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Forget Politics, Here Are 10 Things That Really Divide Americans

Americans aren't as divided over politics as the pundits say. But they disagree on everything else.

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9. Talk Radio

 

As a host of my own  drive-time talk radio show in one of America’s biggest markets, I’ve learned a big (and lamentable) lesson: There are almost no casual talk radio listeners. Either you see your radio as an instrument of spoken-word information (and, sadly when it comes to some shows, misinformation), or you see your radio as an instrument of musical entertainment.

Now it’s certainly true the nation of talk radio listeners is diverse. Some are into conservative political fire-breathing, some are into liberal political bomb-throwing, some are into straight news, some are into long-form NPR-style chitchat, and still others are into comedic podcasts. In fact, more and more are manic flippers, whipping through their presets and podcasts at a moment’s notice. But by and large, if you are a talk radio listener, you’re not listening to a lot of music through your radio.

The same holds true for the other side of the divide. The sound of the spoken word coming out of a radio speaker is like fingernails on a chalkboard to you — you tend to flip away from it as fast as you can.

How do we know this is a real divide in America? The next time you are at a party listen to the conversation. Someone will inevitably mention something they heard on a talk radio show (in liberal circles, it’s usually something someone heard on NPR’s “Fresh Air” that makes that person feel smart and superior; in conservative circles it’s usually something someone heard on “The Rush Limbaugh Show” that makes that person feel angry and aggrieved). Watch the expression on others’ faces: The people who nod along or have something informed to say in response are citizens of Talk Radio Nation. The people who look utterly perplexed or bored are citizens of Music Nation.

And here’s the thing — almost nobody is a dual citizen.

10. New York Yankees

 

I grew up in the Philadelphia area — a place where from 1984 to 2007, four major professional sports franchises failed to deliver a single championship trophy. That’s 92 professional sports seasons of being the underdog. I also attended Northwestern University, whose football team last won the Rose Bowl in 1949. So with such an underdog spirit so deeply embedded in my personal sports-fan heritage, I’ve never understood how anyone can root for a team like the New York Yankees — a franchise whose money, fame and geographic location have given it all the unfair privileges of permanent and perpetual front-runner.

By definition, then, I am on the hater side of the Yankees divide — a side that sees the Yankees as akin to the Empire from “Star Wars,” but even worse. The Empire was at least quiet and aloof in its planet-vaporizing dominance — the Yankees and their fans are ostentatious and gloating, always sure to let everyone know just how great they are (and I’m sure if I even whispered any of this criticism at a New York sports bar, I’d to go the way of Alderaan at the hands of Yankee fans’ Death Star-grade vitriol).

Clearly, this divide between Yankee haters and Yankee supporters is the biggest divide in all of sports, and its intensity is almost certainly a proxy for a larger conflict over New York City itself.

Whether expressed in television shows (“Sex and the City,” “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” etc.), movies (Woody Allen flicks, romantic comedies, etc.), “national” news programs (notice most of them are not “national” — they are in New York and filled with New York guests) or in person-to-person conversations, New Yorkers seem to feel the need to let everyone know just how awesome the Big Apple is, and how it’s obvious — so obvious! — that the city is the true center of the universe. Meanwhile, outside of New York, there’s a large transpartisan swath of America that can’t stand New York and everything it’s come to epitomize, from Wall Street greed, to Upper West Side elitism, to nauseating ostentation everywhere else in between.

 
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