Monday, November 14, 2016

No Excuses

Prior to moving to Rochester from the New York City vicinity, I was asked if Rochester is diverse.  On the surface, the diversity of Rochester does not compare to New York City, which is seemingly home to residents from nearly every country across the globe.  However, upon further review, Rochester brings a different kind of diversity to the table.  Existing side-by-side are the Northeast with the Rust Belt, the densely urban with the classically rural, and the die-hard environmentalism linked to fresh water with the vehement conservatism linked to overregulation.  As such, Rochester is immensely diverse.  And given the ease of navigating the metro area (for most of us), we have very few, if any, excuses for not trying to appreciate and understand citizens that may not look exactly like, think exactly like, and/or live exactly like us.  In the current divisive post-election times, our ability in Rochester to understand all angles arguably surpasses that of less balanced regions.  Here is one person's take:

  • As a brown guy, I can't say that I'm particularly excited about the sudden appearance of swastikas.  On the other hand, attributing Donald Trump's victory to racism is ludicrous.  Several of my brown family members (myself excluded) eagerly voted for Trump.  Similarly, many predominantly white working-class and/or rural counties that voted for Trump actually voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.  Not far from Rochester, Seneca County, Cayuga County, Oswego County, Madison County, Cortland County, Broome County, and Ostego County all voted for Obama in 2012.  In 2016, all seven counties voted for Trump.  Did the residents of these counties suddenly become racist? Highly doubtful.
  • To divide America into rural and urban America may be equally simplistic.  As above, many regional rural counties gladly voted for Obama in 2012.  Furthermore, America's most densely populated state, New Jersey, saw nine of its twenty-one counties vote for Trump.
  • Finally, explaining this outcome as a vote of the college educated versus the high school educated is just as condensed a version as any.  Some of the staunchest conservatives this country knows have been educated at the country's most elite institutions of higher learning.  A few examples include:
  1. Laura Ingraham.  The conservative radio show host is a graduate of Dartmouth College.  Interestingly, she hails from Connecticut, which is generally a dark blue state.
  2. Ted Cruz.  The ultraconservative senator from Texas is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. 
  3. Clarence Thomas.  The conservative Supreme Court justice is a graduate of Yale Law School.  He also happens to be African-American.
  4. Ann Coulter.  The conservative political commentator is a graduate of nearby Cornell University.  Neither Ithaca nor Coulter's native New York City are known for conservatism.

America is complicated, and simple answers do not exist.  As Rochesterians, we are perfectly situated to have this realization.  As history has shown, we will rise to the challenge.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Mercifully, the current election cycle is coming to a close (hopefully).  Through the pain and the chaos, the only safe conclusion is that the world is complicated.  And in an odd way, Americans must be drawn to this complexity.

Bringing it back to Rochester (as this blog always does), complexity is one of our surprising, yet defining features.  Despite being one-tenth the size of the Chicago metropolitan area and one-twentieth the size of the New York City metropolitan area, Rochester has depth, and with it the ability to match the entanglement of larger competitors.

In keeping with the election theme, here are just a handful of (some ridiculous) preconceived groups targeted by political pundits, none of which are unique to Rochester, but all of which have a solid representation within a 30-mile radius of downtown:

  • The coastal elite types
  • The middle America working-class types
  • Muslim refugees
  • Non-Muslim refugees
  • Regular Muslims (like the ones who are doctors, teachers, and lawyers)
  • Legal immigrants
  • Illegal immigrants
  • People who look like immigrants but were born in the U.S.
  • The urban types
  • The middle-of-nowhere types
  • The Coexist bumper sticker on a Toyota Prius types
  • The Confederate flag on a massive pickup truck types
  • The church types
  • The atheist types
  • Mexicans
  • Non-Mexicans
  • Hispanics who aren't Mexican
  • Mexicans who aren't Hispanic (that may not be a thing)
  • Non-Hispanic Spanish Speakers
  • Women
  • Men