I believe we should form a line of people, all holding hands, stretched out from Miami to Maine. Imagine how many people it would take, this hands-across-the-Mason-Dixon. A Southerner might talk cheerily to the next person, commenting on the heat and issuing invitations for tea. A pleasant but curt Northerner might wonder whether or not the person extending their hand had a criminal record or a respiratory infection. Somewhere in the middle, a New Yorker might feel uneasy because there are so many available cabs with all of these people otherwise occupied. Still he would participate with enthusiasm and style, as New Yorkers always do.
How many “divisions”, if any, would this line have? Would there be some point at which cultural differences would be apparent? Some place where North and South stand in bold contrast, personifying the distinction? Would there be an alligator wrestler holding the hand of the CEO of L.L. Bean? Or would the change be more subtle, perhaps with some heated discussion of the Civil War petering down to a whisper just outside of Philly?
Would the people closer to the middle be more centered politically? Would someone start a wave in Fort Lauderdale only to have it dissipate in Boston and blame it on the Big Dig?
Might the line attempt a game of telephone, with someone in Jacksonville trying to send a message to relatives in Brooklyn? The message would go from, “How y’all doin’” to “How are yoos guys” if it were to make it at all. Personally, I think someone in the Carolinas would get bored and spice it up a bit. That happens in the Carolinas. Just look at all of those “South of the Border” signs.
Yes, I know all about the Hands Across America in 1986. That line went from East to West and was not entirely successful. It was more of a dotted line. And wouldn’t it be more interesting to have North and South in the same line rather than East and West? I suppose throwing Iowa into the mix does make things interesting but those states didn’t fight a civil war. And so many people who used to live in New York City now live in California—Boring!
I believe we could make this line happen, though it’s difficult to articulate why. We’re all in the same time zone here on the East Coast so when Barbara in Baltimore is ready to call it a day, chances are good that Helen in Hartford is feeling similarly. I believe this line would illustrate our similarities more than our differences—a literal and metaphorical bridge. We could discuss the war in Iraq and conspire to vote for a write-in candidate next time. We could agree to let just one person buy a lottery ticket in the tri-state area next week, as well as exchange favorite recipes. We could create a spectacle, a show of solidarity. It would just take a day. Line up, people. Line up!
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