Unpretentious Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker, self-styled “smallish-town girl,” has been forced to take a job with CNN, in the dreadful “humongous city” of New York. There, she has discovered that people in America have different outlooks, depending on where they live.
“This isn’t the stuff of revelation, of course,” Parker writes, before she launches into a whole column about it . What she has concluded, based on “a few weeks” in New York, is that people who live in the big city are terribly bullying busybodies, who embrace big government and intrusive rules, because natural American smallish-town independence and liberty would be too messy in a place like New York.
Many so-called Everyday Americans who live in the oft-maligned red states essentially are people who live in more-open spaces and, therefore, see little need or benefit for government management of their lives. The frontier may be nearly gone, but the person who prefers wider horizons will have little use for bureaucrats bearing the latest government how-to (or how-not-to) document.
Those who have opted to live in densely populated blue areas need third-party authorities to maintain order and figure they’ll trade a little freedom for the convenience and cultural riches of city life.
New York, Parker reports, is constantly telling you what you can and can’t do:
But between rules for potted plants on an apartment terrace and a building ban on lighting birthday candles, I’ve uttered more than once, “Now I know what it’s like to live in communist China.”
Well! Has Kathleen Parker stopped by her local police station and brought them a copy of her lease, so that she can obtain a temporary residence certificate? Have the police knocked on the door of her apartment to make sure her certificate is up to date?
Oh, wait, that’s what I had to do when I lived in communist China. In New York, I’m two months overdue to trade in my out-of-state driver’s license, but nobody’s come looking for me. I’m not in a hurry, because I can’t afford a car—partly because the
garages in my neighborhood cost $250 and up a month. Luckily there’s a
subway system to get me around town.
Anyway, as someone who grew up surrounded by woods and cornfields, I agree that New York can be a frustrating thicket of regulations. In my previous New York apartment, you needed special permission from the super to throw away anything much bigger than a shoebox, and you could only do it at certain times. In the country, people just go dump stuff in their neighbor’s woods whenever. Usually after dark. My mom goes down the road for walks and comes home with whole trash bags full of other people’s individualism and liberty.
Still, having lived in low- and high-density places, I’m not sure about this premise that small-town America is less inconvenient and intrusive. If the Internet isn’t lying to me, Parker’s smallish town appears to be Camden, South Carolina . And you can’t buy a bottle of whiskey there after 7 p.m., and not at all on Sunday. (It seems they’re voting on whether or not to change that this coming fall.) Until earlier this year, people weren’t allowed to go shopping for anything on Sundays before 1:30.
I won’t even dwell on the question of how limited the role of government really is in American towns that are organized around big-box retail at the interstate-highway interchanges. Different people live different ways. And that’s fine. Unless you’re Kathleen Parker:
City dwellers will never understand the folks who prefer the company of trees, and country folk will always resent the imperious presumptions of urbanites who think they know best.
Follow that parallel? City people don’t like country folk because country folk are fond of trees. Country people don’t like city folk because city folk are know-it-all snobs.
To a tree-loving, city-born, country-raised, city-dwelling fella like myself, it sounds like America isn’t so irreconcilably divided after all. Kathleen Parker is a mean hick, and she is a snob about it. She should be at home anyplace she goes.