I have not lived everywhere in America. However, I have briefly lived on the West Coast, and in the Midwest and the Southwest, as well as the Deep South, when not residing in my native New Jersey.
|The city of Brotherly Love: Philly any old day|
Yet, what I have noticed along the way is that there are subtle, and sometimes more than subtle, differences in what people in one part of our country call "American," as opposed to what others in different parts of the nation characterize as "American." The whole view of what is wholesome, sought after and believed in, governmentally speaking, changes with the scenery. There is also the matter of race that has to be dealt with, also regionally, but that would just make this post too darn long.
|Suburban New Jersey when everyone is going home|
|Rush Hour in the city of Lincoln, Nebraska|
When I lived in Killeen, Texas, I was a soldier who lived on a base. So, it is not like I had a chance to really get the flavor of what it was like to live in the Southwest, per se. I know that, where the base I was at (Fort Hood) was diverse, the community was not. While there were many occasions for soldiers and locals to join in common activities, they did not frequently, in my experience. In fact, what I noticed was that Central Texans more or less kept to themselves and tolerated the soldiers. Maybe they ran local stores and sold us things, or rolled their eyes when we came into a bar or restaurant they owned. Still, if there was something I can say I actually felt in the locals was a sense of invasion. The Central Texan lived their lives around us, where we weren't: not at the same place and time. Their lives were agrarian or commercial.
|Lovely old New Hope, Pennsylvania|
On the West Coast, again I lived on a base: Californians welcomed soldiers. Where I was stationed, though, at Fort Ord, in wine country, soldiers were as welcomed as sunlight. Of course, things were also very expensive there. While perusing the local town of Carmel, in 1986, I could buy a T-shirt stating I had been to Carmel for $20. I don't know what that is in today's money -- but $20 then was a lot more than $20 today. Things were so expensive, in fact, that it was just easier and less expensive to hang around Ord, which was affectionately termed "the Planet Ord" by its residents. My impression, though, was that people who lived there were very educated and successful, and the local economy probably went the way of the grape industry.
|The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina|
There was my sojourn to the Mid-West, in the 2010s, which was unsuccessful for my part. It was a sparse place without many people. The economy in Lincoln, Nebraska, while bolstered by the University of Nebraska and several major corporate giants, still seemed to orbit around the business of growing corn, wheat and whatever the heck else they grew out there. I will always remember Nebraska, as I had a reversal of luck there and ended up, for the first time ever in my life, homeless there. It was not a particularly urbane place. The state's capitol city strove to be more than the under-sized college town it was then (and probably still is). Roads were made and entrances were cut into undeveloped lots of real-estate, in the hope that one day something might be developed there. It was a 'primer' of a city, and not actually a city yet. It had hospitals and a small Downtown area, and with every printing of the local newspaper, it gave the new number of residents who moved into the state. The weather is brutal in the winter, and it has led me to wonder why anyone ever settled there in the first place.
|A NYC street -- and I wouldn't call it crowded|
Then there was the Deep South. Anyone from the crowded East Coast can find it very easy to fall in love with the gentle lifestyle and beautiful weather and scenery of the South. I have been a Floridian, a Georgian and a North Carolinian. And, whenever my professional career is done, I will do what I can to find my way back to the sleepy little towns of the Great Smoky Mountains. In contrast with relatively close Charlotte, the mountain life is still a place where seclusion is possible. Yet, major urban areas like Charlotte; Richmond, in Virginia; Atlanta, in Georgia and so many other places have dramatically changed the nature of the Deep South. The stereotypes I grew up with in the 1960s and '70s just do not hold water anymore. Southerners, in my opinion, are not unlike their Northeastern cousins in many ways. An agrarian economy still exists there, though, and is probably one (of many) factors that make the Southern reality contrasted to those of Northeasterners.
In my life, I have not seen one America, which values and holds dear the same things in the same ways. I have seen many Americas, which elevates some traditions higher than others, and discards others entirely. Yes, geography plays a role: Now, what size the role is can be debated from here to kingdom come. The local economies and who is making things, or growing things, bartering things, banking things all plays a part of the reality each area lives, and the lens through which so many different people see what is commonly called "The United States of America."
|The suburban borough of Red Bank, New Jersey|
It is too easy to just look at a map and guess the differences in perceptions over people. However, at the same time, I would use a map as one of many ways to inform one about the priorities of others in this country. I am colored by my perceptions of what I have seen in my American sojourn, and my experiences -- like everyone else. I am interested to see the commonalities in our nation, and those things that are uncommon and particular to certain areas of people.
If I were being politically correct, I would say that all of the many differences are part of that '...great mosaic that is America.' I will leave it at that, and maybe be a little politically correct today.