It is often said there are two Americas.
The more likely truth is there are hundreds of tiny layered American experiences that differ not just on the great divide between the coast and the heartland, but also along divides much smaller, creating different Americas just on different banks of the same river, or adjoining neighborhoods, towns, counties or state lines.
We are parochial by birth; we love our neighborhoods and towns, our sports teams and our schools, as well as churches, county fairs, local music, and parish festivals.
No matter what the subject is, we brag ours is better than yours, maybe put on our team jersey’s and crow about it, but for the most part it is all done in good nature. We find a way to come together on some cultural touchtone and we continue on with our lives.
“It is a shame that politics cannot adopt that same robust competitive nature, that doesn’t end with a conniption,” said one building manager, after watching the State of the Union address last week.
“You know, disagree on some things, but show a little respect when it comes to other things,” he said.
He was adamant in not wanting to give his real name. "Just use 'Derek,'" he says shaking his head, "because I see what happens on social media if you express a thought.”
“Yeah, no thank you,” he quipped. He is part of the fabric of the country who doesn’t live and die by tribal politics.
Derek, who is African-American, said he was disappointed last week in the members of Congress when they sat on their hands during the State of the Union address on several fronts. “And what was going on there when the president noted the dive in black unemployment, and they all sat on their hands and rolled their eyes?”
“Man, I don’t get Washington. I didn’t vote for Trump, but I accepted him as the president and honestly, under his policies, I have more money in paycheck,” he said.
“I have my point of view, I express when I vote, then I go on with my life,” he said. For him, the president is doing better than he thought he would, and he appreciates that.
“America is not this way or that way, our experiences and viewpoints are complicated. I can like the president or the Republicans' way of impacting my wallet and change my view of them for the next election. I think Washington and/or the media tends to want to box people into this or that, and people are much more complex than that,” he said.
There is a miscalculation going on in the national conversation that is held on the cable news networks and on social media, in that they believe that everyone in the country is as hot as they are on every single thing that happens with the White House and that American operates on daily dose of outrage.
They have lives. They have problems. They have bills to pay, kids to raise, college to save for and parents and children to care after. Like Derek, they don’t particularly care to fall in line or fit in with one side or the other.
Derek isn’t everyone, but he is isn’t an outlier, either.
Before he got his first paycheck after the passing of the tax reform bill, Derek was skeptical. “Everyone on the news said it was for the 1 percent, or Trump’s cronies, or some political hot potato, turns out I got a nice little raise, and so did my wife,” he said.
“And if those are crumbs, I’ll take them.”
Yet the narrative continues that the tax overhaul was for the wealthy and big corporations, and that the president’s State of the Union address was nationalist, or hateful, or too scripted and read from the teleprompter.
“Look I don’t know what to say, the guy freestyles in speeches and on Twitter and you guys make fun of him or get outraged. He gives a normal presidential speech and you say, ‘Well, he’s just reading from a teleprompter.’"
Derek’s conclusion was interesting. “Whenever you make up your mind what you don’t want to like about him, let me know. But don’t be walk around being surprised if the elections don’t turn out to be what you want them to be.”
Salena Zito is a columnist for the Washington Examiner.