Is nice Marin County an outlier or American ordinary? (In the nicest possible way.)

Heading into Marin County

For reasons I’ll explain shortly, I was kvelling to a friend about how wonderful Marin County is.  I then wrapped up by saying the Marin is an outlier, unlike the rest of America.  The moment the words were out of my mouth, it occurred to me that I’m probably wrong.  While Marin is an outlier economically, being one of the richest counties in America, the values I’m about to describe are American and it’s the large urban areas, the ones that fill the headlines, that are American outliers.

To begin at the beginning….

My son had a school project that required him to ask people to fill out a little survey.  Having exhausted the neighborhood without receiving a sufficient number of responses (most people are out of town for ski week, which is a wealthy community’s luxury vacation), he got permission at the local mall to set up a table.

I can only say that people were lovely.  Those that couldn’t, or didn’t want to, participate, were polite.  And those who did participate were delightful.  One parent, having taken the survey, returned home and immediately came back with seven children (her own and friends’ children) to help out.  I knew several of the people who came by, as well as some of the children whom I’d watched grow up over the years.  My overall sense was of a happy, healthy, highly functional little community.

Based upon my perception that I live in a very good community, I later remarked to my friend that we are lucky to live in Marin.  I added that it would have been impossible to complete this project in “other communities.”  My examples of “other communities” were Oakland and San Francisco — both highly urbanized areas.  My friend, however, who lives in one of Oregon’s bigger cities, remarked that, as long as you didn’t wander into one of the yuckier neighborhoods in her city, you could have done the same project in there too.

It was her remark that got me thinking about a little-mentioned American ethos — friendliness.  Or perhaps you could call it generosity of spirit.

As you all have gathered, I’ve traveled fairly extensively throughout Western Europe, parts of Central Europe, the Mediterranean, and some parts of Latin America.  I’ve sampled the Far East (my Japan trip) and spent meaningful amounts of time in Israel.  In every place in which I’ve traveled, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting nice people.  (Okay, not in Tunisia, but that was a few months into the Arab Spring, and the Tunisians were clearly a people on edge.)

Despite invariably having met pleasant individuals, I’ve never been a county, other than my own, that offers friendliness as a national hallmark.  In my travels abroad, I’m pleasantly surprised when I meet nice, friendly people.  At home, I’m equally surprised when I’m met with unfriendliness.

Part of this, of course, is the urban versus suburban or rural divide.  As a tourist, one tends to go to the capital cities (London, Rome, New York, Prague, etc.) and the nature of cities is that they are less friendly than smaller communities.  That is, unless you go to cities such as Dallas, Houston, or other Southern cities that still take pride in their manners.

Even cities that suck up a lot of headline space with violence horror stories tend to confine that icky behavior to specific neighborhoods.  I know that Chicago is right up there amongst America’s murder capitals, but when I was in downtown Chicago on a business trip a few years ago, people couldn’t have been nicer.  The same holds true for other major American cities, provided that one is able to overlook regional eccentricities.  For example, people in Boston were rigid, but friendly; people in New York, rude but friendly; and people in L.A. peculiar, but friendly.

We Americans are fully aware of how nice we are.  Or, rather, we’re aware that, barring certain urban environments (which are usually subsets of a larger, nicer urban area), we are nice, helpful, friendly people.  That’s why mass murders in suburbs upset us so much.  It’s not, as the race-mongers would have us believe, that we only care when white kids die.  It’s that we’re terribly aware that urban toxins are polluting our communities.  These toxins may not be factory smoke or ground-water pollution, but they are every bit as vile and dangerous.

So is Marin County an outlier because it’s nice?  No.  It’s an outlier because it’s affluent, but it’s niceness is quintessentially American.  That’s something worth remembering when we see headlines about shootings in Vegas or Chicago or Detroit.  Although those cities are strongly identified with America, they are behavioral outliers.  We’re nice more often than not.  (And no, I haven’t found a study to prove this.  I’m just basing it on having traveled extensively at home and abroad.)

Oh, one more thing.  You know those recently listed, incredibly miserable American cities?  Here’s a little chart identify something they all have in common:

Unhappy Democrat run cities

You don’t need to be a statistical genius to realize that there’s a strong correlation between Democrat politics (and many of these cities have been Democrat strongholds for decades) and unhappiness. I’m not going to make the effort now, but I’m willing to bet that one could find an equally strong correlation between crime-ridden, or unfriendly, cities and Democrat politics.

Honestly, you’d think that Republicans would figure out a campaign along the lines of “You’ve been miserable Democrats for decades. Try being a happy Republican.”

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  • Charles Martel

    Book, there’s a bit of irony here: Marin is the most heavily Democratic suburb in California, possibly the nation. Something approaching 75 percent of voters here voted for Obama last November.
    So, while it’s fair to say that most big cities run by Democrats are s**tholes, many of those same cities’ suburbs are swell places to live. Why? Because the modern Democrat elite—the credentialed upper-middle class—has learned the 21st-century version of resource extraction and exploitation that they love to rail at their straw-man robber-baron capitalists for doing. Most of the professionals in Marin County work at pursuits that depend upon the fruits of other people’s labor—banking, marketing, teaching, the law, social work. They do not produce tangible goods so much as preside over a transfer of wealth or power. If you are good at these things, and God knows Marin has some highly intelligent and proficient extractors, you can suck your mother city dry for decades.
    Thus you have a Marin only 10 miles from the cancer known as Richmond, or a Chevy Chase only five miles from the racist outhouse known as Washington, DC. Both suburbs are more than happy to send furrow-browed experts to the ghetto to wring their hands over the plight of their victim populations, then send invoices for compassionate services rendered. If you pad those invoices, you can make one sweet living.

  • Oldflyer

    Book, you have obviously not been to Fauquier County, Va.
    Oh, and it is overwhelmingly Republican.

  • Ymarsakar

    Martin, that’s weak sauce. DC has em beat by at least 93% to 3/4ths. And it’s closer to 99% in some cities for blacks.

  • JKB

    Legal Insurrection used some before and after images of Detroit to highlight the post about a Detroit blogger coming back on line.  
    The image of Detroit Central station long ago and after Detroit’s long occupation by modern Democrats 
    Reminded me of this blog post highlighting the rapid improvement in former East Germany after they threw off their socialist utopia
    The Biz of Life: East Germany Before and After Reunification

  • Charles Martel

    This thread got me to thinking about the progression people go through as they age and then finally die. The second-to-last stage for all of us is “young old,” that time, hopefully years long, where grey hair, crumbling teeth, restless sleep, and daily aches and pains are tolerable. We may creak and groan, but we can still walk around, enjoy our food and friends, and forget ourselves at those marvelous moments when something beautiful overwhelms us.
    But, the last stage is “old old,” when our bodies quit being game and, like the One Hoss Shay, everything goes to hell fast. In the space of a few weeks or months, we become terminally frail and then we’re gone.
    Rome was “young old” for a long time. Even though it remained an empire more out of habit than conviction, it was an attractive old bird. The barbarians who assaulted it did not do so to destroy it but to usurp its governance or to punish it for not, ironically, being Roman enough. Yes, there was some collateral damage, but the sinews and structure of the empire remained basically intact despite the strange Germanic accents of its new governors.
    But by the “old old” stage of the empire, the savages that now poured through to its heart were driven to white-hot anger that they could not possibly build or replicate what the Romans had erected—the aqueducts, roads, bridges, foundries, great public buildings. That anger drove them to do the only thing they could possibly do to assert their superiority over Rome: pillage, ransack, and destroy everything that reminded them of their vast inferiority.
    Detroit is “old old,” its vitality sapped over the years by barbarians who sucked it dry, partly to enrich themselves and partly to placate the savages they bribed to support their rule. Now that the city is a husk, and the elite parasites have abandoned it, the city is now open to final mindless destruction that a bitter and resentful population will bring upon it.
    It may be that the final collapse of Detroit will be a necessary thing. We conservatives can reason and patiently explain all we want the consequences of the left’s anger, greed, and envy, but our explanations remain yawn-inducing abstractions to most “low-information” voters. Better to be able to show the ruins of a once great city and say, “This didn’t have to happen. We know how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

  • Mike Devx

    Very nicely done, Charles!  And with a perfect closing line.

  • heartlander

    David Horowitz’s latest booklet, “Go for the Heart,” is a MUST-READ about precisely what you touch on in your last paragraph, Bookworm — that Republicans need to show people that Democrats are the real exploiters, the ones who are making our lives worse, the ones who most cruelly victimize those groups they’re always braying about helping — the poor, women, the middle class, minorities….
    Here’s an online version of the complete text:
    We need to get this text into the hands of every Republican activist/strategist/commentator in the country. Pronto. As Horowitz says, our opponents are already working on the next election — we need to be doing the same.

  • Ymarsakar

    The Left is evil in a way few can imagine. In so far as any wish to imagine it at all.