The Two Americas

Over the past few months, the New York Times has created a couple of different maps that portray their data-based take of our evolving country. In April, it was seven "mega-regions" (which more accurately predicted the breakdown of the presidential election than even that paper's own polling predictions); on Nov. 16, it was a pockmarked lower 48 and an expansive archipelago that represented the United States that voted for Trump and those Americans who voted for Hillary.

I recently moved from New York City to the San Francisco Bay area, within that archipelago. In New York, an eighth grade Dominican-American student asked me, "Ms. Schwartz, I don't understand why Donald Trump wants to make America great again. I think it's already pretty great." In Oakland after the election, my Mexican-American students asked me if they were going to get deported. My friends and family in California cried. My friends and family in New York cried. And I don't know one person (that I am aware of) who voted for Donald Trump. Not one.

In August, a good New York friend and I drove an American SUV across our nation's southern pockmarked lower 48 from one island of the archipelago to another. New York, Washington DC, Charlotte, Myrtle Beach, Atlanta, New Orleans, Austin, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and San Francisco felt vibrant. There was traffic, newly paved roads with speed cameras and cops pulling over speeders, busy shops, restaurants, and plenty of places to buy a $5 cup of coffee and $10+ cocktails. Locals we met in these places complained of expensive housing prices and talked about the vibrancy of their thriving economies that were driven by innovation. We had people to visit in each one of these cities.

Between these great cities, we saw empty shells of towns and small cities. We drove through southern towns (in states that went for Trump) that had empty storefronts in grand buildings, surrounded by large highways that led to the local big box stores. There were few police officers on the roads, let alone smoothly paved roads and speed cameras. It was difficult to find a cup of coffee at someplace that wasn't a chain store or a gas station. We knew no one in these places.

I don't know how children in the America outside of the archipelago are reacting to this election. This new America feels divided between fear and hope, regression to what used to feel safe and change. My hope is that over the next four years the children I am helping raise will be inspired to advocate for their rights, create change, and live peaceful, prosperous lives.