Sometimes I think that the most amazing thing about the United States is that we've had only one Civil War.
We are three hundred million socially awkward people who hate each other's guts.
We've always seen the lone rider coming over the horizon as a threat.
We are polarized racially, regionally, economically, religiously, ethnically, sexually, etc..
Politicians have always built careers on our fears and resentments.
Entire political ideologies have been built on our spite and resentment.
Whole religious theologies are built on our fear and hatred of The Other.
We built this country on greed and racism just as much as we built it on hope and idealism.
We are not, and never were, "innocent" or absolved from history.
There are members of my family who felt very deeply the resentment of "outsiders" telling them how to run their own states and businesses, especially in the wake of the Civil Rights movement. They feel profoundly and mortally threatened by huge waves of "outsiders" (especially brown ones) swamping their identity and their very existence. They've always resented what they see as the patronization of the fortunate privileged who presume to know better than they do. On the other hand, I know people who see my native region as a vast wilderness of ignorance and bigotry and regard it with a reciprocal fear and loathing. They have other more direct and vivid memories of the Civil Rights era, memories of people who suffered and died just to be treated as human beings and not as some higher form of farm animal.
As someone who daily straddles the vast cultural chasm between my native Texas and my adopted New York, I sometimes carry all sorts of conflicting resentments within myself. The truly sad part about the whole thing is the knowledge that none of those fears and resentments is entirely wrong or unrealistic, though they are always unfair. I'm sure the folks in Weatherford, Texas see themselves as patriotic embodiments of authentic small town America -- brave, enterprising, conscientious, dutiful -- and perhaps rightly so. On the other hand, Chinatown here in New York City is actually older than Weatherford, Texas. Chinatown here in New York, like all Chinatowns in the USA, exists because people never considered the Chinese immigrants (whose labor built the western half of the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s) as authentically "American." Chinatowns were created by segregation, by the refusal of other Americans to welcome them among their own. And yet, Chinatown provided soldiers for every American conflict going back to the Spanish American War. The Chinese don't fit into the commercial mainstream vision of America (blond, blue-eyed, apple-cheeked, with 2.5 impossibly adorable children, living comfortably in a leafy suburb or small town filled with sunshine, where the elderly are always "spry") but then, neither really do the inhabitants of Weatherford, nor does anyone in the United States, now or ever. Maybe it's time to ditch that "mainstream" image that's been assigned to us. It's bamboozled a lot of people (especially mine), has harmed a lot of other people, and hasn't helped anyone.
Texas is, and always was, a much more complicated place than most people, including most Texans, assume. Like this big city that attracts so much of the resentment of Texans, Texas is a very cosmopolitan place built out of the hopes and expectations of poor misfits (and that was true long before Stephen F. Austin arrived). I've seen a lot of courage, enterprise, conscientiousness, and selflessness in this huge boiling cosmopolitan city of New York, built for better and for worse out of the dreams of very poor people from around the world, a city that has always attracted a lot of the world's fears and resentments.
I can only conclude that the social contract that binds us all together in a single unlikely country is greater than each of us who make it up.