Listening To The Rural Voice


Via Why We Desperately Need To Bring Back Vocational Training In Schools

This is actually something that I fully support. And it’s something that many rural communities support as well. There’s a reason that you hear complaints from rural areas about “ivory tower academia” and “those damned city-slickers.”  The reality is that many people who have moved from urban areas into rural ones seem to think (and sadly, I can count myself in with these fools — thankfully, I’ve learned better!) that their urban experience means that their knowledge and experience is superior to those who have lived in rural areas their entire lives.  I can tell you very clearly that your experience is different, but different does not equate with better!

Having the skills and talents appropriate to many jobs that are considered “manual labor” (such as a mechanic or farmer or transportation or construction) DOES NOT mean someone is unintelligent. In fact, you would be surprised at the amount of high level knowledge is required for many of those “manual labor” jobs. Construction and woodworking require an understanding of high level geometry, engineering, mechanical knowledge and many other skills. A farmer has to have not only biological knowledge, but often chemical, economic, business management, plant pathology, ecological,and meteorological knowledge as well. Mechanics — in this day and age — need an understanding of computers, technical diagnostic skills and possibly programming skills, mechanical engineering, languages and other “high level” skills. And in fact, some of the manual labor skills like farming require the talents and abilities of OTHER manual labor jobs, such as enough knowledge as a mechanic to be able to do routine maintenance work on the farm machines, as well as the skills of a researcher to keep up with the growing knowledge of the world around us and how it impacts their farm.

Hell, “home economics” (colloquially discussed as “home ec”) had just as many important life skills and would be good prepping for a career as any of the variations of being a chef, tailor, clothing designer or even something that crosses between the classes of shop and home ec, reupholstering furniture or running an antiques business.

I didn’t get home ec or shop, but I learned many of the home ec skills at home. But I only got a shop class in college because it was required for my art degree.  Oh, I had been taught the basics of using power tools by my father, but that was more (just as with the guns in the house) to teach me to respect the fact that those tools can hurt you.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to learn the hard way with power tools and guns.  Unlike with those tools, teaching me that fire burns actually required allowing me to touch the fire (in a controlled and supervised fashion), because I wouldn’t listen to the words “no” or “don’t!”

Sadly, this kind of cultural dissonance is coming to a head in this particular election year.  The resentment, the feeling of being ignored (or worse, degraded and bullied — yes, bullied — by urban decisions being forced upon rural areas),  and the real issue of both sides of the urban/rural divide not quite being able to understand each other (the values and work ethics are actually the same, it is just that they “look different” from each side) is pushing the two sides farther and farther apart.

Additionally, the love affair with the cowboy, the police officer who doesn’t follow the rules but seemingly always gets the villain in the end, the gold-hearted outlaw all encourage the rural population to look for that kind of person to save them from the evil banking industry, or the decadent and wastrel urbanites.  It’s what was behind the John McCain/Sarah Palin ticket and is exactly what is being seen now in the Trump/Pence ticket.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  There are a LOT of Clinton/Kaine supporters around where I live (which is in 1 of the 4 most financially disadvantaged counties of Wisconsin).  It looks like it is approximately 50/50 in the support of the candidates.

What seems obvious to the progressives among us (I do not consider myself progressive.  I see myself as primarily centrist, with a slight liberal leaning) is not as easily seen by the more conservative.  What they see is someone who is willing to stand up to the status quo.  Well, Jesse James did too.  The legend of Jesse James is not the Wild West Robin Hood that many people think.  He was a murderer, and his gang actually committed atrocities.  But that’s not what is remembered.  Knowing that makes it easier for me to understand why there is a strong attraction to Trump.  When a group of people feel oppressed and silenced, they revolt.

Therein lies the issue.

In an urban center, it is very easy to see who is disenfranchised, oppressed and silenced.  More often than not, it is also obvious that the reason for that oppression is the color of someone’s skin or the economic class they are part of.

In rural areas, it isn’t quite so clear cut.  There may be some issues with the color of skin or ethnic background, but more often than not the biggest issue is the economic class.  In rural areas, the farmer who is working 23 hours out of a 24 hour day just to keep food on his family’s table, because some of the resources available to the disenfranchised in urban areas are not available to him.  That’s the big part of it.  Rural areas see all of the funds to help the disenfranchised go to urban areas (whether the city has a population of 65,000 or of approximately 4 million), ignoring the desperate needs in rural areas.

Looked at objectively, based on sheer numbers of people in need, it makes sense.  But that doesn’t help when you see your neighbor’s children walking to school in the winter without a coat.

We have to start acknowledging that rural areas are as important as urban ones.  Or we will continue to splinter apart as we have been doing over the last 50 years.


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