Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Voice from 1983

One thing we're all supposed to know these days is that "liberal elites" live in a bubble that cuts them (us) off from "real America." Evidence of that is offered in Charles Murray's bubble quiz, which I wrote about four years ago. It was based on his book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, which "explores the unprecedented, class-based cultural gap in America" and now looks so, so prescient to anyone who can ignore the racial panic motivating the Trump electorate.

I bring this up because I was digging through some old stuff and came across a notebook of mine from 35 years ago. During a bus trip from rural New York to Washington, D.C., I must have taken the chance to write a letter I never sent to a friend. So now I have these words to look back on and marvel at how things have changed.

After some thoughts about the cemeteries I was seeing outside the bus window, I wrote a paragraph about how isolated rural people must have been when those cemeteries were created, and then I continued with these thoughts about the then-1983 present:

There is so little difference left between the country and the city dweller—we are all homogeneous. Or at least common. Imagine the differences before telecommunication. Each must have been totally alien to the other. I think for the most part, that may have been a xenophobic cause of the American Civil War. Fight what you don't know, what you don't understand.
And here we are, in some ways on the verge of another Civil War.

Was I totally wrong about this three and a half decades ago (I was only 23, after all), or have things changed that much? Was it the unifying force of broadcast television with so few channels that made us mostly one, now destroyed by cable TV and the internet?

Is someone researching this?

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