They infest the metropolises of the Left Coast and the Eastern Seaboard and they swarm the atolls-of-the-trendy in between…
You find them in Ann Arbor, Michigan… Austin, Texas… Boulder, Colorado… all the other places where the smell of pot is stronger than the smell of factory smoke, crop fertilizer, heavy equipment diesel fumes, or the sweat of hard work…
They know all about organic, sustainable, non-GMO, pesticide-free, fair-traded, locavore, artisanal, gluten-free, hypoallergenic, and vegan. But they don’t know hay from straw…
They are the “Coastals” – the enlightened, the progressive, the sensitive, the inclusive, the hip, the aware, the woke.
You can tell Coastals from “Heartlanders” the way you can tell…
- Theories from Practices
- Ideas from Actions
- Words from Deeds
- The Harvard football team from Alabama’s Crimson Tide
The defining feature of Coastals is that they know so much more than we do. (Ignoring, of course, Coastals feeding straw to the horse and trying to sip their Starbucks Cold Foam Cascara through a blade of hay.)
The Coastals know what’s good for us better than we do. They know what’s good for the whole world better than the whole world does. And the Coastals can prove it to you. It’s a bad old world, so the world must not know what the Coastals know or the world would be good. It’s not. Case closed.
Another defining feature of Coastals is that they care so much more than we do. They say to us, “Oh, sure, you care about climate change. But you only care because of lawn-watering restrictions. We really care. We care so much we quit using the toilet. And because we care so much more than you do we’re better people than you are. The world should be run by better people. Therefore, we can boss you around.”
A third defining feature of Coastals is that they are so much more successful than we are. We try to be righteous, and we almost always fail at it. They try to be self-righteous, and they succeed every time.
Being a Coastal or a Heartlander isn’t purely a matter of geography. Although it’s interesting to consider why Coastals dominate the coasts. Or some of the coasts. Coastals are scarce on the Gulf Coast, uncommon on the shores of the Great Lakes, and dominate the Atlantic Coast only as far south as Washington’s Virginia suburbs. Hawaii is both lower case c and capital C “Coastal.” While Alaska has lots of coast but is almost entirely Heartland.
The Pacific Coast can be explained by a saying we had in Ohio when I was growing up: “Every now and then the country gets tilted and everything that’s loose rolls out to California.”
As for New Yorkers, Bostonians, Washingtonians and their smarty-pants ilk… While the rest of the nation was engaged in Manifest Destiny and the Great Western Migration, maybe the Northeast simply missed the bus.
But there are lonely Heartlanders in Berkeley and isolated Coastals frantically seeking their “safe space” in Oklahoma City.
The Heartland/Costal divide does not fall along strict lines of political ideology either. Harry Truman was a Heartlander. Steve Bannon is so Coastal that he’s up to his furrowed brow in a know-it-all, scared stiff, self-righteousness rip tide.
Nor are ethnic, racial, gender, or sexual orientation “identities” determinative. Justice Scalia – Heartland. Sacco and Vanzetti – Coastal. Likewise: Colin Powell/Ta-Nehisi Coates, Geronimo/Elizabeth Warren, Nikki Haley/Elizabeth Warren, Peter Thiel/Rosie O’Donnell. Caitlyn Jenner is a Heartland Trump voter. Jeffrey Tambor is a fan of Coastal Obama.
Speaking of identity confusion, Trump is a Coastal pretending to be a Heartlander while Hillary Clinton is a lowly Heartlander full of lofty Coastal pretentions.
And, speaking of identity confusion, Trump is a Coastal pretending to be a Heartlander while Hillary Clinton is a lowly Heartlander full of lofty Coastal pretentions.
Coastals are not all kooks. Among the flakes there is an upper crust – crumbs that stick together.
Some sit atop the pie of finance. Heartlanders make money, but Coastals create money in their central banks, their opaque derivatives, and their cryptocurrency initial coin offerings.
Some coat the bread loaf of politics. The political Coastals are devoted to social justice – a large pile of benefits to be distributed to the Heartland many just as soon as the Coastal few have grabbed and horded a large pile of their own.
The political Coastals are enamored of world peace, although they’ve been to fancy schools and know the words of Tacitus about his own Roman Empire, “… make a desolation and call it peace.”
Yet not all Coastals are peace-mongers. It’s Coastals who send the U.S. military on fool’s errands to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria. It’s Heartlanders who join up.
The crux of the matter is not about Heartlanders being good and Coastals being evil. It’s about their respective ability to tell the difference.
Heartlanders get drunk and think they’ve become stupid. Coastals get stoned and think they’ve become brilliant.
This is similar to their respective judgment about intoxication. Heartlanders get drunk and think they’ve become stupid. Coastals get stoned and think they’ve become brilliant.
Heartlanders believe in applying common sense to the question of good and evil. Coastals believe in arguing about it.
To take a simple example of good, there’s the Bill of Rights. A Heartlander looks at the Bill of Rights and thinks, “It’s pretty good.” A Coastal has a beef (free-range and grass-fed, of course) with every one of the first 10 Amendments:
I. Free speech
Coastal: What if it makes college students cry?
II. Right to bear arms
Unless the guns are scary-looking.
III. No soldiers to be quartered in houses in time of peace
Does Airbnb count? Because Airbnb is contributing to the shortage of affordable housing in rapidly gentrifying inner cities and while I don’t advocate the quartering of soldiers per se, because that might be insensitive to anti-war homeowners, there are the homeless to be considered and…
IV. No unlawful search and seizure
Although in many ways Edward Snowden made important contributions to the goals of transparency in…
V. Protection against self-incrimination
Unless investigated by Robert Mueller.
VI. & VII. Right to jury trial
When not already found guilty in a New York Times editorial.
VIII. Prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment
Except reputational death by Twitter.
IX. Enumerated rights
Wait a minute! They left out the right to health care, the right to education, the right to a living wage, the right to…
X. “The Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
But… But… But so many of those states are in places like Oklahoma and so many of those people live in states like that and…
Which brings us back to knowing hay from straw. It turns out not to matter. Either hay or straw will do just fine to stuff in the mouth of a Coastal.