“They ain’t but two side in this world”

Richard Cohen at the Washington Post has written a very timely and important column, titled, “‘Real America’ is its own bubble. I urge you to click the link and read the whole thing. But the essence is that Cohen, who lives on the East Coast and works in an elite profession, is just as much a real American as the people who despise his sort. The recent presidential election was a referendum on two versions of America — a referendum that his side lost. But Cohen insists the differences aren’t what people imagine:


I served in the Army. I worked at blue-collar jobs. I washed dishes and bused tables. I went to college at night and worked during the day for an insurance company (as the legendary “Cohen of Claims”). My father was raised in an orphanage, and my mother was an immigrant from Poland whose first childhood memory was of hunger. Somehow, despite all of that, I am called a member of the “elite.” If so, I damned well earned it.

Cohen hasn’t written these words to put down people in the Midwest and South. Rather, he has written them to emphasize that the false distinction is being drawn between good people and other good people. This video clip, from the 1987 movie Matewan, illustrates the point. James Earl Jones visits a secret meeting of West Virginia coal miners and is abused by the white men. They all want to make a living digging coal and they are all threatened by ill-treatment from the company. Their interests are the same, but all they can see is skin color and “Where you from, boy?” It takes union organizer Joe Kenehan to remind them that they are in the same side of the only conflict that matters:



In the movie, the white and black miners — plus a third batch of newly arrived immigrant workers — make common cause and stand together for better pay and safer work conditions. They still lose, which is what happened in reality back in 1920 in the real town of Matewan, West Virginia. Cohen asks us to consider who we’ll stand with today.

I’ve been fortunate to grow up in rural Indiana, but also to live in big cities (Indianapolis, Washington, DC) as well as overseas. And it has been pretty easy for me. I never thought I belonged in one place more than another. I understand its not so easy for everyone. My mother, for instance, would become physically ill whenever she traveled more than about 20 miles from home. She couldn’t trust or enjoy being with people from outside her community. But she seldom needed to. My mother never did much harm.

But there’s a great deal of harm in the works from the unwise electoral choice that was made a few weeks ago. Cohen suggests that the “victory” of the red parts of America will last about as long as a bubble:

I will not concede that a greater wisdom exists in what is known as “flyover country.” It has voted for a charlatan, a blinged ignoramus who has promised the past as the future. Trump, who lives in a gilded bubble of his own, cannot reverse automation, replace robots with people or blunt American businesses’ compulsive search for the cheapest workforce.

Gibson is one thing. I understand. What I cannot understand is fellow bubble dwellers who tell me, with an air of impeccable condescension, that a vote for Trump was such proof of their own superior wisdom that it eclipsed all doubts about his qualifications, his temperament, his honesty in business and his veracity in speech. These people live in a bubble of their own. It is one that excludes the lesson of history and the demands of common sense. It will burst.

How “real” an American are you? You can find out by taking Charles Murray’s How Thick Is Your Bubble Quiz.

I got a 63. I’ve never bought a pick-up and I’ve never gone to Branson.

Post your results below!