At 500 miles across and rapidly approaching 10 million residents, it is very tempting (and somewhat popular) to think of North Carolina in terms of distinct regions that are defined by any number of divisive characteristics, from geography to dialect to college athletics to the ever-popular East-vs-West barbeque debate. Many North Carolinians embrace these differences and metaphorically wear them as badges of honor or form complex identities from them that can seem like a foreign language to outsiders.
My job often requires me to travel all over the state–this past year alone from Clay County in the far West to New Hanover in the Southeast–but, as much as I, like any good North Carolinian worth his weight in boiled peanuts, give lip service to the notion that the state is defined by its distinct differences, I am becoming more aware with each road trip of the things that tie us together. I am also becoming more aware of how important it is for us in a quickly-fragmenting world to find ways to not only acknowledge but also honor these ties.
There are countless magazines and books and websites and blogs that help us define what makes us different. In the coming months, I plan to spend time traveling across our state in search of those things that can bring us together as North Carolinians.
Check back in a few weeks. The first drive across North Carolina starts on August 7th.
Esse quam videri.