” and the “devoted conservatives.” It is, as Brooks’ calls it, “The Rich White Civil War.”

Here’s a bit of what the report reveals: 90 percent of devoted conservatives think immigration is bad; 99 percent of progressive activists think it is good. Ninety-one percent of progressive activists say sexual harassment is common; 12 percent of devoted conservatives agree. Seventy-six percent of devoted conservatives think Islam is more violent than other religions; 3 percent of progressive activists agree. And so on. Meanwhile 86 percent, what the report calls the “exhausted majority,” are not nearly as divided. In fact, they are mostly busy living their lives and making ends meet and taking care of their families. These are the people I encountered on Route 20.

(Me? As a “progressive activist,” I am part of that 15 percent. I went looking for deep divisions. I should have just looked in the mirror.)


1 Greg { 10.21.18 at 2:52 am }

“In fact, they are mostly busy living their lives and making ends meet and taking care of their families.” Thanks for the reminder, Lauren.

2 Nancy Friedland { 10.24.18 at 3:37 pm }

Enjoyed this series and your writing. Thanks. It’s such a confusing world when you only depend on your news feeds. It’s hard to imagine that we are more alike than un-alike, but I’ll take your word for it and hope that the fringes fade away some day.

3 Lauren { 10.24.18 at 6:40 pm }

I continue to hope. See my post today (10/24/18).

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