By Bill Taylor
It seems to me
It seems to me that geography is playing a big part in our society today. When we usually think of geography - if we ever do - we conjure up visions of where countries, states, cities, oceans and the like are located. But there are other aspects of geography such as the study of the various climates — tropical rainforests, deserts, and such.
One branch, known as “human” geography, focuses on the patterns and processes that shape human society including political, cultural, and economic aspects. Sounds kinda highfalutin’, doesn’t it? Well, there’s some human geography stuff emerging that is very revealing about our country and both answers and raises questions. It’s what I would call “social geography.”
Don’t know if you recall the map of our state after the last presidential election - the one which showed the red (Republican) and blue (Democrat) vote distribution. Only 16 of our 88 counties, concentrated in the big city/urban areas, were “blue” with the remaining 72 being “red.”. Upon seeing this 4.5:1 preponderance of “red” areas on the map, an observer might conclude the state as a whole voted for the Republican candidate, but in fact the state went for the Democrat.
Why? The population density of the rural/small town regions was nowhere near that of the big city/urban areas which overwhelmingly voted “blue.”
As a popular series of commercials puts it, “Everybody knows that.” to which the comeback is, “Sure, but did you know that some 75 percent of rural/small town Americans are currently represented in the House of Representatives by
Republicans while in the urban/big cities areas the Democrats hold the edge?” (Source: WSJ analysis of Census Bureau data) Yep, starting about 15 years ago when the Democrats predominated in rural/small town America, Republican representation has taken over and the gap has continued to widen.
The reason? Well, there is apparently more than politics involved - it’s as if there are two societies evolving in our country — depending on geography. Here’s an example. Not long ago our daughter, a graduate of a local high school and Miami University, brought two of her sons from their home in Washington DC for a visit. Yes, they actually live in the District.
One was a recent graduate of Washington State in Seattle while the other was still in high school and they had both been born, raised, and educated in the big city environment. With this being their first exposure to the rural/small town way of life, they were overwhelmed, astonished by what they encountered.
They had no idea such places existed — with owner — occupied individual homes, well-kept lawns, clean streets, small churches, and safe parks - much less the stretches of farmland with abundant crops. They were like tourists in a foreign country. Their reaction? “A nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.” And they are now both safely back in their big city with its totally different interests, lifestyles, attitudes - and political views.
All kinds of studies, polls, consumer data, and such are revealing two Americas based on where people live - in the big city/urban or rural/small town areas. One report noted, “Those in small towns are more likely to go to church, own a gun, support the military and value community ties.”
Yep, this widening social/cultural divide is apparently much more than just political. It involves major differences in many aspects of our lives — and is showing up as “social geography.”
Something I haven’t seen is reporting of where our tax money comes from, that is, a study showing what percentage of people in rural/small town areas are actually paying taxes compared with those in big city/urban locations. I would also like to see similar studies showing how government handouts such as welfare, food stamps, Women, Infants, and Children payments, and housing/utilities subsidies are distributed.
Please note I do not include Social Security or Medicare because these programs are “contributory” meaning the recipients have paid into them. I refer only to “non-contributory” transfer of wealth. I suspect we would see more indications of how “social geography” is dividing this country.
Well, there you have it - a quick peek into what is becoming increasingly apparent - major divisions in this country based on where people live - “social geography.” Don’t know about you, but those folks who prefer the big city/urban lifestyles can have it as long as they aren’t successful in forcing it on the rest of us, which, unfortunately they are trying to do. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at email@example.com.