A glance at a red state/blue state divided map of America will reveal the different geographies of Conservatives and Liberals. Conservatives inhabit the wide open countryside, mostly in the south and Midwest; Liberals inhabit the densely populated urban mega-cities concentrated in the northeast and west coast. How do these different landscapes affect their political beliefs?
Conservatives and Liberals prefer and have a natural affinity for very different landscapes/cityscapes. This causes the urban apartment dwelling Manhattanite to sneer upon the vistas of verdant Indiana cornfields dotted with small towns and groan "where would I possibly get a good cappuccino there?" It also causes the Indiana fourth generation farmer to sneer back at the concrete and steel sky scrapers of apartments and groan "where am I going to park my dual wheel four door hemi truck?"
How can an urban dwelling Liberal be expected to support with every grain of their being the National Rifle Association when their only encounter with wild animals ready to pounce on them is the alley rat? Where is he supposed to take up his target practice -- Central Park?
But for a country-loving Conservative, the NRA is an organization to be venerated because the need for guns out on the open range is paramount, where hunting is a significant cuisine enhancer and the need to protect your family from Indians and scoundrels and wolves goes back to the pioneer days when self-reliance was a cherished value -- and besides 9-1-1 is for sissies.
How can a country dwelling Conservative be expected to support forest conservation when he's surrounded by trees; actually chops them down, splits them up and starts a fire for warmth? Not only that, but he has a lathe and band saw in his garage to make furniture out of them.
For an urban-loving Liberal who commutes to work in an underground subway to a high-rise cubicle and may not see a tree for months at a time, it's understandable he would rush to hug the first one he sees in its natural environment. He wants to conserve them all because he only sees sick examples imprisoned in concrete sidewalks and pulped into newspapers. And if he ever got close to a lathe or circular saw he'd lose a few fingers.
The physical geography is only part of what separates Conservatives and Liberals (boundaries preserved from the Civil War). For many, the different landscapes they inhabit are ideals, visions -- mindscapes.
The landscape of a Conservative is green with fields, forests, hills and small towns dominated by their church steeples; a painting by Norman Rockwell; land of the free, home of the brave. No matter if they reside in Texas, Omaha, a senior condo in Florida, their mindscape is country simplicity. Even the boardroom of Fortune 500 CEOs has that cowboy need for and essence of -independence and Johnny Cash songs.
The landscape of a Liberal is populated with skyscrapers, droves of people on sidewalks, a hundred sounds echoing off buildings, alive with an electric pulsation; a painting by Jackson Pollack; land of opportunity, home of diversity. No matter if they reside in the suburbs, Madison, or a Hacienda in Santa Fe, their mindscape is urban complexity. Even the small town New England college professor has that utter need for and essence of -- sophistication and NPR.
When these landscapes are analyzed, it becomes easy to understand attitudes toward government. In the Conservative country-scape they believe in Clint Eastwood (even when he talks to chairs) and riding the open range as cowboys, free of any EPA regulations, strapping an NRA sanctioned six-shooter to their side (or AK47); free from any rules science imposes on reality. They believe those collecting money from the government are all free-loaders who they've seen buying cigarettes in Walmart with food stamps; their experience of diversity is Methodist, Evangelical and Catholic; their landscape doesn't change since childhood and they find their place and plant themselves down; the government only wants to tax them and cage them in -- to which they respond with a rebel yell.
In the Liberal urban-scape everyone is cool a la George Clooney, digging Hip Hop to Hollywood they're plugged in; they see so much diversity everyday they're open to all walks of life and colors of people, except those in the countryside who support the NRA and don't know the difference between Arabica coffee and that crap served at a Circle K; small businesses aren't built by individuals but only with the help of government; which they need to tell them what size soda to drink. Their landscape is fluid, constantly changing, dynamic and they are at the center of it all, which is proved by their paying rent of $3,000 a month for a studio apartment. Government builds the roads, conduits, fiber optics, flight patterns, energy grid that support it all and provides the solutions -- even if it creates many of the problems.
The issue of Gay Marriage can illustrate the difference in the two geographies. In the Conservative country-scape gays hardly exist since they immigrate to urban areas as soon as possible to escape being lassoed up and converted by Michele Bachmann. Therefore, Conservatives really have little exposure to them. They are as rare, and as such as foreign, as Muslims. In Liberal urban-scape gays thrive and are a common presence -- and throw some mean risqué parades. Naturally, since Liberals are exposed to them they see them as people as everyone else with the right to marry whomever they love.
The opposite can be said for the controversial gas drilling practice of Fracking, which Liberal urbanites misunderstand to be a new improv method of rapping invented by Snoop Dog. They adamantly declare that rapping is for urban-scapers and not Nashville (can you imagine Fracking rappers at the Grand Ole Opry?). Conservatives in the country-scape welcome the Fracking windfall (and its cash) as a blessing from their prayers and mantra "drill baby drill," and besides, they already know not to light a cigarette around the kitchen sink.
There are two geographies in America and two landscapes that people live in that do not physically or mentally meet. No wonder our government, in its effort to function, has become so bipolar in recent years. A left step forward, then right step back only turns you around in circles and makes you dizzy. The day may yet come when we tire of this Fracking rapper dance and realize the permanence of both landscapes that make America so beautiful.