This isn't about politics. One thing I want to try to make certain of is that, even in a contentious election year, I don't allow this site to be some shrill political blog. Because I want to offer much more substance than that.
But one of the trending instances from this week's Republican debate was Texas congressman Ted Cruz's comment about New York values. I noticed the topic has its own hashtag as noted above and the Twitterverse is all stirred up with both sides of the argument engaged in trying to portray their idea of what #NYValues are.
The fact is, there are different values in New York City. But that is nothing unique to Gotham. That is standard with any metropolitan area. I just posted a story about the vast differences between Atlanta values and the values that can be found only an hour or so down the road. The issue can be applied to Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, any metro area. This phenomenon is portrayed in the old fable The Country Mouse and the City Mouse two different individuals learn they are ill-equipped for life in the other's environment.
As the Industrial Revolution made large cities a reality in America, a divide began to grow. It's the same divide that led to the War Between the States in the mid-19th Century. When we say that slavery didn't cause the war, it's because there was a much more comprehensive cause in which slavery was embedded. The cause was the struggle between two distinct cultures that had developed in America between the urban and rural peoples. Each group had their own values and slavery and abolition were among those values.
The war determined political supremacy of the urban industrial model and large cities began to develop and the urban areas came to be subordinate to the cities. As the new social order evolved, cities began to establish their own form of morality. And we have seen over the years instance after instance of cities trying to push that morality on everyone (and yes, this is a two-way street). A perfect example is from my trip to Maine a little over a year ago. The people in the coastal cities like Portland were pushing new laws pertaining to hunting and trapping of black bears. I don't think there is a lot of hunting a trapping going on in the cities. One reason for this is the hunting and trapping programs permitted by the State of Maine and practiced by the sporting residents of the rural areas in that state keep bear populations at healthy levels and away from metropolitan areas. That's good for the bears, who are kept out of dangerous cities. It also prevents the mauling of unsuspecting, if well-meaning, people who have no experience with bears outside of Disney cartoons.
But back to New York. Let me stress that this article is far from an endorsement of Ted Cruz's candidacy. That's not the intent. It's also not an attempt to say that every single New Yorker fits the descriptor. But it is saying that New York is a city that projects an attitude - tough, busy, disinterested in your opinion of them, and important. It's home to Broadway shows, top-notch professional sports, and some of the most famous restaurants in the world. New York obviously has something to offer the world. But the outside world, where many of those Broadway singers, actors and musicians are raised, where many of those athletes call home, and where nearly 100% of those gourmet ingredients are raised and harvested, deserves some level of respect from New York. And it's worth noting that a billionaire who grew up buying and selling real estate by the city block might not have a clear understanding of the everyday life of someone in the rural South or, for that matter, the mountains of western Maine.
So when someone says that your values don't reflect ours, it might not mean that you are an infidel. It might just mean that you are different. It might mean that your life experience is incongruent with ours. Don't immediately take offense. It's going back to our mouse friends from earlier. We should try to understand that we are different and that there are good reasons we are different and not exactly prepared to change.
Values belong to the people. Politicians like to try to harness that to their advantage. We can let them do it or we can cultivate our values and pass them down to our children.
Regardless, my values aren't New York values and for that I am truly thankful.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire