When my spouse and I first drove into Bremen, Ohio, it struck us as precisely the sort of place the place we’d discover a solution to the query we’d been asking for weeks: what’s Donald Trump’s attraction to rural Individuals?
We’d assumed it was financial. The American heartland was dying, and Trump was promising to revive it. In fact the individuals dwelling there would love him, even when Trump’s insurance policies since turning into president in 2017 hadn’t achieved a lot to enhance their lives.
However in our journey via small-town Pennsylvania and Ohio, we hadn’t seen a lot devastation. Fairly the other: we’d handed via idyllic city after idyllic city. Native economies gave the impression to be doing nicely, and had been since nicely earlier than Trump.
Bremen was totally different. The eerie quiet of its streets lent the village an air of abandonment. The native bar was shuttered; so was the native café. The rail yard was plagued by disused and rusted equipment.
There was a gun store, the innocuously named Rushcreek Buying and selling Submit LLC—which, not like most of the different native companies, was open: the one institution nonetheless standing on a road clearly buckling below the load of the coronavirus pandemic.
I used to be admittedly nervous strolling in. The thought of a brown man bouncing round locations like Bremen asking individuals why on the planet they’d vote for a person like Donald Trump had already struck me as loopy. To then tempt destiny and wander right into a Temple of Second Modification fanaticism felt, nicely, downright suicidal.
Inside was the proprietor, Rick Moyer, who seems to be a bit like a Hell’s Angel enforcer. Bremen, he stated, was doing wonderful economically due to its proximity to Lancaster and Columbus, the place many residents commute for work, in addition to to native firms that make use of expert labour. All of the chaos and the devastation was enjoying out within the cities.
“That’s the place all the issues are,” Moyer stated. “Out right here we’ve been saying that for years, and now we lastly have a president who’s doing one thing about it.”
Others in Bremen, a deeply spiritual place, spoke in Biblical phrases concerning the corruption of American cities. Their impressions of city life echoed what they considered America’s political elite: corrupt, sinful, money-obsessed.
“I don’t ever need to dwell within the metropolis,” Tina Groff, a 51-year-old canine groomer, instructed me. “It’s by no means gonna occur. I don’t need to hear gunshots. The Bible says to remain out of town.”
Like Moyer, she has totally absorbed the Trump-propagated and Fox Information-amplified delusion that the Black Lives Matter protesters are literally Marxists in disguise, bent on demolishing America. “I really feel sorry for individuals who dwell within the cities,” Groff stated, “due to the whole lot that goes on there.”
For rural people like her, town is the place socialism and feminism and all method of ideological madness has run amok, the place this darkish, ominous power known as “Antifa” threatens to undo centuries of hard-earned American greatness. The countryside is the true America, the place hard-working, God-fearing individuals make an sincere dwelling and dwell in peace collectively.
For metropolis people like me, it’s rural America that’s the scary place. It’s the place Trumpism blooms in all its merciless glory, the place yokels dream of partitions to maintain brown individuals like me out and the time period “God’s nation” has an ominous, end-of-times ring to it. The town is a secure haven, the place the place individuals are open to new concepts and new methods of dwelling, the place I really feel secure and safe, the place I can discuss to individuals and so they can discuss to me; we perceive each other.
Each views weave collectively truth and fiction. I used to be clearly mistaken in my concern of Moyer and his gun store. All through rural Ohio and Pennsylvania, I met individuals who have been type and articulate. However what was constant about their world views was how completely they misunderstood the cities.
In Moyer’s gun store, a buyer who had been listening to our dialog, a small enterprise proprietor, complained concerning the scarcity of expert labour in Bremen.
“No younger particular person needs to work for lower than 20 bucks an hour,” he stated.
It struck me as odd that he was so unaware of how little a $20-an-hour wage is, particularly in coastal cities. It jogged my memory of a café proprietor in Lehman Township in Pennsylvania, who additionally complained that younger individuals didn’t know what a tough day’s work was anymore. For her, a tough day’s work meant ready tables for 12 hours. However work within the 21st century has modified dramatically, and can proceed to vary for the foreseeable future. “Exhausting” immediately seems to be very totally different from what it appeared like within the final century.
The disconnect between the agricultural and concrete runs deep in America. Social justice has made some essential strides within the cities. Points like gender id, sexual orientation and systemic racism are significantly better understood than they have been even 20 years in the past. However I’m wondering if the tempo of change has been an excessive amount of for rural America to deal with.
Moyer can’t perceive the anger of Black Individuals towards the police; he has no expertise that may assist him grasp the Black city expertise. From his perspective, the one sort of racism that exists is the overt selection. And he says that merely doesn’t exist in Bremen.
And right here is maybe the unbridgeable divide: how do you give rural Individuals the sort of city expertise that can persuade them that the cities will not be the chaos and anarchy Trump is making them out to be? How do you persuade them that Trump is manipulating their fears for his personal private achieve? How do you persuade an individual like Moyer that crime charges are down within the cities when he doesn’t belief statistics or specialists? How do you clarify to the small enterprise proprietor that demanding inexpensive well being care, training and dwelling wages will not be a name for socialism however a plea for survival? And most significantly, how do you get rural America to have interaction with its city counterpart when you will have a president within the White Home intent on stoking divisions and perpetuating misperceptions?
However there’s additionally the opposite facet. How do you persuade city elites that rural Individuals will not be the gun-toting halfwits of the Hollywood creativeness? How do you persuade social justice warriors to have interaction with rural fears and suspicions reasonably than dismiss them? From the agricultural perspective, one thing is being misplaced in America, and it could be rural life itself.
This text seems in print within the November 2020 situation of Maclean’s journal with the headline, “The unbridgeable divide.” Subscribe to the month-to-month print journal right here.