Two Americas In Microcosm

Trumansburg, New York

I am currently at the Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York State. This post will sort of follow up my post on Monday about the blue islands in the red sea that is Pennsylvania beyond Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

That concept is in full display here in Trumansburg, NY, a fairly liberal little town in a liberal county, Thompkins, that is surrounded by red counties. Much like the county I live in (Centre County, PA with State College in the middle), it is a blue island county in a sea of red counties, and Thompkins is blue mainly due to a college town (Ithaca) although Trumansburg contributes to it. So, New York City is not the only liberal region of New York State.

But on the drive up through rural New York State, we were as far from say New York City as a bird flies from the moon. Lots of Trump signs, and much worse. Multiple ones that threaten violence, including a sign that says “LIBERAL SEASON OPEN FROM NOW TO FOREVER” with a gun and a gunsight image underneath. We’re real friendly folks, they seem to be saying.

Around Trumansburg, the change from crazed right-wing to friendly liberal becomes rather stark. Pride flags, Hate Has No Home Here signs, and so on grace the lawns. I am not judging when I point out there there is almost always a difference between conservative signs (violent, self-centered, hateful, angry) and liberal signs (peaceful, hopeful, about protecting the rights of others). If you brought someone who was in a coma for 40 years with no idea of America’s recent history and showed them these signs, just imagine the impression they would get.

This is not to say that a person with a Trump sign would not help you with a flat tire, or give you gas if you run out while driving. Or to say that a person with a Bernie sign would automatically do the same and not just drive past you. But at some level, conservative kindness has a limit, a point where it turns dark, hateful, and mean in a way that informs actual political policy. As Adam Serwer pointed out in his “The Cruelty Is the Point” piece in The Atlantic, there is no Democratic equivalent to this.

But, I have a music festival to go to, one that will be full of fun, kind, caring people and if politics come up as part of the event, the politics will be about helping, caring, and protecting others, not dominating and destroying them. So, time to put the world behind me for a few days.

The last word goes to the host band for the Grassroots Festival, Trumansburg’s own Donna the Buffalo (so named when a promoter misunderstood their original name, Dawn of the Buffalo, and just went with it). This song captures the spirit of the event.

3 thoughts on “Two Americas In Microcosm

  1. When I was in college many years ago, there was a garage band that played at parties; their name was “Urban Rhino”. The name came about when some asked the singer the names of his parents. “Herb and Ina”, he said. “Urban Rhino?!?”, repeated his questioner. And the rest was short-lived history.

  2. And on a related note, due to grad school and odd travel arrangements, my son will be driving from Spokane to the SF Bay Area in a few days. This goes straight through the “State of Jefferson”. In fact, the route he’ll probably take passes a turn that takes one to the Malheur Bird Refuge. He can be kind of opinionated. I’m only moderately worried

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