I should hope that it is generally agreed among most Americans that the states in the United States are far too numerous. 50, to be sure, is a nice round number, and gives our flag a vague if tenuous sense of aesthetic composure; but looking at all the states laid out on a map gives one a different sense of, I want to say, confoundedness with unease simmering just below the surface. The American starts to question things he or she had been taught to be unquestionable. Why, for instance, are their two Carolinas? Or two Dakotas? Why must a chunk of Virginia be so distinguished from the rest? How much difference is there between Washington State and Oregon, really? Why is there a Delaware at all?
Though if one were to ask these questions aloud, and in the aforementioned states, one may get a few definite answers. Or rather, one would get vague answers enshrouded in romantic overtures that verge on holiness. Of course North Carolina and South Carolina are distinct! cries the Carolinian. Significant daylight separates the vibrancy of Charlottesville from the dismalness of Charleston; Perhaps the plains of the Dakotas are all Greek to you, my friend. But give me the fertile, rich plains of North Dakota over South Dakota’s arid tundra any day; Delaware is neat!
In an era when America’s most profound divisions are more complicated than its legal borders, the issue of states appears increasingly meaningless and burdensome. It produces a sort of pettiness to which I, a sagacious and disinterested fellow in most things, am not even immune. I can’t say that there’s anything about New Jersey that makes it terribly distinct other than it is a fucking expensive place to live. Still, the temptation to give it some manner of preeminence among the 50 is a real one. I find that this intensifies amid my neighbors, about whom nothing charitable can be said. Pennsylvanians are childishly dimwitted, Massholes are oafish clowns, New Yorkers are maniacal snobs, upstate New Yorkers are cripplingly depressed, Connecticans are demonic sweet potatoes dressed in human costumes. And I can guarantee that each denizen of these states may have said similar things about mine.
But all of this is foolish! Not because it is too mean, but because it is misdirected. Why should we kneecap ourselves with petty provincialism when acting as a region in unison we may find the greatest remedy to wider ills?
I have been a northerner all my life. If you want to get specific, I have been a greater New York metro area-er all my life. But even if anyone who met me for the first time had not been privy to that specificity, they would nonetheless be resolute in deducing my more general area of origin. Few can mistake my air of cosmopolitanism that shuns no corner of the world’s cultures, my flow of erudition that, even had I been as dumb as rocks, would move no less gracefully through my dullest interests, or my glow of arrogance convincing me that any one of these traits more than makes up the differences of any personal fault.
Any idiot can be cosmopolitan, erudite, and arrogant, of course, but no other region of the United States claims these traits as first principles. Indeed, for anyone not part of the northern United States, these are identifiable as both genuine quirks and convenient masks of grimmer attributes. The non-northerner might detect an aloofness of demeanor and an abruptness of manner, as if friendliness and cheer were forever surplus to requirements.
Spend enough time with a northerner, the non-northerner might come to see him or her as possessed of a psychological vampirism that becomes more and more literal with each encounter. It is a matter of time before the non-northerner realizes that they only ever see the northerner at night, in solitude, and imbibing a deep red beverage.
Soon a more complete picture comes into view. The northerner wakes up every morning with but one thought: What can I exploit today? The answer invariably turns out to be: Oh yeah! Everything and anything within my reptilian reach. There is something of the animal to the northerner. For all of his or her culture there is a base appetite that forbids such human niceties as nuance or decency. Something works or it doesn’t; something is useful or it is useless. The Pilgrim’s Progress finds itself replaced in favor of the Pillager’s Pragmatism. There is, at the end of the day, neither love nor joy in the heart of the northerner, if indeed there is anything properly recognized as a heart giving the northerner life.
Yet even these darker attributes are just additional masks to conceal the depthless reserve of disdain the northerner holds toward the other regions.
If the northerner might deign to set foot outside his or her comfortable confines, he or she is possibly prone to find any new atmosphere not entirely desirable. If, say, the northerner goes southward, he or she would be disinclined to appreciate their simplistic warmth, their communal intimacy, their rugged self-sufficiency, and their deeply rooted authentic worldview. If the northerner traipses to the vast middle section, he or she may be somewhat put off by their simplistic warmth, their communal intimacy, their rugged self-sufficiency, and their deeply rooted authentic worldview. And reaching to the farthest western part of the continent, the northerner finds minimal enthusiasm for its people’s simplistic warmth, their communal intimacy, their rugged self-sufficiency, and their deeply rooted authentic worldview.
Such assertions call for some response. That northerners are arrogant, aloof, pragmatic in the extreme, and a bit vampiric is not to be disputed. Non-northerners have assessed the substance of the northerner’s character with admirable precision. They do, however, err in assessing the style. To say that northerners do not love is not quite correct. We northerners are boundless with love; it is rather in how we express it that gets understandably lost in translation. Exploitation is a form of love. It may even be among the highest forms of love: love of utility. When we seek to exploit someone or something we never do it out of indifference. Indeed, we are ever respectful of the vessels by which we extract our resources. Though it is a very temporary relationship, to have never had it at all would be of great distress to us.
That we are joyless is also misunderstood. Perhaps the non-northerner has seen us without joy, I can only assume that the non-northerner was feeling or acting in a state of freedom not to the northerner’s liking. That we seek to dominate the other regions is without question; that we are exhilarated by the act of dominance is not as appreciated. A world governed by the rawest capitalism, an aristocracy of opportunity, seems to the outsider one possessed only by cynicism and rage. Not the case, I can assure you!
Which brings me to the final charge of regional disdain. We have not overlooked the other regions’ expressions of “local culture,” though it’s more a source of amusement than outright disdain. These, we find, are basically plausible masks of their own, for each region’s darker proclivities. Lift them away and one is bound to discover the South’s own manner of exploitation, the Midwest’s own stoicism, and the South and Pacific West’s own brute pragmatism. We begrudge none of this. In fact we welcome it. Their existence and their more or less clever concealment bring each region nearer the embrace of their unquestioned overseer.
To dominate each region of the United States is not just a pleasure of the north, but an imperative. As we make no bones about our basic attitudes, and find them most amenable to running a state, it is only sensible that we be given the reins to do so. We’ve done it before, it was quite a hoot, and it proved us as capable administrators. One could say that we have taken them anew this time around.
I have to say that I was quite disappointed to see Anthony Scaramucci and Hope Hicks depart from the White House in the past year. It deferred what could have otherwise been the great bridge-and-tunnel Camelot that no one asked for but which congealed into place with little outward direction. What they actually did I have no idea, I don’t suspect anyone does anything over there save three or four Californians, powered by cereal bowls of Zoloft and Pepto-Bismol — or whatever it is they consume to get themselves through life.
Please forgive me if some of this comes across as triumphal. I mean no such thing. Does this order complement God’s universal design? I couldn’t possibly say. But this is the bed we have made, and in which we must sleep to maintain the balance of our civic polyamory.
And let it not be denied that we have learned from our past mistakes. Even the north is humbled by potholes on the highway of history. If any one region is so distressed by this arrangement to the point that it really must extract itself for an extended period, well, we can do little else but allow it. But please, if it must, permit us at least the courtesy of showing it the door.