Small Town Notes: Contrasting Views
“I live in a small town that is about a half hour drive from the big city. My small town really is a ‘smile town,’ despite being populated heavily by urban refugees. Children (or grandchildren) are the center of most residents’ lives; the streets are safe, clean and pretty; the schools are good; the crime rate is minimal; flags come out on July 4th; and people are friendly and helpful. Sure we have our pathologies (alcoholism, drug abuse, child abuse, etc.), but they don’t set the tone for the community. I had the chance a while ago to discover how different things are just a few miles away. My son belongs to a music group that functions in a large urban area, but has suburban satellites. He trains with one of those satellites. In the days leading up to performances, all of the satellite groups descend on the urban center for final rehearsals. I got to audit one of those rehearsals the other day and was struck by the differences in boys.
There are many similarities of course. When you gather 50 boys in a rehearsal hall, you’re going to have the twitchiest, wiggliest group of people you’ve ever seen or even imagined. If there’s a secret to perpetual motion, it can be found in that room. That’s a boy thing, though, and not a problem.
What was a problem, at least to my eyes, was attitude. Without exception, the little suburban boys were respectful. Their bodies may have been wiggling, but their attention was on the teacher. Most of the urban boys were also respectful, although many had more of an edge than my local crew. There was, however, something in that rehearsal hall that I haven’t seen in my little community: out and out disrespect. These kids had completely internalized urban attitude. They were ‘cool’ — and cool means rude. I was shocked …
What wasn’t normal to me was the acquired attitude of disrespect and hostility. And no matter how large the group of boys I see in my little community (and how naughty some of them are), that attitude is missing.”
“These people are watching their towns die. Watching their way of life die. They are living the end of their dream, and they didn’t believe that could happen. Like their ancestors, they’ve worked hard and hard and hard. They’ve played by the rules, believed the right things, worshipped the proper God, lived as they deeply felt life should be lived, and they’re losing everything that matters to them. And there’s nothing they can do about it except to keep working hard, because that’s all they know. They’re losing a way of life because of forces beyond their ken. Giant agribusiness, globalization, politicians selling them out, a tidal wave of history sweeping them away …
Their kids are leaving town, their towns are dying, their leaders are failing them, they’re helpless to stop it. They expected to live prosperously in these places for centuries – their courthouses were built to last centuries. They’re losing it all, and there’s no one to give a damn. They didn’t believe this could happen – could not conceive that their time would be so short and that their toil would be futile and that their dreams would die so hard.”