In California, whether farms receive contracted irrigation water, whether a billion board feet of burned timber will be salvaged from the recent Sierra Nevada forest fires, whether a high-speed-rail project obliterates thousands of acres of ancestral farms, whether gas will be fracked, or whether granite should be mined to make tony kitchen counters is all determined largely by coastal elites who take these plentiful resources for granted. Rarely, however, do they see how their own necessities are procured. Instead, they feel deeply ambivalent about the grubbier people and culture that made them.
In Kansas or Utah, people do not pay $1,000 per square foot for their homes as they do on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They do not gossip with the people who write their tax laws, as is common in the Georgetown area of Washington. Those in the empty northern third of California do not see Facebook or Oracle founders at the local Starbucks any more than they bump into the Kardashians at a hip bistro.
The problem is not just that the coasts determine how everyone else is to lead their lives, but that those living in our elite corridors have no idea about how life is lived just a short distance away in the interior -- much less about the sometimes tragic consequences of their own therapeutic ideology on the distant, less influential majority.
In a fantasy world, I would move Washington, D.C., to Kansas City, Missouri. That transfer would not only make the capital more accessible to the American people and equalize travel requirements for our legislators, but also expose an out-of-touch government to a reality outside its Beltway.
I would transfer the United Nations to Salt Lake City, where foreign diplomats would live in a different sort of cocoon.
I would ask billionaires like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the Koch Brothers to endow with their riches a few Midwestern or Southern universities. Perhaps we could create a new Ivy League in the nation's center.
I would suggest to Facebook and Apple that they relocate operations to North Dakota to expose their geeky entrepreneurs to those who drive trucks and plow snow. Who knows -- they might be able to afford a house, get married before 35, and have three rather than zero kids.
America is said to be divided by red and blue states, rich and poor, white and non-white, Christian and non-Christian, old and new.
I think the real divide is between those who make our decisions on the coasts and the anonymous others who live with the consequences somewhere else.