Community Before Economics

December 3rd, 2009 by John Creighton in Dispatches

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Country Church

My work brings me together with people from all parts of the country and all along the political spectrum.  It is one of the things I love about what I do.

I am sometimes asked when I am with groups of people who self identify as “progressives” why people from the Great Plains hold progressive politicians in such disdain.  I answer their question by asking my own and telling a story.

The question I ask my progressive friends is: What’s most important to people who live on the Plains?  Do you think it is economic prosperity?  I follow up the questions with this story.

At a conference I attended, two women lamented how lonely they felt.  One woman was from New York.  The other hailed from San Francisco. They lived among millions of people but felt little or no sense of community.  Their jobs required them to travel most weeks.  They had little time to take part in neighborhood life.  They had no friends among those who lived nearby.

“If we had an earthquake,” said the woman from San Francisco, “There is no one I know who I could ask for help.”  It was poignant to listen to them talk.

Later, these same women parroted lines from the book What’s the Matter with Kansas, by Thomas Frank.  It’s an analysis which pro-Democratic activists use to explain why Republicans garner such large majorities on places like the Plains.  Perhaps it’s the chip I carry on my shoulder, but I sensed contempt for, not interest in, the “naïve” folks from the rural Midwest.

As I listened, I thought about a funeral I had just been to in Rush, Colorado – a town so small that there is no gas station.  The funeral was held in a church 16 miles off the highway – mostly by dirt road.  You had to know how to find it or you wouldn’t.

I walked into the church and witnessed 400 people celebrating the life of a woman of more than 80 years.  The church kitchen was overflowing with food, enough to serve twice the number of people at the standing room only service.

I guarantee that the people attending this funeral fit the stereotypes in Frank’s book.  My guess is a good proportion of the folks in the room were “poor” by economic measures.

But, I sat at that funeral and wondered what those of us who live in bigger places can learn from the folks in Rush?

Some people, like the women from New York and San Francisco, long for community.  Some people, like me, write about community.  Others, like the folks in Rush, live it.

We sit in suburbs and cities and wonder why those “rural folks” don’t care more about their own economic fortunes.  The truth is they already have the “fortune” that so many folks in more populated areas lack.  These naïve folks on the Plains are part of a community.

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Picture Credits:  Atwood, Kansas Photo Gallery.

3 Responses to “Community Before Economics”

#27   December 4th, 2009 by Brad Jolly

The fact that some people “self-identify as ‘progressives'” does not mean we have to accord them this title. A driver heading west on I-70 from Denver with the goal of driving to Baltimore may be going 75 MPH, but he is making less progress than the person walking east on the other side of the road.

The reason “progressive” (leftist, statist, socialist, moonbat) politicians are held in disdain is that they are constantly trying to force the eastbound person on the other side of the road into their westbound car.

#29   December 6th, 2009 by Matt Brandt

Resorting to name calling as Mr. Jollie felt inclined to do is simply not nice. Deciding to walk to Baltimore from Denver is simply stupid. At least us “moonbats” are in a car!

#64   December 21st, 2009 by Brad Jolly

You missed the point, Mr. Brandt. I never suggested that walking from Denver to Baltimore was a brilliant idea. I merely pointed out that going slowly in the right direction was better than going quickly in the wrong direction. And really, Mr. Brandt – is a five letter surname that difficult for you to spell?

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