11 votes

What rural America has to teach us

22 comments

  1. [8]
    acdw
    Link
    I came across this opinion piece by David Brooks through Mastodon and was struck by how patronizing it was. I'm from the rural South, and this article felt almost like a "noble savage" treatment...

    I came across this opinion piece by David Brooks through Mastodon and was struck by how patronizing it was. I'm from the rural South, and this article felt almost like a "noble savage" treatment of rural towns in America. It's like, "Oh, look at these kind peoples who have something we've lost in our grimey, crime-ridden cities! If only we could steer America back to this Edenic time where we didn't have to lock our doors, and really participated in our communities, O how wonderful it'd be!"

    It's just like, David, you know you can move to a small town, right? I'm sure NYT will let you write from home.

    I wonder what my fellow tilderinos think about it.

    10 votes
    1. [4]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      This has been David Brook's shtick forever. Most of these Times columnists haven’t actually lived in middle America since they were kids, if that. So their idea of it is pickled in some idyllic...

      This has been David Brook's shtick forever. Most of these Times columnists haven’t actually lived in middle America since they were kids, if that. So their idea of it is pickled in some idyllic suburban childhood of 40+ years ago that they view through rose tinted glasses. It’s kind of like orientalism, where you simplify and essentialise a whole culture, turning it into a flanderized theme-park version of itself.

      Also I have no clue what BoBo thinks rural areas have to teach us about engagement with our communities. I’ve never felt as strong a sense of community as I have since moving to a big city. Being a person of color in a largely White exurb wasn’t community. I needed to drive 15 minutes to see anyone. There was nothing to do.

      Here there is always something to do. I have lunch in the courtyard of an art museum once a week. I randomly run into people I know there all the time because we all enjoy taking our lunch and eating it within a beautiful public space that we’ve all communally invested in through our taxes. I live across the street from a public park where tons of people have picnics or play pickup soccer every weekend. In the summers a bunch of hippies show up and have a drum circle. Sometimes some traditional Afro-Brazilian drumming groups show up. People dance. Anytime it snows all the neighbors go and have snowball fights. This is all way more fun than driving to my friend’s house so we can hang out in the rumpus room or “man cave” he had to build into his basement because there is fuck all to do that doesn’t involve drinking or playing games. (Although I do a lot of those things too, but I don’t need to endanger anyone by driving after I do since I can usually just walk or take a bus home.)

      This is why most of the successful small towns and cities right now are ones with large immigrant populations. The immigrants have their community bond by necessity, because they need their own churches and their own grocery stores. It hasn’t all been replaced by atomized participation in an impersonal market.

      17 votes
      1. [3]
        acdw
        Link Parent
        This is 100% my experience growing up in a small tourist town. We lived about a half-hour away from all of our friends, so we had to drive everywhere to hang out with anyone. The only restaurants...

        I needed to drive 15 minutes to see anyone. There was nothing to do.

        Here there is always something to do.

        This is 100% my experience growing up in a small tourist town. We lived about a half-hour away from all of our friends, so we had to drive everywhere to hang out with anyone. The only restaurants were chains. The only things to do were bowling (which is a lot of fun, don't get me wrong) or going to the minigolf courses again. I much prefer living in a city; in fact, the 250K-pop one I live in now isn't quite big enough for me. I'd love to live in a million+ pop city because everything happens there.

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          NaraVara
          Link Parent
          I mean, there is a downside which is that it's nearly impossible to afford space big enough to comfortably raise a family in. Once I start trying to have kids we will almost certainly need to move...

          I much prefer living in a city; in fact, the 250K-pop one I live in now isn't quite big enough for me. I'd love to live in a million+ pop city because everything happens there.

          I mean, there is a downside which is that it's nearly impossible to afford space big enough to comfortably raise a family in. Once I start trying to have kids we will almost certainly need to move to a suburb, I just hope it will be a suburb within easy range of commuter transit into the city.

          There are also the problems of noise pollution, light pollution, actual pollution-pollution, and the lack of access to "true," untrammeled nature. A lot of these are addressable though, we just choose not to address them because, until recently, the inner city was for poor people of color and consequently, not a priority for public investment.

          But for all the problems, lack of community is definitely not one of them. In fact, I'd say city life has more vibrant and resilient communities than American style rural areas. In India when I was a kid the rural communities were much more communal. In many places large tracts of land were actually communally farmed and most people all lived in a relatively tightly packed block of dwellings and "work" buildings. The idea of everyone staking multi-acre claims and then plopping a house in the middle of it--far away from any neighbor--and jealously guarding it against trespassers, only going to meet other people on the sabbath and on market days, is not conducive to community. But that's the "frontier" ideal that we've build American towns around in the modern age.

          6 votes
          1. acdw
            Link Parent
            I think you're right -- just look at how cities work in Europe, for example. It's really only a matter of investment.

            A lot of these are addressable though, we just choose not to address them because, until recently, the inner city was for poor people of color and consequently, not a priority for public investment.

            I think you're right -- just look at how cities work in Europe, for example. It's really only a matter of investment.

            2 votes
    2. Loire
      Link Parent
      And just like most noble savage stories it has very little basis in reality. I work around a lot of this small towns and rural areas in South Texas, West Texas, Wyoming, and North Dakota. The...

      "noble savage" treatment of rural towns in America.

      And just like most noble savage stories it has very little basis in reality.

      I work around a lot of this small towns and rural areas in South Texas, West Texas, Wyoming, and North Dakota. The friendly, community minded idealic town is vastly outnumbered by the ghosts of America's past. Run down, or burnt out shanties litter the streets with a withered and abandoned string of brick buildings on main street. The only business in town is a gas station and a Dollar General, maybe a Dairy Queen if you're lucky. The highschool remains unmodified and unrepaired from when it was built in the 60-70's (but the football field is brand new!) No prospects, nobody moving in.

      Ghosts of an America long past, haunting the interstate.

      9 votes
  2. [5]
    s-sea
    Link
    I don't think it's quite that patronizing, but definitely the first chunk of it is. I guess I'm appreciating it more from pointing out the places of success? Brooks is definitely glossing over...

    I don't think it's quite that patronizing, but definitely the first chunk of it is.

    I guess I'm appreciating it more from pointing out the places of success? Brooks is definitely glossing over some major issues in rural america and just saying "the community project is to find ways to lure them back" isn't really much of a description of a solution and kind of downplays how these places are draining -- Most of my family lives in Nebraska and towns like Red Cloud and Hebron are fading away.

    Guess what I'm saying/feeling more is that it's like yes you're correct, Brooks, but it's a very limited picture and really ignoring a lot of the conversation we should be having?

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      The_Fad
      Link Parent
      "You're not wrong, you're just an asshole"?

      "You're not wrong, you're just an asshole"?

      5 votes
      1. s-sea
        Link Parent
        That's about it.

        That's about it.

        2 votes
    2. [2]
      acdw
      Link Parent
      To that, this article by Michele Anderson speaks much more eloquently, I think. She agrees that small towns have more going for them than the standard narrative says, but reckons with their...

      just saying "the community project is to find ways to lure them back" isn't really much of a description of a solution and kind of downplays how these places are draining

      To that, this article by Michele Anderson speaks much more eloquently, I think. She agrees that small towns have more going for them than the standard narrative says, but reckons with their decline as well.

      3 votes
  3. [2]
    Micycle_the_Bichael
    Link
    Read the article. I have a few thoughts, some of them are about the article, some are about this type of article in general. (1) Nothing this author described is even remotely close to the...

    Read the article. I have a few thoughts, some of them are about the article, some are about this type of article in general.

    (1) Nothing this author described is even remotely close to the experiences of me or anyone in the towns around me that I knew in Ohio. Most of us left because job prospects sucked, there wasn't really any living options other than renting/buying a house or living at home, there is nothing to do, and most importantly is there isn't anything on the horizon saying it is going to change or get better.
    (2) A very common trend in these articles is to downplay how bad things are for marginalized groups in these types of towns. Are they all bad? No. Are cities perfect? No. Are they vastly better for those groups? In my experience and in talking to Midwest transplants in my city, most say yes.
    (3) I'll consider moving back to the midwest when any of these articles come up with a suggestion for how to deal with all the -isms in these towns that aren't "Well, YOU just need to move there and educate them and open their minds". Nah, I'm not putting my mental health (and possibly life depending on where you move) on the line in hopes that I'll be able to change the minds of people who need be argued with to give me rights and treat me like a person, all for (what I see as) the very few benefits of living in a rural area. I'll take my high cost of living, functional public transportation, and ability to be a part of an in-group and not always being in the out-group, thanks.

    6 votes
    1. acdw
      Link Parent
      To (3), thank you for putting to words a vague feeling I've been having for a while about this type of article. If anything, I'm exactly the type of person who should be moving back to my small...

      To (3), thank you for putting to words a vague feeling I've been having for a while about this type of article. If anything, I'm exactly the type of person who should be moving back to my small hometown and educating people: I'm white, male, cis, etc. I check all those boxes. But I don't want to deal with it either, just on an annoyance/mental health level. I can't even imagine what the situation's like for people who are in actual marginalized groups, who could legitimately have their safety risked by moving to some places in the US.

      4 votes
  4. [2]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. acdw
      Link Parent
      Yes, or they do what Brooks does here: romanticize the life as a callback to a "Simpler time," which is just as patronizing. Country life is just life, at least in my experience: it's just less...

      I have respect for city-dwellers but I think they tend to paint a rather blanket portrait of rural life with an attitude that being passionate or proud of living in the country is distasteful or ignorant.

      Yes, or they do what Brooks does here: romanticize the life as a callback to a "Simpler time," which is just as patronizing. Country life is just life, at least in my experience: it's just less connected, more independent, and a little slower (because it physically takes longer to get places).

  5. [6]
    Micycle_the_Bichael
    Link
    Does anyone have a non-paywalled version of the article? I'd love to read an article about the type of town I grew up in but I'm too broke to be a subscriber to the NYT.

    Does anyone have a non-paywalled version of the article? I'd love to read an article about the type of town I grew up in but I'm too broke to be a subscriber to the NYT.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      Diet_Coke
      Link Parent
      You can put outline.com/ in your address bar and then copy/paste the link or view in incognito mode.

      You can put outline.com/ in your address bar and then copy/paste the link or view in incognito mode.

      2 votes
      1. rfr
        Link Parent
        Recently some news sites like nytimes and latimes stopped working with outline. E.g. this article shows "url not supported" https://outline.com/5KcsVT

        Recently some news sites like nytimes and latimes stopped working with outline. E.g. this article shows "url not supported" https://outline.com/5KcsVT

        1 vote
    2. moocow1452
      Link Parent
      I think it should work with private browsing. Outline doesn't support the article, that's the usual go to.

      I think it should work with private browsing. Outline doesn't support the article, that's the usual go to.

      2 votes
    3. [3]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [2]
        alyaza
        Link Parent
        as i understand, it's not because it constitutes a copyright violation for which tildes would be liable.

        Here's a copy-pasted version (hope that's okay):

        as i understand, it's not because it constitutes a copyright violation for which tildes would be liable.

        3 votes
        1. acdw
          Link Parent
          Okay, I'll delete it. Thank you!

          Okay, I'll delete it. Thank you!

          1 vote