Opinion

Roach: The Great Divide

The friction of the red state/blue state

In our new era of The F-5 President, it is tough to ponder any single issue too long. The words and actions fly through the air like the Wicked Witch of the East on her bike.

The chaos is too much to comprehend.

But there is one underlying condition that is clear: There is a divide between the citizens of our nation that the recent election brought to light.

The media shorthand for the split is Red State/Blue State, which infers voting patterns of Republican vs. Democrat. 

But the friction is more than that. It is the sense that there is a fundamental disrespect between these two Americas. 

At its most simplistic, I see our two tribes as Cubicle America and Truck America.

In Cubicle America you work inside, most often in bigger cities. Your job is to move cloud data from one place to another in the new information economy. The big crisis of the day comes when someone writes a pissy email. At the end of the day, you leave mentally dulled and physically unchallenged, never sure you got anything done. Your hands are always clean.

In Truck America you work outside, often in smaller towns. Your job is to get things done in a real, physical way. The big challenge might be weather, or a scaffold problem. At the end of the day, you can clearly see what you have done. Your hands are dirty.

The friction between these two clans is respect, or lack of it. Specifically, that Cubicle America doesn’t respect Truck America, and vice versa. I’d like to dispel that notion, at least for myself.

First, let it be known although I am part of Cubicle America, I worked in Truck America when I was young; three summers as a hired hand on a dairy farm, bailing and mowing hay and lugging 40-gallon milk pails to the cooler. I also worked delivering finishing hardware to construction sites, and keying locks, installing face and kick plates. I got pretty good on the farm, but was forever awful at construction.

The highlight of my Truck America life came on day one at the farm. I was 16. Tom, the farm’s owner, had me whack some big thistles with a scythe (yes, a scythe) in the morning. Around noon he asked me if I could drive a stick shift. I told him I could. He said, “Great. Take the tractor over to the gas tank and fill it up.” I dutifully ran the tractor, an awesome machine, over to the big tank. When I returned, Tom asked me how much gas it took. I told him I only had to top it off, maybe two quarts at the most. Tom nodded and said, “Where did you put the gas?” I pointed to the cap I had removed. He smiled and said, “That’s the radiator.”

Life took me away from Truck America, but it haunts and fascinates me still. Ten years ago, four guys from Cross Plains put a new deck on our house. I could not stop watching them. How they sketched out what they were going to do and then proceeded to do it filled me with absolute wonder and, at the same time, embarrassment. They had the skills, tools and confidence I have never had and never will. 

Their result was great carpentry. But it was also an absolute work of art.

I had the same experience when we built our little cabin in the woods. I visited the site regularly for three months, from framing to finishing. Near the cabin’s completion, the guys joked that they would let me pound the last nail, but would have paramedics standing by.

In this new, weird America, it troubles me that these men might think that I don’t respect them, as it does that they might not respect me for the skills I have.

But for all the angry, ugly words flying back and forth between our two worlds, Truck America needs to know: Your work intimidates me, and my respect is real.

How can one man not respect another when that man can do what you can’t?

Cynicism and snark is the furthest thing from my mind when I see guys do things I could never even try.

The Shouting Class wants us to think we have disdain for each other. I can’t speak for anyone else, but as far as I’m concerned, disdain is most times exactly the wrong word.

The right word? 

Envy. 


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