Saturday, September 6, 2008

Small Town Values

One of the major themes arising the Republican Convention was “small town values”. This was short hand for the fact that rural America votes mostly Republican and urban America votes mostly Democratic. This is starkly displayed in the 2004 electoral map.

Many pundits made fun of this theme. They either ignored this electoral truism or denigrated the concept as masking some nefarious issue agenda.

Small towns do represent a different culture and perspective on life. I grew-up in Lee, New Hampshire - population 500. I now live in Harpers Ferry (“greater Harpers Ferry” is a combination of Harpers Ferry – population 310, Bolivar – population 1200, and a few water district customers – population 50). I wrote about small town values in my book, “Naked Emperors”. An excerpt should enlighten the pundits as to what they are missing:

"Harpers Ferry is a true community. Everyone knows everyone else. There is a fundamental commitment by all who live there to help honor its long history and to make things better for the future. Such a mix is increasingly rare in America. My ability to escape the transitory and false nature of Washington, D.C., and to immerse in this corner of real America, provided a much needed balance and a “dose of reality” to what I had to cope with working in the nation’s capitol.

Many in Washington never have such an opportunity. The result is a kind of science fiction world that politicians, lobbyists, journalists, and bureaucrats enter, and most never to leave. The insane laws, the absurd regulations, and the excesses in spending, flow from a sensory deprivation of real world inputs. Those inside the beltway actually believe that their every word and every deed is more important than anything done by anyone living outside this tiny world. They believe they are somehow brighter, better, and, therefore, inherently more deserving of trust, tax dollars, and media coverage.

What a shock to the psyche of these Washington-centric people if they would chance upon a $5.00 a person all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner at the Friendship Fire Company in Harpers Ferry. They would find the people knowledgeable about the world, but uncluttered with the minutia of “who is who” for some fleeting moment of illusionary power and influence in Washington. Harpers Ferry people talk about many things, including world affairs. But what is foremost on the minds of people at this spaghetti feed is the cycle of life. Who died, who got married, who was born, and who is graduating from school. Yes, there are always world affairs and national concerns swirling outside the boundaries of Harpers Ferry, but people focus on people. Whose personal achievement should be celebrated, whose sorrow should be comforted, and whose misfortune should be aided, become the issues of importance. People think about, care about, and do something about, people. They do this, sometimes individually, sometimes collectively, without having to pass a law or petition a bureaucrat.

This is the America that remains beyond the view of the ego-glazed eyes of Washington and the national media. It is not the America of self-absorbed talk shows or of lurid but lucrative headlines. It is an America that quietly maintains the center of gravity for our timeless civic culture. In its own simple, common sensical way it propels the nation forward and sustains its core values and traditions, regardless of fads, crises, or technological wonders."

No comments: