We all know the fable: the rugged individualism of small-town America, where you can make a go of it on your own, where neighbors sit out on the porch and talk away the hours at night over iced tea, a gun is your best friend against the varmints that infest your woods, where the local high school still holds sock hops and the church is the place to go if you need a hot meal or some clothes.
Our 100 largest metropolitan areas constitute a new economic geography, seamlessly integrating cities and suburbs, exurbs and rural towns. Together, they house almost two-thirds of our population, generate 74% of our gross domestic product (GDP) and disproportionately concentrate the assets that drive economic success: patents, advanced research and venture capital, college graduates and Ph.D.s, and air, rail and sea hubs.
America is not an agglomeration of small towns where girls still wear gingham and boys seek tadpoles in the crick. Sarah Palin's "Real Americans" are the true sheltered disconnected elitists.
Real Americans complain about traffic jams. Real Americans complain about take-off vectors from the local airport. Real Americans get on a commuter train or the highway every morning to their job in a cubicle, where they have to worry about losing that job to outsourcing or the economic crunch. Real Americans worry about their lawns. Real Americans have kids that play soccer, and hang out in malls.
Neither Sarah Palin nor the Teabaggers speak for Real Americans. Real Americans, for the most part, don't really care who is running, so long as they can be secure in their jobs. They don't mind paying taxes so long as they see something back for those taxes: better schools, better roads, more police and fire fighters and trash collectors.
Real Americans don't pay attention to politics, not because they're apathetic, but because Johnny got a "C" in Algebra. Real Americans want to see a clean subway station before a clean Congress. They want to be able to sit around the dining room table and discuss the next vacation they can afford, not the bills and definitely not the Muslim terror scarifying that the right wing specialises in.
And there's the rub: so long as the right wing of this nation is cowardly, the nation itself will be cowardly. The right wing, aided and abetted, with comfort given to the enemy by the right wing mainstream media, like NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX, has so bullied and badgered the nation by being the squeakier wheel.
Progressives have to start getting louder, yes, but more than that, we have to start pointing out the major flaws in the right wing's ideology.
This, that the overwhelming number of Americans, the overwhelming values of Americans, reside within a few miles of our cities, should be number one on that list. "Small town values" have their value, in the dwindling population and economic activity that makes up small towns (only 3 states in this nation can claim that the majority of their economy is derived from rural areas). But those values do not represent 21st century America. Those values are as outdated as buggy whips and oil lamps in this nation.
We have to march forward, not backward, because that is how time marches. We resist time at our own peril.