When I was a kid we moved from the Bronx, New York to Asheville, North Carolina. While I didn’t understand all of the vast cultural differences between these two starkly contrasting places at the age of nine, I was certainly aware that I wasn’t in the Bronx anymore. The accent, the trees, the mountains, the antisemitism, and the racism were quick giveaways even to a nine year old. But in the 1950’s most Americans understood that the South openly behaved differently from the rest of the country with regard to race and other minorities. I use the word “openly” because it is clear that many in other parts of the country harbored similar attitudes, but did not feel that it was acceptable to be blatant about them. We moved to Asheville because of my father’s job. I loved the years I lived in Asheville for the closeness of the community and the wonderful people and beautiful scenery. Yet, the racist side of the culture was always around the corner and shed a dark cloud over this beautiful setting. At that time it was the only part of the country that presented such a contrasting set of mores to those I was accustomed to in the Bronx.
It was the hope and the dream of many that as time passed the values of equality and individual freedom would spread throughout the country. It was the dream that we would recognize and respect individual differences in race, creed, national origin and sexual orientation. Yet that dream has yet to be realized. We live in a red and blue country with an occasional purple squeezing through. When a family makes the decision to move from one state to another, there is much more to consider than ever before. Behavior that was once considered to be unacceptable is now common place.
The questions that a family has to ask today are incredible. It’s not just housing costs and proximity to schools, work and shopping anymore. Let’s start with abortion rights. What are the laws of the state? How about education? Not only is it a question of quality, but do they support science or creationism? The answer to this question is important because it reflects attitudes regarding separation of church and state and adherence to religious fundamentalism. What are the gun laws in the state? Do they believe that assault rifles and high capacity clips should be available to all who want them without a background check? What is their attitude regarding gay rights and gay marriage? How about the way they treat undocumented workers? These aren’t a bunch of esoteric issues better left to the debaters and intellectuals. These are issues that impact on our daily lives.
We may not yet require a passport to move from a blue state to a red state. However, the cultural differences, the mores, the values and the attitudes can be incredibly different from one to the other. We are seeing the balkanization of America. Are we still truly “one nation under god, indivisible”?