What a Red State native learned from a year of living in the D.C. Metro
Red State natives like myself have a lot of ideas about those bastions of East Coast liberalism that are spread up and down the I-95 corridor. Often they are informed by conservative news outlets that regularly trumpet headlines designed to generate clicks, ad dollars, and increase the “us versus them” mindset that has become so common across the United States. With all these ideas swirling through my mind, it was not without a bit of apprehension that my family moved to the Washington D.C. Metro.
Imagine my surprise when I got there and discovered that there was actually a lot that I really loved. In fact, there were things that made living there superior to my experiences living in large Red State metros like Dallas-Fort Worth. I quickly discovered that instead of focusing on the differences between Red State America and Blue State America, to focus on those positive aspects of calling the Washington D.C. area home.
Here are a few of the lessons I learned from a year of living in a major city in a Blue State:
- Public transportation is not the work of Satan. For 12 glorious months I hardly had to drive my car. I put two tanks of gas in the car because I was able to use the Metro to where I needed. A short walk across the street got me to the nearest Metro station and then about 25 minutes brought me to my stop where I got off and another short walk brought me to my office. Not only that, but the Metro allowed my family to make trips into D.C. proper without having to fight traffic or hunt for parking. Sure, the trains got super crowded during rush hour but we always managed. We often had our double jogging stroller with us and people always made room for us and our crew of kids.
- The parks don’t look like something from a Fallout game. If you’ve spent a lot of time in major Red State cities, it’s the nice parks that tend to be the exception. Well, where we lived the public parks were fantastic. Around the D.C. area, there is a high value placed on well kept green spaces as places to escape from the long stretches of steel and concrete. In our neighborhood alone there were two nice parks within an easy walk of our house. Since living space is at a premium and yards tend to be smaller or non-existent, parks are wonderful places to spend time and it was normal to see them packed with kids and their parents, joggers, walkers, pets, and tai chi groups. And it’s not just the playground equipment that is well kept. There are running trails, tennis courts, dog areas, and other amenities available at many of the parks.
- Driving on the roads is not an exciting game of “Dodge The Pothole!” Seriously, drive through Oklahoma City sometime. You’ll need new suspension on your car by the time you get through the city. The streets we drove on regularly were well kept with potholes and imperfections repaired quickly. The freeways, on those thankfully rare times we had to drive on them, were largely free of bone crunching holes. Now, I know this is not the case everywhere. A trip to Philadelphia revealed a lot of bad roads in and around the city, but our experience with roads in the D.C. Metro is that they were generally kept in much better shape than what we had experienced in places like Oklahoma City, Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, and Wichita.
- Multiculturalism is not a four letter word. One of my favorite things about living in the D.C. Metro was the incredible melting pot of people that called the area home. When we would take our kids to the playground, it was not at all unusual to hear a half-dozen different languages as parents called out to their kids or socialized around the edges of the playground equipment. There tends to be more acceptance and integration and less wariness and segregation of people who look or sound different versus some Red State cities. I also loved that our church was culturally diverse too. Sundays are often called the most segregated day of the week but we experienced a church that was truly multicultural and our family benefited because of that experience. There is something special to seeing kids playing together on the playground without all the racial and cultural baggage that so many of us carry around in adulthood. There is something special about seeing families gathering for worship from different cultures but united around a common faith.
We’ve since moved back to a Red State but my Blue State experience was eye-opening and incredibly positive. It makes a big difference when you actually experience life in a Blue State versus hearing all the hysterics perpetuated in the media. Perhaps we would all do well to give our Red State and Blue State neighbors the benefit of the doubt rather than buying into the narratives being fed us in the media. In the end, we are all people trying to make our way in the world the best we can and we all have things we can learn from each other.