All Over the Map: USA
The most enlightened town in every state
Once upon a time, Americans seeking an enlightened place headed straight for Paris or Greenwich Village, San Francisco or Kathmandu. But recently the American landscape became more diverse: Seattle, for example, has emerged as a vital music capital, Vermont as a stronghold of progressive politics, Boulder as a center for Eastern religion. Now it’s possible to find innovative, culturally advanced towns all across the continent.
Alabama ~ Birmingham: A notorious racist past, now being mended by organizations like the Civil Rights Institute and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
Alaska ~ Homer: Home of National Public Radio commentator Tom Bodette, numerous artists, many environmentalists, a lot of fishermen, some fundamentalists—all friendly to one another.
Arizona ~ Bisbee: Six thousand people and six coffeehouses. Think Aspen or Sedona 30 years ago.
Arkansas ~ Fayetteville: Biscuits and gravy for breakfast, and a Danish-style ecovillage in the works. Go figure.
California ~ Arcata
Colorado ~ Boulder: Paradise—if you can afford a $250,000 house (the median selling price). Progressive politics. Mountains outside your door. . . . And, don’t forget, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.
Connecticut ~ New Haven: A real city with real problems beyond Yale’s Ivy walls, but also a willingness to work on them, as seen in the city’s pioneer efforts in community-oriented policing.
Delaware ~ Newark: In a state still ruled by DuPont, a relaxed college town that manages to escape the corporate cultural straitjacket.
Florida ~ Tampa: Ranked number two on Girlfriend magazine’s list of best lesbian places to live. Strong community organizing is bringing a progressive voice to local politics.
Georgia ~ Athens: A vibrant cultural life that goes beyond the famous rock band REM. Probably the largest number of live-music venues per capita in the country.
Hawaii ~ Kamuela: A tolerant, warm-hearted, multiracial community on the Big Island. Center of the renaissance in native Hawaiian culture.
Idaho ~ Boise: Friendly, walkable, green city, where bald eagles can sometimes be spotted within the city limits.
Illinois ~ Bloomington: Signs saying “Not in Our Town—No Racism” posted at every entrance to the city and on every municipal vehicle. The city sent a delegation to Mississippi to rebuild a burned black church.
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