CANDIDATE McCain: We've been bothered by your support of and strategy for the Iraq war, but we're more troubled by your support for the domestic war your campaign has declared. That would be the culture war between small towns and big cities.

If you're hoping to win Pennsylvania, or at least this part of it, you should call for a cease-fire. For one thing, this isn't a war you can win. Not with 80 percent of the country's population living in metropolitan areas.

At the Republican convention and at rallies around the country, your running mate has been vocal about this division. She recently said: "We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hardworking, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans..."

It's easy to romanticize small towns, especially if you watch Turner Classic Movies. We can imagine the idea of a slower pace, a place where Andy Griffith greets Donna Reed each morning at the pie shop, where men join the volunteer fire department and the social highlight is going to the library.

Senator, you like to insist when you're bashing your opponent that you're just speaking the facts. So here are some facts:

Methamphetimine use, one of the country's top drug problems, is more prevalent among rural youth; according to research from the Rural Health Research & Policy Centers, youth adults in small rural areas use meth twice as much as their urban counterparts.

Rural America's youth have a serious substance-abuse problem when it comes to alcohol, too.

The highest birth rates among the unwed are in two states that have high rural populations, Mississippi and New Mexico.

Rural populations show a higher incidence of heart disease, respiratory disease, disability associated with chronic health conditions, and obesity.

Researchers are also concerned that child obes- ity is rising faster in rural communities in several states, including Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Michigan, West Virginia, and North Carolina.

Of course, cities have problems, too. But it's clear we contribute far more to the economy than our rural neighbors. According to the Brookings Insititution, the top 100 metropolitan areas are home to 68 percent of America's jobs and the origin of 75 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. Cities are less dependent on foreign oil, too, since so many of us take mass transit, or even walk to work. As for patriotism, well, guess where the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the Constitution Center live?

And that reminds us: Among the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson was famously not a big-city guy. But Ben Franklin — who, by the way, invented the library, and established the first volunteer fire department among other innovations — was a Philly guy, and he was also at home in London and Paris.

He also said that we must all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.

Think about that next time you dis our cities. *