According to the nation music star Jason Aldean, you’d higher not use your first modification rights in small-town America, except you need to be attacked by a vigilante mob. That’s the message of Aldean’s controversial music Attempt That in a Small City, which incorporates the lyrics, “Stomp on the flag and light-weight it up / Yeah, you assume you’re powerful / Properly, attempt that in a small city / See how far you make it down the highway / Round right here, we care for our personal” and “Full of excellent ol’ boys / raised up proper / If you happen to’re on the lookout for a battle / Attempt that in a small city.”
Critics have identified that the music glorifies the sort of vigilante justice that has led to lynching and extra-judicial killings, and that the music appears like a really loosely veiled reference to Black Lives Matter protests. In addition they level to the conspiratorial considering behind the road “Acquired a gun that my granddad gave me / They are saying someday they’re gonna spherical up / Properly, that shit may fly within the metropolis, good luck / Attempt that in a small city.”
Aldean and his supporters now declare he’s a sufferer of “cancel tradition”.
The US supreme court docket has, notably, discovered that flag-burning is a protected first modification exercise. In my private expertise, city-dwellers are much less enthusiastic about burning American flags than having the proper to let our personal freak flags fly. And there’s no mainstream effort, from both the left or the proper, to spherical up and confiscate firearms.
However setting apart Aldean’s obvious disregard for the structure and actuality itself, his message is sadly all too acquainted. Small-town America – which is commonly code for conservative white America – is routinely handled because the “actual America” by politicians, pundits, writers and culture-makers. Almost all of these individuals select to dwell in city America, however cities don’t get the identical sort of credit score for being authentically American, or deeply good.
Aldean’s music is true, simply not in the way in which he thinks it’s: small-town America may be merciless, brutish and exclusionary. And cities are america’ beating hearts – they’re locations that make America nice, and city-dwellers shouldn’t hesitate to defend them.
I’ve lived in, and actually liked dwelling in, each the biggest American metropolis and an itty-bitty city. Small cities may be pretty locations. What they aren’t, although, is inherently higher than bigger, extra cosmopolitan locales. Small cities don’t have extra of a declare to Americanism than the big city areas wherein most Individuals really dwell.
A part of the fetishization of small cities is fantasy and nostalgia. Small cities are symbols of imagined simplicity and ethical goodness – life in a largely made-up “earlier than” world when society was ostensibly much less polarized, life was easier, and everybody lived in neat little single-family homes and gathered in church on Sundays. American life was, after all, by no means this easy, and all the time way more diverse.
However politicians, pundits and culture-makers romanticize small-town life for a similar cause they speak in regards to the Fifties as an idealistic time, regardless of racial segregation, stifling gender roles and post-war trauma: it’s a comforting phantasm, an invented historical past that implies an ease and predictability most of us would like to really feel.
“You might be morally superior to those big-city people” can also be a handy political message: it makes an vital group of voters be ok with themselves (rural Individuals, in spite of everything, have an outsized say on the poll field), and I think it doesn’t actually alienate metropolis individuals as a result of (a) we’re used to it, and (b) it’s so clearly unfaithful.
The reality is that cities are literally wonderful locations to dwell. Cities are the standard hubs for immigrants, who routinely convey with them an amazing work ethic and an entrepreneurship that drives the US financial system and betters all of our lives. (To not point out meals – immigrants are an enormous a part of the rationale why cities like New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago are such phenomenal locations to eat.)
Cities are typically racially numerous; the individuals who dwell in America’s greatest cities span a a lot wider vary of religions and ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic ranges than those that dwell within the nation’s small cities. We hear quite a bit about “liberal bubbles” like New York or San Francisco when, in truth, it’s small, rural cities which are way more ethnically and ideologically homogeneous.
Cities are magnets for the formidable, the inventive, the younger and the adventurous. The identical politicians, pundits, journalists and musicians who extol the virtues of small cities hardly ever dwell in them. Aldean lives in Nashville.
And the variety of cities additionally makes for extra innovation. Human beings are extra inventive and generative once we are in numerous teams and work together with individuals who dwell, assume and consider otherwise. Cities are fertile grounds for creativity to bloom.
They’re additionally providing extra literal fertile floor. Globally, many cities are getting greener, and a few American ones are following go well with. Maybe unexpectedly, life in a concrete jungle is higher for the surroundings than rural life, and a lot higher than life in suburban sprawl.
Cities additionally are typically extra liberal and extra open-minded than smaller, extra insular locations, and that’s factor. A spot the place newcomers can attempt on new methods of being, and categorical themselves genuinely? That’s authenticity – not adhering to the slim social codes that some small cities demand.
Opposite to notion, cities are additionally safer than rural areas by quite a lot of measures. Loss of life charges are a lot larger in rural America than in city America, by nearly each trigger, from coronary heart illness to most cancers to suicide to accidents (which incorporates overdoses and firearm and visitors accidents). Regardless of Aldean’s claims, small cities, it appears, aren’t doing all that nice in relation to taking good care of their very own.
And violent crime in city America is frankly typically fueled by conservative values: if the gun-snatching authorities bogeymen of Aldean’s paranoid fears have been really actual, we’d dwell in a a lot safer nation. However the conservative demand that Individuals have almost unfettered entry to lethal weapons implies that a whole lot of Individuals die unnecessarily – and a whole lot of these Individuals are city-dwellers who’ve voted, repeatedly, for commonsense gun legal guidelines.
The idealization of small cities by politicians and culture-makers like Aldean additionally does a disservice to the locations they declare to like. Rural America is not solely southern or midwestern; it isn’t completely white; it isn’t universally conservative. Small cities are diverse, and there’s no singular approach to dwell a small-town life. Most individuals who dwell in small cities aren’t “good ol’ boys”, gun-toting conspiracy theorists or vigilantes. Flattening small-town America right into a stereotype is simply as reductive as positioning cities as dens of crime and vice.
Cities shouldn’t want defending. A lot of the nation lives in them. They’re the nation’s financial, political, technological and inventive energy facilities. Most Individuals, I’d hope, can learn the condescension and dishonesty in paeans to small-town life by individuals who have chosen to go away these very locations in pursuit of cosmopolitanism, or by no means really lived there within the first place. Aldean is from Macon, Georgia’s fourth-largest metropolis.
However cities do want defending as a result of, regardless of their reputation and apparent advantages, there’s little social price to trashing them, or suggesting that the individuals who dwell in them are someway much less American. That has actual penalties, together with the hesitancy from our elected officers to ensure that each American has an equal say within the political course of, and that “one particular person, one vote” is the fact of American democracy.
Individuals ought to dwell the place they like, and there are every kind of advantages to each small, candy cities and massive, vibrant cities. Conservatives and liberals alike haven’t hesitated to sing the praises of small cities and small-town values, sometimes decreasing those self same locations to a set of drained “actual America” stereotypes. But it surely’s American cities that characterize the perfect of American values: creativity, range and open arms to immigrants and innovators and all these on the lookout for their individuals – and open to people who find themselves completely different than them.