I now live in a so-called “Flyover State.” This is incredibly insulting to anyone who lives in a place like this. I now live in a “Blue State,” something that is also incredibly insulting to anyone with half a brain. The coastal snobs of New York, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles, through ego and ignorance, have convinced themselves that they are the ones leading the country, that they are the ones most representative of The United States. They aren’t. And they never have been.
The average American is a “Middle American.” To generalize in the opposite direction, they look different, dress different, act different and look at the coastal lifestyle as hedonistic, comically expensive, crime-ridden and something totally detached from reality. They are less culturally diverse than you might imagine, they are conservative in nature, prone to conspiratorial or superstitious ideas and they consume massive amounts of energy. They are defiant in their “right” to drive something huge and inefficient. They, generally speaking, are also fiercely proud of being American, although the definition of what that means changes with the political wind. (As we have seen with the flood of racist, sexist candidates and legislation coming from Middle America.)
Middle Americans think you coastal dwellers are crazy, and not in a good way. They see your massive houses and expensive cars, your incredible mortgages, traffic, pollution, and tech-world dependency and they know they are having the last laugh. The 2016 election was proof, and by the looks of it, the 2020 election is going to be further proof.
But this is what I like about all this, and this is why I’m writing this under the “Creative” tab. A tiny part of me loves what is happening here in America.(Not the Nationalistic drumbeat and racism!) How could this possibly be? Granted, it’s a stretch, and we might not live through what is coming but what I find intriguing is that we have now been FULLY exposed. We are NOT the country we claim to be. We haven’t been in decades but we are so good at pretending. Is this still a great country? Sure. But is it the country we claim it to be? No, and we are getting further and further away from the post-WWII America, which is the flavor of America we most like to imagine we are.
This morning our top elected official lashed out with yet another racist blast, something he, and his family and his cabinet and his friends are prone to do. There is no longer ANY reason to try and hide the fact he’s racist. We are nearly four years into this behavior and one thing is perfectly clear, much of America is not only okay with the racism they are also one hundred percent behind the president. Oops, that sure doesn’t jive with the “We are the best country in the world,” ideology but what I’m learning is that many of us have come to live in a world where we fabricate the narrative we want to believe and we just start to convince ourselves our fabricated narrative is the truth.
I’ve said this from day one, we deserve what is happening to us. (As a collective, the minorities being bombarded by racist fervor don’t deserve it.) We really do. But, here is the creative part. The story is right here, for all of us. What is happening right now is unprecedented in American history. As photographers, our job is to document. This will become harder and harder as the powers that be continue to attempt to criminalize all sorts of behavior, including photographic. So the time is now. No matter where you live, what color your state is or your talent level, the subject matter is out there waiting.
The goal is to record. Just that simple. No need to share, overshare, post immediately or try to make daily statements. What we are doing now is gathering evidence for history. The short term is gone, blown and no longer really matters much. It’s the long-form story we are after now. The simmering sauce that is bubbling with data that at some point in time will be used as a cautionary tale.
So get out there and witness. Get out there and start to compile. Start local, stay local. Observe, catalog and archive. At some point, someone is going to come searching for what went so powerful wrong at this point in our history. Our job is to make sure the evidence exists.
What am I doing on a personal level? I’m doing two things. I’ve geolocated two locations in the state that are of critical importance and two locations that represent the unbridled corruption that is now commonplace in our government. Once these places pass the tipping point they will never return. I will document them NOW so a record exists of what was there and a record exists of what our politicians claimed was there or not there. And the consequences of their putting personal, financial gain over the greater good of the country. (As of a week ago, two New Mexico lakes are now closed due to toxic algae.) The second thing I will do is put these stories in print.
There is no hope for our current leadership but we can never allow history, or the families of the current regime, to forget what is happening. Good luck out there.
This is a great idea and one I will be taking further. As you know, I’ve been documenting but not posting. I’m certainly not as eloquent as you with words, but I do have a record of things I’m seeing. I am in total agreement about the belief of what we are as a country and the reality of what we are. They don’t jive and I can’t remember when they have, at least not in my lifetime. It’s the hypocrisy of this I find alienating. From personal experiences of a government not caring, to seeing it first hand and hearing it from those who have experienced it, I believe the country has lost its way. Hell, the entire world seems to have lost its way. So, I’ll join in the documenting of what is now for anyone who might care to see.
The Justice Department with Barr at the helm is entirely compromised. So, there isn’t anyone guarding the henhouse. The public seems fat and happy on Facebook digging into whatever ideology they profess. The trenches get deeper as denial becomes the norm. So, we do what we can do. We make the best work we possibly can and we let it sit as a witness to the transgressions of modern man.
One of the things I see now, compared to when I really started questioning the system, is that Barr and the current resident at Penn Ave. have no problem telling you they are going to fuck you over. I think they, and by they I mean the political machine in large part, have always known they were going to fuck you over but found ways to not say it out loud. But the current climate of politics is that there is no longer a pretense. And from here it will just get worse as you’ve have said in previous posts.
We were headed this way long before the current administrations run to power. But the line has been crossed now and there is no going back. I see a decided lack of ability to question any longer. I think it’s always been an issue, but. now, any comment to the contrary of whatever “side” you are speaking with will get you labeled and vilified. It’s not only the “right” or the “uneducated” or the … We’ve lost the ability to even have conversation.
While in a city, last week which will remain nameless because it could have been any city, any town, possibly any country, I watched a family of 4 sit at a table, and never stop looking at their phones, have a conversation with each other or interact in any meaningful way. They barely looked up to order. That is indicative of what seems like everything I feel is wrong and not working. Politics aside, the fact that a family can’t even put their phones down, on what was likely a vacation, seems the harbinger of bad, bad things to come. I can’t imagine what was more important on those devices.
I’ve been saying it for ten years. The Internet has totally and utterly screwed us all, and the primary pushers of this environment sit in front of Congress and smirk because they know there is too much money being made for anything serious to happen to them. The US government is as corrupt as any in the world, but we dress differently and we speak differently and you can’t say this publically because then they hide behind “That’s being anti-American.” Again, we do anything we can to avoid the truth to continue living in our little fabricated bubble.
Great post Dan and best of luck with this project – history will certainly judge us and we’ll need the photographic/written and artistic evidence from many citizens around the world to refute the forthcoming denial and blame game that will surely come from the global elite…
For myself, I often choose to make a political point within my artwork and keep written evidence in the same sketchbook of current political views.
On a cheerier note, I’ve been catching up on your vlogs and have thoroughly enjoyed them, any more in the pipeline?
Cheers and all the best – David.
Funny you should ask about Vlogs. Many more on the way. They will be a combination of things. Photography, outdoor, publishing, etc. Still much to work out but they are coming. And yes, the blame game happens the second there is a transition of power. The winner blames the loser and the loser blames the winner and their constituents do the same. We deserve this mess.
What stood out to me about this post, (and the last few actually), is the statement the coastal states think they are the majority, and the disconnect of people in general from the land (previous post). As a city-based neighbour north of the border, observing the political climate of the US, I think your observations about both these overall disconnects are true, and feeds into the politics of the county. This disconnect of Americans on the coast being in their own political world and those of middle America, and their opposing view points – can we blame the president for that? I don’t necessarily think so. Albeit he is not innocent of propagating rhetoric, and I am by no means defending him, the social and political climate of America was headed this way even before he stepped up to the presidential platform. The disconnection of humanity from one another, state-to-state, political party-to-party, ethnicity-to-ethnicity, city folk-to-country folk, and human-to-land, these relationships are the foundation upon which politics and ideas spring and form from. Ideas of government and governance form based on the lifestyle and connection one has to their environment, community, and the work of their own two hands (- my dual CDN/American citizenship partner who leans Libertarian would Iove me for saying that right now!). When people orbit in lifestyles so separated and foreign to one another, yet live under the same flag, they may not engage or listen to one another, and don’t know how to live harmoniously while have differing opinions. So if I may put my two cents in, I think it may a topic of interest to cover or document different people in your state, wherever they are politically, and maybe those who are trying to connect and learn from each other. I don’t know what the answer is, but people need to learn more about each other and about their connection (or lack thereof) to the land. Whether they will take the time to read it, and pull away from screens or get outside is another story!
Great comment. Much appreciate you taking the time to do this. I think there are several places to start. First, we must come to an agreement, all of us, that there exists something called the truth, and that there are facts on which we base this truth. The sky is blue, etc. We now live in what some are calling a “post-truth” world, which is what I was referring to when I said we like to invent a narrative and then convince ourselves it’s true. Second, we need to stop going online and we need to start talking to our neighbors. We need to continue to listen and to learn, but I fear we aren’t capable of this under the current climate. There is far too much ignorance and far too much hate. Finally, we need to accept the fact we are greedy, and for all the wrong things. The idea of a greater good should trump, no pun intended, self-glorification. Again, I don’t see us capable of this. Even mentioning this now labels the speaker as a “socialist.” I fear we will implode before we can begin to rebuild.
Amen to all of the above. Thank you for your voice and clarity. It’s disheartening to navigate this “post-truth” world, where the intention of supporting the greater good is lumped under socialism and self-glorification is king. I honestly think your fears of implosion may come to fruition – but if rebuilding is on the other side, I woefully and hopefully await for it.
Look at Toyota and Honda with airbag scandals. Wells Fargo with ongoing banking scandal. Look at all the financial groups who in 2006, 2007 knew they were building a system built to fail, and now look at the Justice Department with Barr at the helm. This is a deeply rooted issue of financial gain over the common good.
On a lighter note than my last entry, and because David mentioned the vlogs, (thanks David) I headed to the see what was there. You cracked me up, and left me with a smile on my face, which, if you read my last post you would know was desperately needed. I’m still trying to find some joy in the world, which may be a challenge at times, but is most certainly doable. You on your bike and letting us all know the packaged thing you were consuming was good, definitely qualifies as joy. Nicely done sir! And I’m on my bad decision of the evening… A tall vodka and more youtube… One must indulge on occasion.
Many more films on the way.
Your post = a worthy reminder. Got me thinking, as you so often do. We’re residing in said coastal town (near your former digs) but escaped for 2+ weeks recently to visit family in Detroit suburbs and then Des Moines, Iowa. Quite a few nuances shocked me (not in a good way), which seems to happen on every one of these annual Summer trips, and quite a few also brought a big smile to my face. Still processing…but made lots of photographs along the way, and now motivated to bring to print.
Separately, along with comments above, digging what you’re sharing on the video front. Thumbs-up.
Many more films on the way. Hopefully, they won’t fit any one specific genre.
Racism and bigotry in middle america is really interesting. and not something coastal people really grasp.
The conventional wisdom is that racism, of any stripe, is basically an unbridled hatred of every aspect of whatever the hated race is. If someone is racist, and they’re nice to a black guy, they’re just faking, the unbridled hate is there beneath the surface. Anyone who says n****r is someone who would cheerfully hang every black person in America.
While there is a lot of that, there’s a much more common strain of bigotry, it’s generalized but not personal.
“I hate fags!”
“What about Bill, ain’t he a fag?”
“Aww, Bill’s ok. I mean, I hate fags, but Bill’s a good guy!”
These are people who, in the end, don’t actually *hate* anyone in the sense that some East Coast academic thinks, they’re just uncomfortable with other groups, and they use the language of racism to express that discomfort. They’re not at all sure where they stand with blacks, gays, and some days they say “I hate.” They can vote for Obama one day (he’s black but he ain’t, you know, he ain’t a n*****r!) and Trump the next.
These are people who have lost a lot of faith.
One more little nugget: I am personally very cynical about it all; but deep down, I cannot help but believe that if, somehow, we elected the right people things would be OK. I suspect that many of the generationally screwed people of America are my exact opposite. On the outside they are un-cynical, and claim to think Trump (or whomever) is really going to set things right; but deep down, they cannot help but believe that it just doesn’t matter who gets elected. They’ve always gotten screwed, and they’re gonna keep getting screwed.
Well, I share the belief that we might be able to remedy our current culture, debate, issues, etc. I don’t see it happening until major change, just hoping that change comes in the form of peace.
Dan I think your “middle America” and the “coastal elites” are stereotypes which have never been true much like the stereotypes about the South. I moved to NC 4 years ago and I’ll tell you this, the South is not monolithic and never was. The “middle Americans” in my family mourn for a country that never was and certainly isn’t the current America. One major population move that’s gone totally ignored is that of the movement of people from the NE to the Triangle NC area. The de-industrialization of the US (as in the Midwest) has totally changed the geography of opportunity. It’s also been my experience that red or blue we are all disconnected to the America of now.
I grew up a Middle American, in both the Midwest and the West, and I just spent twenty-three years as a coastal elite. I believe these stereotypes are very accurate. At least in the sense, the coastal elites believe they run the country, and in the fact that many look down on the rest of the country. Being in Santa Fe is interesting as it perhaps the best example I’ve ever encountered in regard to a blend, or clash, of cultures. In a town so small you have the elite of elite mixed with the oldest European culture in the US as well as the Native American culture. This is a test case for America, and a history lesson we didn’t seem to learn the first time.