Saturday, April 19, 2008
"antipathy to people who aren't like them"
Spending another day today watching my daughter play basketball in a tournament near Cincinnati, I thought again of the make up of the population of Maysville, KY. With a population of 10,000, Maysville is the largest town for 45 to 90 or more miles depending in which direct you go. This simply points out that Maysville is a rural town, not a bedroom community for a large nearby city.
My daughter's team is exactly 50/50 black/white. Everyone gets along just fine, parents and kids. Of all the teams I saw play today, my daughter's team was the most racially balanced. Most teams were either all white or all black. But from that small town....
I've pointed out before that my daughter's boyfriend has a black stepfather and black step siblings. She has friends whose father is Hindu and mother is Catholic, an interesting mix.
Mitsubishi has an auto radio assembly plant in Maysville with the accompanying Japanese managers living here. There are a sizable number of Mexicans in the area who work in farms plus a few who have restaurants and a Mexican grocery store. Also, as I've mentioned before, some Chinese live here. There are two Chinese restaurants.
Some of those who "aren't like" us are the Amish. The Amish presence has increased significantly over the past 10 years. They farm, sell baked goods, furniture, build, etc. Others like them because they are hard working and honest. They're goods and services aren't the cheapest but they are among the best. No one harasses and intimidates the Amish as depicted in the Harrison Ford film "Witness."
I doubt that Maysville is much different from a lot of other small towns across the country, even in Pennsylvania. I'm certain that Barack
One factor that integrates small towns naturally is that small towns are small. In larger metropolitan areas, schools become segregated by the population they serve. The suburbs have lots of predominantly white schools and the inner cities predominantly black. In Maysville, only one public elementary, middle and high school serves the entire city and county. There is a small Catholic school and a smaller Christian school also. (Non-Catholics in Maysville treat Catholics with more respect than Bill Maher does. Of course, Bill Maher has an excuse, Catholics aren't like him.)
In small towns people rub elbows with everyone else. You can't hide in your gated community (Maysville has none) and go to the exclusive shopping centers where the undesirables won't be. The richest people in town (one has a Bentley), often live within a 5-10 minute walk from the poorest. The entire older area of Maysville is only about 3 miles long by a half mile wide. In the large metropolitan areas, the rich liberals are insulated by miles from the poor. Yet, elitist liberals, like Barack
Not getting along is a difficult task. Getting along is easy. But Hollywood has painted small towns in a negative light for years in movies like "Footloose." I guess it makes them feel good to belittle others.
Liberals have a new popular book, What's the Matter with Kansas?. It makes the liberals feel good to believe there is something wrong with Kansas and the rest of small town America. Believing such, the liberals avoid the painful introspection that would uncover what it wrong with liberals.
Nothing is wrong with Kansas. The Kansases simply don't like liberalism and the "better than thou" elitist liberals who want to ram it down their throats. Grow up and get used to it.
We've had this talk before, and in the small towns where I've been and had friends, I've seen the kind of get along spirit that you are talking about. I love to see that.
But I've also seen the ugly shape of things Obama was talking about. Small towns, just like big cities, are a mix of the good and the bad. And I've seen that "Us vs Them-ism" isn't mutually exclusive to any particular group.
Because you are lucky enough to live around so much of the good doesn't mean the bad doesn't exist. And I haven't been around more of the bad than the good; maybe I've just seen it too often, maybe I've just watched it do too much damage. But what Obama said spoke to me: a small town, Southern white man.
That didn't seem out of touch at all.
(And, BTW, What's the Matter with Kansas has been out for some years. It was more a treatise on political science of populism, and how "conservative" politics won that battle recently, than it was a critique of small town America. There are some overly moralistic thoughts and it can get a little wonky, but for folks who like to read about the science of politics and the way language itself affects things, it is worth the read.)
In big cities the different classes and races tend to be more stratified at to where they live, shop, go to school, etc. Here everyone goes to pretty much the same places and occasionally drive into Cincinnati or Lexington.
In Cincinnati, the wealthy can move into the suburbs or bedroom communities such as Indian Hills which has an average per capita income higher than Beverly Hills. The various classes and races largely live in enclaves of the same race and income level.
There they can fantasize about how the "others" take advantage of them, hate them, suppress them, want to kill them, or whatever. When you see each other on a daily basis, you begin to realize we can "all just get along."
Mayville used to have a city school system separate from the county school system. Twelve years ago or so the city school system folded and the county took over. Consolidating all the schools so that there was just one school at each level, the school eventually became serious about behavioral control.
This actually seemed to make a difference in the community as a whole. Things weren't happening at school that bled over into the entire community and vice versa.
The school administrators are to be applauded. Their efforts may have made a greater difference than anything else. They wrote a book about it which, as a teacher, you may be interested in reading. This is one school system that, for the most part, has done it right.
The superintendent and assistant superintendent are home town products, btw, as are many of the teacher. They have pride in their hometown and strive to produce as many success stories as possible.
Consolidation is another important step, as it keeps down the number of folks who are shuffled from one "system" to another. That's a huge problem with where I am currently.
And having hometown managers is also effective. One thing that was infuriating about coastal Georgia was the proclivity of hiring from far outside. The new super would stay for a few years and then move on. That gave way to little consistency, and fiefdoms within the system itself.
You can guess how well it worked.
I'll definitely look for that book.
They've come pretty close to their goal.
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