In a time in which we are all struggling with divisiveness, I have used some of the time I might have spent watching the news or doomscrolling to look at some psychology. One of the things I came up with has to do simply with density. There are many differences between urban and rural lifestyles that explain, in an often obvious way, why people vote/protest/meme the way they do. It’s interesting how the suburbs generally wobble between them.
Here’s a difference between city and country mice. People who live in dense places tend to have a lot more government, and appreciate it more than they do in rural places, because they kinda need it. In the less dense areas, people are left much more to their own devices; there’s less government, which is spread more thinly, and it’s a lot less disruptive. Country Mice don’t need government as much because they desire and appreciate a self-sustaining lifestyle (so… Texas).
It’s really about rules. In 1900 Texas, there was enough room for every citizen to own 6.4 acres. Without accounting for livestock, there wasn’t much call for rules other than “Don’t come on my land uninvited.” No need for encyclopedic lawbooks because, as long as you follow that simple rule, there’s no trouble.
But, it’s as true in Texas as it is everywhere else, the larger and more dense a place becomes, the more law and enforcement is required to keep the peace. Let’s posit that 5 percent of the population don’t follow the rules. In a town of 5000, that’s 250 troublemakers that a handful of rules and lawmen can handle. In a city with 1 million people, that’s 50,000 problems, necessitating all kinds of justice that has to apply to all 1 million people.
A simple example, out there in a rural area, when you drive into town and see cousin Virgil, you pull into the turn lane and idle for a while to chat him up about the upcoming church social, without causing much problem. Or pull over right where you are, to park and head into the diner for a bit. No one needs to complain because you’re not blocking traffic, and, if the town is small enough, everyone knows it’s your truck so they’ll come find you if they want you to move it.
Maybe Officer Fife comes by and sees your truck sticking out too far in the road, but he knows everyone in town, is aware of your heart condition, and he doesn’t mind if you park close. He might look for you to make sure you’re doing okay, or just tell you to stop being a knucklehead and straighten out your truck. But that will likely be all. Nobody will be mad and you may not even get a ticket.
But then there’s cities. If you haven’t checked the hours on the signs, or the colors of the curbs, or the reserved spaces… and you’re wrong… your car will be booted or towed in minutes, and you’ll be facing huge fines. Plus, if you get mouthy about it with an officer, who had to do this 26 times today already, you might be in for a ride to the city hotel.
Why? Because in a big city, parking your car in the middle of the street causes a traffic problem, truly inconveniences a lot of people, makes them late for their job in adjacent high rise, and really does cause a public safety issue. Everyone is angry because, in a city with a million people, what are the odds that something like that doesn’t happen every. single. day. But, still entirely untrue in our hypothetical Mayberry.
Being a Suburb Mouse lies somewhere between. We live here because we don’t like traffic, high prices, and literally rubbing shoulders with strangers all day. But we’re also not quite ready to kill and skin our own dinner every night. Yes, I’m being hyperbolic, but with all the looming arguments about the importance of the electoral college, I think it’s important to recognize why all those blue blobs on the map are nearly always in places with beltways and skylines.
Just puttin’ on a little understanding is all. Y’all come back now…