One look at a political map of the outcome of the election of 2016 (and now 2020), will reveal that there is a sharp political divide between city voters and rural voters on both the state and national levels. Rural areas are the stronghold of the Republican Party, and the densely populated cities are the stronghold of the Democratic Party.

Who stands to gain by this political divisiveness? Is this divisiveness something that we, the people of Minnesota, want for ourselves? Is this divisiveness something that serves the public interest, the common good?

If not, then why does it exist? If not, then why isn’t ending it a priority for both political parties? Who stands to gain from a state divided against itself, and who would lose if suddenly that divisiveness vanished?

I grew up in a southern suburb of St. Paul. My wife and I lived in rural Pine County for 28 years, and we have lived in a northern suburb of the Twin Cities for 15 years.

In all that time, not once have I heard someone in the cities calling people who live in the rural areas “stupid,” or some similar disparaging label. To the contrary! Some of the best memories that people who live in the cities have involve lake cabins, wandering in the North Woods, biking, camping, snowmobiling and ice fishing in our rural areas. Many city dwellers view the rural areas with such high regard that they want to retire there.

During the 28 years I lived in rural Minnesota, prejudicial, disparaging remarks about the people who live in the Twin Cities were frequent and common, especially around the time of hunting season. I would hear the term “Citiot” (city idiot) used on a regular basis.

People would tell me with sincere intent that I was foolish to go to the Twin Cities without a gun. Drive on the freeways in the cities? If there was one thing that people would consistently use to prove to me (to themselves) that the people who live in the Twin Cities are crazy and stupid, it’s the way that people drive on the freeways. For them, if a person makes the freewill choice to live in the cities instead of the country, they have to be stupid and crazy.

An effort to prevent further divisiveness and to decrease the gap in the city-rural divide by unconventional means would begin by asking the people in the rural areas a relevant question: What do the people who live in the Twin Cities need to do to gain the acceptance of the people who live in rural areas? This is a question that needs to be answered by the people who live in rural Minnesota, not by the Republican Party of Minnesota. Just caring enough to ask the question is itself a part of the solution.

Government officials should be asking the people of Minnesota, especially people in rural Minnesota, to generate solutions for the city-rural divide. They should be offering money and public recognition as a reward for their best constructive solutions.

No doubt solutions like commercially feasible city education bus tours (after the pandemic) offered to rural folk suffering from cabin fever would emerge. Likewise, rural educational bus tours offered to city folk who are willing to get their hands dirty in the process of learning about farming and agribusiness could and should emerge too. Perhaps our state legislators should be the first customers on the buses.

These are the kinds of solutions that emerge when people work the solutions instead of working the problems. We are only several decades overdue to begin before our problems overwhelm us.

 

John Mattsen, of New Brighton, is a retired federal law enforcement officer.