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The New War Between the States

Why Urban Values Trump Suburban Faith

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It's no secret what the urban population is against--the Bush administration and its red armies have done us the favor of making it a cinch to identify: We oppose their sub-moronic, "faith-based" approach to life, and, as stated above, we hereby relinquish our liberal tendency to sympathize with their lack of, say, livable working conditions, a family wage, and a national health care program. We no longer have to concern ourselves with the survival of the family farm, nor do we have to concern ourselves with saving fragile suburban economies from collapse. They're against us; we're against them. This is a war.

But if liberals and progressives want to reach out past our urban bases, it might be helpful to identify some essential convictions, thereby allowing us to perhaps compete on "values." Identifying and articulating our core convictions, as opposed to compromising and downplaying them in search of some kind of non-urban appeal, might actually attract voters in exurbs and rural areas. But even if it doesn't, ours is a superior way of life. Wherever people choose to live in this country, they should want to live as we do.

So how do we live and what are we for? Look around you, urbanite, at the multiplicity of cultures, ethnicities, and tribes that are smashed together in every urban center (yes, even Portland): We're for that. We're for pluralism of thought, race, and identity. We're for a freedom of religion that includes the freedom from religion--not as some crazy aberration, but as an equally valid approach to life. We are for the right to choose one's own sexual and recreational behavior, to control one's own body and what one puts inside it. We are for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The people who just elected George W. Bush to a second term are frankly against every single idea outlined above.

Unlike the people who flee from cities in search of a life free from disagreement and dark skin, we are for contentiousness, discourse, and the heightened understanding of life that grows from having to accommodate opposing viewpoints. We're for opposition. And just to be clear: The non-urban argument, the red state position, isn't oppositional, it's negational--they are in active denial of the existence of other places, other people, other ideas. It's reactionary utopianism, and it is a clear and present danger; urbanists should be upfront and unapologetic about our contempt for their politics and their negational values. Republicans have succeeded in making the word "liberal"--which literally means "free from bigotry... favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded"--into an epithet. Urbanists should proclaim their liberalism from the highest rooftop; it's the only way we survive. And in our next breath, we should condemn their politics, exposing their conservatism as the anti-Americanism that it is, striving to make "conservative" into an epithet.

Let's see, what else are we for? How about education? Cities are beehives of intellectual energy, students and teachers are everywhere you look, studying, teaching, thinking. In most cities, you can barely throw a rock without hitting a college. It's time to start celebrating that, because if the reds have their way, advanced degrees will one day be awarded based on the number of Bible verses a person can recite from memory. In the city, people ask you what you're reading. Outside the city, they ask you why you're reading. You do the math--and you'll have to, because non-urbanists can hardly even count their own children at this point.

For too long now, we've caved to the non-urban wisdom that decries universities as bastions of elitism and snobbery. Guess what: That's why we should embrace them. Outside of the city, elitism and snobbery are code words for literacy and complexity. And when the oil dries up, we're not going to be turning to priests for answers--we'll be calling the scientists. And speaking of science: SCIENCE! That's another thing we're for. And reason. And history. All those things that non-urbanists have replaced with their idiotic faith. We're for those.

As part of our pro-reason platform, we're for paying taxes--taxes, after all, support the urban infrastructure on which we all rely, and as such, are a necessary part of the social contract we sign every day. We are for density, and because we're for density, we're for programs that support it, like mass transit. Commuters, we neither want nor need you. We welcome, however, new residents, new urbanites, the continual influx of people from other places who come here to stay (are you listening, liberal residents of Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming?). These transplants help create the density we find so attractive, and they provide the plurality that makes cities thrive.

A city belongs to everyone in it, and expands to contain whoever desires to join its ranks. People migrate to cities and open independent businesses or work at established ones. They import cultural influences, thus enriching the urban arts and nightlife, which in turn enrich everything. Most importantly, they bring the indisputable fact of their own bodies and minds. We wait in line with them at Fred Meyer, we stand shoulder to shoulder with them at the bar, we cram ourselves next to them on the bus. We share our psychic and physical space, however limited it might be--because others share it with us. It's not a question of tolerance, nor even of personal freedom; it's a matter of recognizing the fundamental interdependence of all citizens--not just the ones who belong to the same church. Non-urbanites have chosen to burn the declaration of interdependence, opting instead for tyranny, isolationism, and "faith." They can have them.

These, of course, are broad strokes. We all know that not everyone who lives in the suburbs is a raving neo-Christian idiot. The raving neo-Christian idiots are winning, however, so we need to take the fight to them. In this case, the fight is largely spiritual; it consists of embracing the reality that urban life and urban values are the only sustainable response to the modern age of holy war, environmental degradation, and global conflict. More importantly, it consists of rejecting the impulse to apologize for living in a society that prizes values like liberalism, pluralism, education, and facts. It's time for the Democratic Party to stop pandering to bovine, non-urban America. You don't apologize for being right--especially not when you're at war.

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