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This is a pretty long diary, I tried to write it as a narrative, because that's what it is.  I had a very interesting trip to meet my girlfriend's family this past weekend outside of Erie, PA, including many hours of political discourse with people who I would have bet my life had drastically different political views than I do.  Jump right in, I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts

Friday, July 11 at 1:30 my girlfriend climbed into the passenger seat of my Mini Cooper and we left Manhattan's Upper West Side.  Our next stop was rural Pennsylvania, a tiny town about 20 minutes south of Erie, and my girlfriend's childhood house on a dirt road off of a dirt road.  We have been dating for two and a half years and it was finally time to rip the bandaid off and meet the family.

From the theoretical thought of rural Pennsylvania to the more grounded knowledge that I was going to be meeting her brother-in-law (he of a bleeding Confederate flag wrapped around his bicep), I was nervous.  Her family is a lower middle class, rural family, nothing like my family.

The best way I could describe it was that I felt like a political candidate, one who was raised in a city and with privelege.  I felt like it was a campaign and that I wanted to come across as not an elitist and someone who was good for their daughter/granddaughter/niece/cousin/sister, etc.  

As we drove up Route 17 in New York, I was disappointed to see all of the "psycho" billboards had come down, now they were just advertising antique shops and diners.  As we motored along it hit me, my sister's bumper sticker was on the car.  The bumper sticker reads, "oh well, I wasn't using my civil liberties anyhow" - a great bumper sticker to be sure (echoing my senitments exactly), but not one that I particularly wanted on my car in rural Pennsylvania, and not to meet my girlfriend's family, who I had been warned was very conservative.  

Fasting forward through the NASCAR chats (yes, I do enjoy the occasional race), the 15 family members I met, and the fishing jaunt, we arrive at Saturday night...

Fifteen family members were spread out between the den, dining room, and kitchen.  I was in the middle of a conversation about where I work and what I do, and Grandma sauntered up and broached the subject that I dreaded would come up.  

"Interesting bumper sticker," she said.

"Yeah, it's my sister's car, so she put it on," I replied.

That was that because I was summoned by my girlfriend to get both of us out of the house for a bit and run to the store (a 20-minute journey each way).

Upon returning, Grandma didn't let it go.  We started talking politics, a subject that I wanted to avoid at all costs.  I was sitting and talking with a very religious family who hunts, is lower middle class, and basically everything else your stereotypical rural Republican family would be.

Grandma sat down next to me, I cringed.

"I'm a huge Hilary supporter and I'm just so upset with the way the Democratic party treated her," Grandma started.

Grandma Bev (my girlfriend's other grandmother) was sitting quietly across the table piped up and let out an, "I am too."  Everything in the room stopped and everyone looked at Grandma 2.  Grandma 2 as I later found out was a staunch Republican, very supportive of both of Bush's campaigns and just feels so betrayed by Bush and the Republican party.  After a few minutes the shock had subsided and people returned to their conversations.

Grandma and I talked for two hours during which I heard her say things like,

"I hate what Obama did to Clinton and now with their 'Unity' tour, it's like in ancient Rome where the generals would lead their captives around."

"I'll vote for Democrats down ticket, but I'm not sure I'll vote for Obama.  If it's going to be close in Pennsylvania, then I will vote for him because I can't imagine another Republican president."

"I don't think Hilary should be Vice President, nor do I think he should choose a woman, it'd be a slap in the face to all of us."

She also believes that Obama is full of rhetoric and not so much substance.  I disagreed with her, and she understands why Obama has such appeal to people like me.

It was one of those political conversations where you don't agree with everything that is said, but that leaves you with a much greater appreciation for the different perspectives.  She was a very sharp woman.  We talked about PA Senatorial candidates in 2010 (Rendell and Altmire were among her favorites), we talked about Obama's 50-state strategy and how he could overcome his perceived lack of experience, and most of all, we talked about hope that her life on a fixed income in middle America, and with a granddaughter in the Army, could start to get better.

There are still deep wounds that will take time to heal on the part of Clinton supporters (not just the ones involved in the appropriation of Thomas Jefferson's fortune), but if former Republicans who are staunch Hilary supporters can see themselves as progressives, and understand aht it's in no one's interest to spite Obama, then I think we are on the right track to start to undo the damage done in the last eight years.

Originally posted to kicks82 on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 02:17 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Glad you survived (10+ / 0-)

    Most decent people who venture out in their Mini Coopers into that strange and dangerous land you call "rural America" are eaten by the natives before they can even send a text message back to the urban safe zone.

  •  Pray tell, what would you call it? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    •  America (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Luetta, Catesby, mlbx2

      Period.  Full stop.

      The fact that you treat it like a foreign country made your story out-of-touch from the get-go.  The fact that you filled in classic details (Mini Cooper, Upper West Side, fear of bumperstickers) made it as absurd as a New Yorker cover.  

      •  You are enacting the very judgementalism (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        weasel, debedb, kicks82, luckylizard

        that you pretend to decry.  America has many regions and subcultures that feel almost as different as passing into a new country.  Personally I find New York City to be utterly alien and somewhat suspect.  I feel like a fish out of water when I pass through there.  

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 02:36:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Can you honestly tell me (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        debedb, luckylizard

        that the differences between New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, San Francisco, Bismark, and Detriot don't make them all seem like foreign countries?  As for out of touch, yes, I was.  Now, not as much.

  •  See? I don't understand why (6+ / 0-)

    so many city folk carry around the notion that all rural folks are st00pid.
    Y'all quit it.
    Interesting diary, thanks for sharing.

    Hands off my Social Security, John McCain.

    by emmasnacker on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 02:31:52 PM PDT

    •  No notions that all rural folks are stupid (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Just the notion that my girlfriend's family was conservative.  Not sure where you got the stupid bit from, but I'd be happy to explain if it came across poorly.

      •  Not well expressed on my part, (0+ / 0-)

        was in a, Leo in NJ does make a point below......
        Having been raised in rural/suburbia, but with continuous access to NYC, then moving to end of the earth rural, what I've found pretty consistently is that rural folks are just slower and more deliberate about "change". Something really has to be broke bad before it gets tossed in the trash and replaced.

        Hands off my Social Security, John McCain.

        by emmasnacker on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:47:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I try never to overgeneralize, but (0+ / 0-)

      rural states are my likely to vote (in the majority, not totality) for Republicans. If that's not stupid...

  •  You might enjoy some web videos (0+ / 0-)

    on Red State Road Trip.

    The original short movie showed a lot of folks planning to vote Bush a 2nd term, even though most of their expressed self-interest might have suggested otherwise. A humourous take, but sad too.

    The new episodes I've only watched a few of, but they seem to be exploring attitudes towards energy and sustainability.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 02:33:22 PM PDT

  •  I continue to be fascinated (7+ / 0-)

    by how many posters on DKos speak about rural America as such an unknown, unfamiliar practically foreign "place". Maybe I'm easily amused.

    Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us. Jerry Garcia

    by OrdinaryGal on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 02:34:50 PM PDT

  •  Rural Pa isn't so bad (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    weasel, auroraborealis, luckylizard

    I've lived in rural Pa. all my life. I grew up in a small town north of Harrisburg and lived in very rural Tioga County for the last 15 years. Thanks for visiting; we love guests.

    It is true that it seems we have nothing but rocks, rattlesnakes and Republican up here. Last I checked, Tioga County was 2-1 GOP. I can tell you, though, that there are plenty of progressives here and we get along just fine with our conservative friends. You should see all of the Obama yard signs compared to zero McCain signs.

    I can also tell you that the conservatives are largely sick of W. and Co. I have spoken to more than a few who are voting Libertarian this year. I hope so; I have a $5 bet with a political science professor on the Libertarians getting 3% of the Pa vote.

  •  Do You Know Us? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mlbx2, Casual Wednesday

    The characterizations and generalities of one group about another are fascinating to me. So I'll go ahead and make some...:)

    One would think that with so much television, so much communication, so much travel and so much moving around that Americans would have a pretty good understanding of folks different from themselves. Not so. It's probably better than it was ten years ago, and that was probably better than it was twenty years ago, and so on. But we've got a very long way to go.

    TV and movies, rather than helping, probably hurt because they depend so much on stereotypes.

    Travel doesn't help much, either, because planned vacation areas are usually isolated from real local communities to a large extent.

    Even moving isn't as educational as one might suppose. I know that in the Southern coastal area I'm from all the New Yorkers tend to hang with other transplanted folks from New York, other Pennsylvanians with other Pennsylvanians, etc.

    Everyone is more comfortable in their familiar culture and they moved for the weather (and maybe the cost of living), not to absorb their new cultural setting.

    But as kicks82 found out, there are surprises when you get to know people from other cultures. A lot of previous beliefs turn out not to be true.

    I know a lot of progressives in the South (like cultures hang together) but their Liberalism isn't quite the same as the Northern Liberals I've met in the last few years. Similar, but different.

    I've read about a lot of folks out West (not on the coast, which houses different worlds) who tend toward Libertarianism, and for good reason: Their states are too sparsely populated to need much government. The more densely populated an area, the more government is needed. But it's not that they're not progressive; they're just against government. An odd combination to folks "back East."

    So I liked this diary very much. It's good to see people learn about others and then relate what they've learned. More visits will help everyone.

    A Southerner in Yankeeland

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