11 votes

Go Home to Your ‘Dying’ Hometown

6 comments

  1. [5]
    Micycle_the_Bichael Link
    I get and support the general idea of the article, but I don't agree that moving to rural areas is for everyone. They can be great, but if you're a member of a marginalized group, moving to those...

    I get and support the general idea of the article, but I don't agree that moving to rural areas is for everyone. They can be great, but if you're a member of a marginalized group, moving to those areas can be like going to prison or worse (it could also be fine, but try convincing someone its worth the risk). It reminds me a bit of the post on here that talks about stop putting the pressure to fight sexism in the workplace entirely on women. The reality is for a lot of people, moving to a rural town or to the midwest is an awful idea. I'm from rural Ohio, and I know exactly why the only kids from my high school who stayed in the area are the white straight white kids, and why everyone else moved (either to the nearest big city or out of state). I'm a straight white dude who moved to one of the biggest cities in the US. I miss my the small cozy comfort of my hometown a lot. But then I talk to my queer partner about how shitty hospitals were (and are) towards them in Ohio, see the news about how states are making women's reproductive health a nightmare there, see how blatantly racist even a lot of the larger cities in the state are and realize that the world I envision for us in a rural small town isn't the life my partner would live. Is living in the city for everyone? No. Are they these utopias where nothing ever bad happens? No. But I can see the weight that has been lifted and hear stories of friends and family in marginalized groups talk about while it isn't perfect, life is so much better for them in large cities that tend to be liberal. I don't know the solution to how to make rural towns less shitty, or how to fix the conception that every small town is a racist hellhole (because they aren't), but I also don't know how its fair to ask people to leave a place that is expensive but treats them as human beings and move to a small town where they won't be. I don't know.

    17 votes
    1. [3]
      masochist Link Parent
      I don't usually use this word because it's so frequently used to hurt people, to make people feel bad about themselves, but there's an awful lot of privilege--or favorable circumstances, if you...

      I don't usually use this word because it's so frequently used to hurt people, to make people feel bad about themselves, but there's an awful lot of privilege--or favorable circumstances, if you hate how the word is misused as much as I do--in telling people to move to a rural town. Photos of the author and her husband in the article show that they are very much the archetypal rural Americans--white, straight (or at least straight-passing), no unusual dress or other appearance oddities that would make them stand out, and so on. They fit the stereotype of white rural America and so they have no problems fitting in there.

      But someone like your partner, or someone like me who is openly atheist, not-quite-straight, and who has this tendency to speak out against what I perceive to be nonsense, would not manage well in such a place. It's extremely telling that the article doesn't even mention the words 'racist', 'sexist', 'homophobic', 'trans*' (except other words unrelated to transgender), or anything like that. It's like the author is conveniently, deliberately, ignoring all the reasons people like me fled the awful places we grew up in. And I was just in a suburb, not even rural America. I can't imagine how miserable I'd've been in a really rural place.

      I grew up in Levittown, Pennsylvania, a racist little suburb of Philadelphia where there was a riot when the first black family moved in. A riot, that was so bad the state got involved. Even when I was growing up there in the 1980s and 1990s, there were very few black folks there. Beyond the racism, there was a lot of homophobia and transphobia (including my family). Sure, "not all towns" and "whataboutism". But enough small towns are like this that telling everyone to go back to their hometown doesn't make sense. It sounds like the author shouldn't have moved to a big city to begin with.

      Maybe there's a reason rural / suburban hometowns are dying. Maybe there's a lot of reasons, and maybe a straight white girl isn't the best person to decide people should move to places where they won't fit in.

      13 votes
      1. Akir Link Parent
        You are absolutely correct about privilege being a major influence in this opinion piece. I looked up the college the author said she went to and found that the annual tuition is around $50,000...

        You are absolutely correct about privilege being a major influence in this opinion piece. I looked up the college the author said she went to and found that the annual tuition is around $50,000 right now. The fact that her family was willing to take on nearly $200,000 worth of debt is telling of their financial situation.

        It's also a little funny that her shared experience doesn't quite match her thesis. She says her hometown had a population of 450 people, and she is now living in a city with 14,000 people. So in spite of everything she said, she was not 'homecoming' and she is actually living in a city with a pretty good economy - completely different from the types of towns in the articles she is rebuking.

        8 votes
      2. patience_limited Link Parent
        Pretty much a similar life story to yours, including the racist, sexist, homophobic, homogenous small Detroit suburb that I ran the hell away from in the '80's. But the place I'm moving back to is...

        Pretty much a similar life story to yours, including the racist, sexist, homophobic, homogenous small Detroit suburb that I ran the hell away from in the '80's.

        But the place I'm moving back to is a moderate-sized (15,000), moderately diverse town in an otherwise rural area. There's a significant, visible LGBTQ+ population. There's also a vocal, rabidly Christian conservative population.

        But yes, even though I grew up middle-middle class, I won't deny that it's a mightily privileged choice. It's definitely not one that everyone can make safely everywhere. We have the luxury of moving to a place where we fell in love with some people, the culture (which is at least somewhat old-school Midwestern egalitarian), and the scenery a long time ago. It's a case of intentionally seeking refuge from a city culture which has its own problems of affluence, racism, and privilege.

    2. stephen Link Parent
      I suppose there are some cosmetic parallels but I would not compare women in the workplace to people affluent or determined enough to leave small town America. Certainly there are those who flee...

      It reminds me a bit of the post on here that talks about stop putting the pressure to fight sexism in the workplace entirely on women

      I suppose there are some cosmetic parallels but I would not compare women in the workplace to people affluent or determined enough to leave small town America. Certainly there are those who flee persecution in their hometowns in cities. But I have not seen anything to suggest that the majority of people leaving cities are anything but middle class cis-het white people.

      But my point isn't about vectors of oppression or identity. Its about making better choices - even if they aren't for everyone. We are faced with a lot of systemic issues in American society and the urban/suburban and the urban/rural culture gaps are a massive deal. If you are one of those progressive minded people who wants to be the change, moving to suburbs and getting involved in your community is a huge opportunity to advocate.

      Also, I would just like to state for the record that maybe it is worth re-evaluating our collective perception of all rural areas as being utterly backwards. I am a city person so for sure not an authority. But certainly there are small towns that do no embody the racist fox-news-bingeing ogre caricature we portray them as.

      I don't know the solution to how to make rural towns less shitty

      We have to go there and make them that way. Or wait for the boomers to die and hope that whoever is left will just sort of turn it around themselves (which is what we are doing right now btw.) This from the subtitle of the article "I am more involved in social and racial justice, economic development and feminism than I ever was in a big city.:"

  2. patience_limited Link
    It's been a couple of weeks of weirdly coincidental Zeitgeist stories in the media, about something I've been planning to do for a while and just set in motion. Quit the high-stress,...

    It's been a couple of weeks of weirdly coincidental Zeitgeist stories in the media, about something I've been planning to do for a while and just set in motion.

    Quit the high-stress, high-alienation city job and move back to the country, reconnect with people, the land, and a sense of locality? Yep.

    I've got hopes that I've learned to be a little more patient in working with the insularity and parochialism of small-town life. It's not going to be that much different from the same concerns in corporate culture. I've worked on enough big things not to be intimidated by the need to GTD with micro-budgets.

    So it's going to be an interesting move.

    There are bourgeois issues, of course. I'm going be bringing more money to a burgeoning little blue island of liberal gentrification culture that's erasing "small town values", and hipsterizing what made the place unique. Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, REI, and other "alternative" chain stores have already arrived where I'm going, so that tells you something about the kind of American demographics involved.

    The article describes a place that's on the brink of this transition. There's an academic assumption that a nation's economic progress depends first on agrarian collapse, where mechanization of agriculture hollows out rural population and concentrates people in industrial cities. Then there's a national transition to high value services, and collapse (or export) of dirty industry. Somehow, the magnification of network effects in densely populated cities is supposed to benefit everyone. Yet there's no longer so much practical reason for that kind of physical proximity, with remote work and the increasing dysfunctions of American urban infrastructure. It can be just as isolating, if not more so, to be on the Internet or stuck in traffic in a city of millions, as in a town of thousands, or a village of hundreds.

    2 votes