A while back there did not appear to be such a chasm between rural hometown and central city. Maybe my memory is playing tricks, but the separation between the countryside hometown and the city had more transition and gentle ambiguity. There were “city slickers” and “country folks” but we were connected as Americans.
We were Americans
We were all Americans and we could all hope, develop, and grow together. Things have changed and suspicion and even hard feelings are manifest. The New York Times took the subject up in a recent opinion piece, and they found certain verities we should all consider.
On a Sunday recently, my wife received a call from someone who wanted information as to where their property might be located. My wife and I piled into the car and met them at the real estate office. Using the internet, we were able to provide the information they needed. They could easily find their property using it.
Living in A Hometown
The interaction was interesting. The real estate office is in a former Southern Oregon logging community of about 1,000 folks. It is a hometown for many generations. It has few services except a tractor company, a bar, convenience store, gas station, post office, book-keeping office, elementary school, churches and a branch library.
The visitors were from a wealthy Los Angeles suburb. The discussion was cordial, but the fellow said to me, “I guess you think we are city slickers.”
We Are Different
I wasn’t sure exactly how to respond. We didn’t ask and received no compensation for our efforts but provided it on a Sunday in neighborliness. That is the way it is in small town real estate. There was nevertheless a barrier in our meeting. They talked brightly and even cajoled for the information, but the projection was – we are different.
Last week, I read the article above, and it helped me understand the gulf that is developing.
Different Experience between Hometown And City
What are presented as great achievements nationally, may be seen differently in hometown. Heralded legislative advances and the copious administrative rule-making that normally follows seem in many cases to become for hometown folks more rabbit holes and petty bureaucratic power plays in their implementation. I have seen this particularly with agencies such as Fish and Wildlife and resource managers such as the Forest Service and BLM and also in banking with the prodigious rule-making of Dodd Frank.
There is a general sense that hometown is entirely outside the decision-making circle and what is new is imposed upon us. We have certain constants, and many are under attack. A common area for this narrative is the ability to retain our firearms. The central city and “liberal elite” always seems to be sponsoring initiatives to increase regulatory hurdles, limit them, or potentially take them away. They are completely disconnected to living where law enforcement may be half an hour or more away.
Bring Us Together
Nothing seems to bring us together. We no longer have a military draft that melds people from all areas and cultures under duress. Educational experiences do not appear to offer cultural mixing, but are a foyer at the beginning of a path to “elite” status and alienation from hometown.
When I read the article, I was motiviated and wrote a comment to the NYT. About 5 folks identified with it – a small number. In any case, I want to present an edited version.
This opinion piece in the New York Times is well stated. The essay articulately summarizes modern American Democratic politics. I strive to embrace many of the values of a JFK Democrat but am reluctant to accept the path forward endorsed by the modern Democratic party and do not trust it. It appears to have little tolerance for ways of life outside its central city headquarters. It has little loyalty.
The modernity it embraces often seems to be that of Robespierre. We feel exclusion, dismissal and a constant righteous indignation from within the walls of the central cities. I pine for embracing modernity in the spirit of problem-solving and being taken seriously and respectfully as a denizen of a rural community bearing the brunt of many “liberal” environmental and safety initiatives.
The party can heal itself, but it needs to understand and act on rural needs from a rural perspectives. They need to chart a path forward inclusive of all Americans.
Recently it has not done the heavy lifting, it only appears to engage those who resonate an intolerant, narrow perspective of American value. With less observance of due process and respectful inclusion in Democratic party practice, my fear is that eventually a righteous central city can ignore others and impose whatever they wish because they claim it is good for us. For many it could be a perfect tyranny — an evolution to Napoleon.
Steven Pinker a Harvard University Professor states in the NYT,
Progress always must fight headwinds. Human nature doesn’t change, and the appeal of regressive impulses is perennial. The forces of liberalism, modernity, cosmopolitanism, the open society, and Enlightenment values always have to push against our innate tribalism, authoritarianism, and thirst for vengeance. We can even recognize these instincts in ourselves, even in Trump’s cavalier remarks about the rule of law.
The irony is that many urban commentators and academics have little acquaintance with the hometown and hinterland and they are quick to see themselves as expert guys and gals offering “good” improvements for the folk. They denounce legitimate hometown reservation about policy direction and inclusion in making the policy as a fight against modernity and open society. In my opinion, this analysis is often ingrown and self-serving.
If they are to write and talk on the subject, they should live outside their academic communities and urban centers and participate with hometown communities. If they are dedicated sojourners and not just visitors or tourists, they become more enlightened, helping their cause and all of America.
I hope they can appreciate the irony.