America is such a diverse country. The richness of our heritage and culture is manifested in our daily lives by the simple things. Driving across country it is clear that this is a nation not just of a large group of people, citizens, but of individual cultures.
I left Seattle for a drive across country this week. It is a city known for its IT industry, fishing, grunge rock, and in my opinion – mold. People in Seattle like to stay indoors which is why spending hours as a computer programmer or video game tester makes a lot of sense. It is culturally acceptable to rarely leave your home or your couch. When I say mold I am not kidding. It really is so rainy and damp there that mold is a regular problem in homes as condensation comes in through the windows. People’s clothes end up stinking and some just give up on washing their hair. You are more likely to see a Seattleite in faded jeans, REI boots, and a North-Face fleece then a suit and tie. People in Seattle love micro-brews and organic food. They stay home. They eat and they drink. It is part of the culture. Since they do spend so much time indoors it is natural for them to be philosophical about political and social issues with King County being known for its liberal leanings and tendencies toward social equality and change. When I have asked people in Seattle about politics most will give long, well thought out explanations on why they feel the way they do including who will suffer or benefit from a vote being cast a certain way. Most people in Seattle I have spoken with will speak about politics in the scope of overall culture or humanity.
Crossing over the mountains into Eastern Washington it is clear that the environment and social views change drastically. Cities, non stop suburbs, and traffic give way to rolling hills and open land with cities popping up intermittently. You will see more trucks on the road – driven by people wearing boots and hats rather than sedans and mini vans running the local carpool. Views also become more conservative which is good and bad.
Conservative values lean toward promoting family but they also tend to keep change away. Some change is good. For example Eastern Washington has a significant lack of diversity in the population. Diversity and change can cause social reforms that improve society. On that side of the state you are more likely to find people more concerned about deer hunting than social reform.
People I know in Eastern Washington seem to spend a significant amount of time with family and focused on their small and close knit community. They take issue with being forced to look at political issues on a statewide scale by their King County neighbor in the Western part of the state. They are more focused on what is happening in their own backyard. How do they improve health care, roadways, and schools in the Eastern part of the state rather than hearing about bridges being redone in Seattle. People in Eastern Washington normally live there because they like it. They work there, live there, and want their tax dollars to stay there.
The difference between Western and Eastern Washington is significant. The cultural mindset of the people is so drastically diverse. In Seattle you will find parades promoting gay rights. In Eastern Washington you keep your sexuality to yourself. It is personal business and not put on display. In Seattle people talk about what is happening across the world and their next international trip. In Spokane people consider going across the state to shop in Seattle as a major event and their version of the far off journey. The world seems much closer to people living in a larger international city where people living in small towns may only dream of taking adventures to far off places on the other side of the globe.
With difference such as these it is no wonder that people have a difficult time coming together on voting for important issues. On the ballet this November people throughout Washington State need to make important decisions on issues such as charter schools, same sex marriage, and state debt limits.
Ask Washingtonians their views on these issues and you will find them as diverse and varied as their lives. Those living in the city of Seattle and its nearby suburbs have a completely different lifestyle than someone living on a family farm in Eastern Washington. Same sex marriage is not a hot topic in Moses Lake but the state debt limit sure is. This same group of diverse people come together to vote on elected officials as well and it’s not just for who holds the title of Governor. The State Insurance Commissioner is one position that makes decisions impacting the entire state. Peoples views on what should and shouldn’t be covered, medical malpractice, liability coverage and the like are decided by one person looking at the issues of people that do not see eye to eye. Ask a medical malpractice attorney like the Gemma Law Firm and they will tell you that peoples view on medical malpractice legislation range from those wanting to hold doctors accountable to insurance companies that would rather not pay. Where the voters fall is somewhere in the middle.
This November will highlight the differences between the East and the West and what typically happens is that those in Eastern Washington end up being frustrated. At the end of the day it is a numbers game and the Western side of the state simply has a larger population. Will the state or the country be able to come together this November? Only time will tell…