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Heroes Community > Other Side of the Monitor > Thread: Small towns
Thread: Small towns This thread is 5 pages long: 1 2 3 4 5 · NEXT»
mvassilev
mvassilev


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posted January 04, 2009 04:31 AM
Edited by mvassilev at 04:32, 04 Jan 2009.

Small towns

"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, a lot like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothingís replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So itís not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy towards people who arenít like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." - Barack Obama

These words, said at a San Francisco fundraiser, were seen as unfortunate and derogatory. But, as someone who lives in a small town, I can also say that they are very true. This is true not just for small towns in the Midwest, but also for small towns in the South. Perhaps 0bama misidentified the cause. But the problem is undeniable.

My town, which I will call Noplace, is a town of about 5000 people in northern Oklahoma, in the United States. The largest employer is a tractor-manufacturing company. Wait, scratch that. The only employer of any consequence is a tractor-manufacturing company. Of course, there is a Wal-Mart and a few other stores and businesses, but they are of little relative importance. This company was founded by an enterprising pair of brothers, who took a blacksmithing shop and turned it into a world-famous company. Later, one of their sons carried on with their work, expanding it and making it more successful. (However, both the management and manufacturing are entirely located in Noplace.) Now that son is 70-something years old, and obviously on his way out. He has been replaced by his granddaughter, who, for some reason, is not well-liked. But she doesn't live in Noplace, but in a suburb of Oklahoma City - and there are rumors that she wants to move the management there. Other rumors are that the production will move to China. With both management and manufacturing gone, Noplace will dry up like a raisin. Understandably, this is alarming to many people, many of whom are also farmers.

Speaking of these people, what are most of them like? I would say that most of them make less than $40,000 a year and are at least weekly churchgoers. Most of them are gun-owners, and many hunt and fish regularly, sometimes even pulling their kids out of school for they day to go hunt. Many are fiercely nationalistic. They may be somewhat educated (some more than others), but they only apply their knowledge in the fields in which they work. Though they may technically be described as educated people, they are far from being intellectuals. Most of them are Young Earth Creationists, don't accept evolution, and are extremely suspicious of non-Christians - a prejudice that many have passed on to their children. I will never forget a day in sixth grade, when some girl walked up to me and seriously asked me, "Why do you hate God?" (For the record, I am an atheist.) Also, many of these people have oil wells on their property, and oil in general is a large part of the state's industry.

What is the education system like in Noplace?
Wait, there's an education system? It's more of government-sponsored daycare + indoctrination. When beginning to discuss the theory of evolution, my 8th grade science teacher said, "I don't believe any of this, but I have to teach it." And these things get stuck in kids' minds. More open-minded teachers are partially suppressed. "Gay" is typically used as an insult. And most teachers are simply terrible. This is because wrestling is like a religion here, and most teachers are coaches of some sort. It doesn't help that the high school principal (who is, incidentally, originally from Noplace, as are many of the teachers) was a cheerleader back in the day. This idolatry goes far. Last year, a teacher was found sending nude pictures and extremely suggestive text messages to several girls. What do you think happened? Was he fired and publicly shamed? No. He was allowed to resign quietly, and classroom discussion about his activities were banned. (Of course, most of the teachers refused to enforce such a ridiculous ban.) It was to his credit (in the school's eyes) that he was both a wrestling coach and a Noplace High School graduate.

But is there any actual education? Very little. The scientific method is taught over and over again, but what it actually means is not explained. (It is only thanks to HC, especially Corribus's posts, that I am able to grasp its significance more fully.) Math is taught repetitively, most of the year being a review of the previous year. In all of the reading classes, reading out loud is done for 90% of the books. Of course, once one gets into the upper grades and the AP classes, education does happen, but by then far too much time has been wasted.

The people here are also (rightly) afraid of losing their jobs. But the techniques that they have taken to fight it are quite absurd. First, they lobby for bigger and bigger farm subsidies, and for greater tariffs on imports that compete with their products. Second, many of the local businesses have banded together and organized a "Think Noplace" campaign, constantly encouraging people to shop in mom-and-pop stores in Noplace - despite prices there being higher and the atmosphere not being as welcoming. Instead, these people should go and get educations in more marketable skills. If they have the time to sit around City Council meetings and talk about how to get people to come to their crumbling stores, then they have the time to take a night class at a university - and that would be a much more productive activity.

Politics. One would expect such people to vote Democratic, because of the Democrats' occasional support for protectionism and farm subsidies. So they did back in the days of the New Deal coalition. But since 1968 the Democrats have become more socially liberal, which conflicts with the Oklahomans' extreme social conservatism. So now the Senate of the United States gets its two absolutely worst members - Republicans Tom Coburn and James Inhofe. Both are extreme global-warming deniers. Coburn once infamously stated that abortionists should get the death penalty. But, though I may strongly dislike him, he has his positive sides: he has the courage to stand up for free trade and oppose subsidies of all kinds, even those requested by many Oklahoman farmers. But Inhofe... Several times Inhofe has stated, rather unsubtly, that the issues facing America can be divided into three categories: "God, guns, and gays", calls global warming "the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state", and has stated that the 9/11 attacks were divine retribution for the United States not being supportive of Israel enough. Indeed, he is fanatically devoted to defending Israel, as is evidenced in this following Senate statement:
Quote:
I believe very strongly that we ought to support Israel; that it has a right to the land. This is the most important reason: Because God said so.
I went to Washington last spring with some leadership group. There, I met with Senator Coburn's aide. Our discussion was rather amusing. We started off discussing subsides and the free market, and were in total agreement. But then he happened to mention school vouchers, and I said that I disagreed with them. He immediately launched into a vehement attack on those who opposed them. I told him that the vouchers could go to religious organizations, which would be a violation of the separation of church and state. He replied, "There is no separation of church and state. The constitution is often misinterpreted that way." We got into a pretty animated debate. It was rather fun. But people with views like these are actually representing me in Washington. A frightening thought.

After that discussion, I went to actually meet Senator Inhofe in person. A couple of seconds after a couple of other people and I sat down with him, (coincidence of coincidences!) a couple of Russian-American Oklahomans from an unrelated group walked in. They also sat down. One of them asked, in very heavily accented English, "In my town, many young people are moving away to bigger cities. What can we do to stop the decline of the family farm?" A common concern with Oklahomans, by the way. Inhofe expressed support for farm subsidies. The other group then left, as they were on a tighter schedule than us. So I, who was more assertive than the other two people in my group from Oklahoma, started talking to Inhofe. We quickly got on the subject of the War in Iraq (most Oklahomans are fanatic supporters of it). It turns out that he was just back from his 17th trip to Iraq, and had just made a speech about it to the Senate. I immediately started debating him about it. And then he said something extraordinary: "A lot of people think that this war was about weapons of mass destruction. It wasn't." I quickly interrupted, "It was for oil." "No," he replied, "It was a humanitarian intervention to stop Saddam Hussein from killing his own people." I told him that our interventionist policy in the Middle East was the cause of 9/11. He told me that my idea was "interesting, but wrong". Then he got up, said, "I don't have time for this", and left.

He is quite an exemplar of small-town Oklahoma. I could have been speaking with a mayor of some Oklahoman town, or member of the city council. It would have been very similar.

So, God ("Why do you hate God?"), guns (parents pulling kids out of school to hunt), and gays ("gay" being used as an insult). But I identify three different problems: stubbornness, ignorance, and anti-intellectualism.

Of course, there are smart people in Noplace. But they are a shrinking minority, as most of them try to move away at the first opportunity. My friends are members of this minority.

I suspect that small towns in other parts of the country and the world suffer from similar problems.

So, in addition to general discussion, I ask three questions:
1. Why did things turn out this way?
2. What is to be done?
3. Who benefits from the status quo?
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Binabik
Binabik


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posted January 04, 2009 06:18 AM

That's one of the most judgmental elitist things I've read at HC. Who the hell are you to judge those people and their lifestyle? That's just pure snobbery at it's worst. Are there problems in small towns? Of course there are. As if cities don't have their own mess to deal with.

Maybe instead of going to college and learning all that garbage they teach, you should travel around to small towns and learn what THEY have to teach. You might just be surprised.

Seriously, who the hell are you to judge them?


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Lith-Maethor
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posted January 04, 2009 06:32 AM

wow...

binabik, this is not elitist... this is reality... you'd be surprised by the number of people that agree with what mvass said in his post... that seems to be the way things are in Smalltown, USA ...and not that far off from how things are in Smalltown, Europe
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mvassilev
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posted January 04, 2009 06:32 AM
Edited by mvassilev at 06:33, 04 Jan 2009.

Binabik:
I live in a small town. And nowhere will you find me saying that cities don't have problems. And I have no problems with their lifestyle as such, except when their ignorance affects me or they send some idiot like Inhofe to the Senate. I'm sorry, but when a guy in the government says that 9/11 was divine will, I am going to look critically at the people who voted for him. The whole world is watching.

Quote:
Maybe instead of going to college and learning all that garbage they teach you should travel around to small towns and learn what THEY have to teach.
Good anti-intellectual apologism there. Sorry, but I have no interest in learning about how atheists are actually closet Satanists and about how gay people are the scum of the Earth. If I wanted to listen to the sounds coming out of animals' mouths, I would walk past the farmhouse and into the barn. At least the cows have never insulted anybody.

Of course, that's a generalization and doesn't apply to everyone - indeed, there are smart people here. But they are a distinct minority.
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Binabik
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posted January 04, 2009 07:01 AM

Lith, elitist has nothing to do with reality vs non-reality. It's elitist because the tone is that of a person looking down on others as if he were somehow better. It's the TONE that's elitist and highly insulting and ignorant.

And Mvass, you certainly aren't unique having lived in a small town. I've lived in several and traveled extensively in the States. Part of what you say tends to be true in general terms, but your assessment of it is seriously lacking and elitist. Other things you said are in no way representative of small towns.

Small towns have their good and bad points and it can even make a reasonable discussion. But the tone of your post was WAY to condescending and insulting.


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JollyJoker
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posted January 04, 2009 10:13 AM

Small towns disapper for the same reason than small shops. Today, a small shop can exist only, if it's extremely specialized or render extremely specialized services.
A small town can only exist if the infrastructure is right. It needs to be located near a highway with fast access to a big railhead or airport. If it's in the middle of nowhere it simply can't compete, no matter what. In a big country like the US there are big "holes" in the infrastructure.
Moreover, the more adventurous younger people tend to leave small towns: someone visiting a college tends to leave for good.
Another important point is the "incestual" situation in small towns. There is not much influx of fresh blood, everyone knows everyone else, there is not much anonymity and people tend to ignore what's happening in the great wide worls as soon they have arranged with the idea of staying in Noplace.
You might say that a small town is just too small.
The ideal town has, well, beginning at something not far below 100.000 people to maybe 250.000. That's enough for having all the benefits of a big community, but not enough to have all the disadvantages and bad sides.

You can do nothing. Leave. Nowadays a small town can only exist when they are lving off tourism or are not really a small town, but more of a suburb of a bigger city.

No one profits. With your economic views it should be clear that for a town certain requirements are necessary to exist. If such requirements are not there (anymore) they disappear. They simply cannot survive in this economy.

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JoonasTo
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What if Elvin was female?
posted January 04, 2009 10:59 AM

Quote:
The ideal town has, well, beginning at something not far below 100.000 people to maybe 250.000. That's enough for having all the benefits of a big community, but not enough to have all the disadvantages and bad sides.
I live in a town of little under 20000 and we al ready have big town problems, mainly immigrants and racism. But we don't have most of those small town problems though.
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JollyJoker
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posted January 04, 2009 11:05 AM

Depends, of course, in which country you live.
Scandinavia differs from Middle and Western Europe, sice overall density is a lot lower there.

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JoonasTo
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What if Elvin was female?
posted January 04, 2009 11:26 AM
Edited by JoonasTo at 11:26, 04 Jan 2009.

Of course, but my point was that if 100,000 people town doesn't have problems, like beggars, it's a miracle.

No we don't have beggars in my town.
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del_diablo
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posted January 04, 2009 02:26 PM

Christian anti-intulectalisme is always fun is it? Meh <.<
Guns is in how you describe it(hunting) is not that bad, it could have been worse. But how is the carry laws around there by the way?
But dam i hate religions when they rig up in anti-intulectual manners. Its a problem for the world.
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TheDeath
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posted January 04, 2009 03:18 PM
Edited by TheDeath at 15:19, 04 Jan 2009.

I somewhat agree with Binabik though, especially after the whole "snow" argument in that other thread (even though, might I add, there are some things mvass that weren't 100% judgmental and not insulting at all, to those people of course, but that's just me and him apparently).

Anyway, for a 6th grade, frankly I don't get what's wrong with asking you "Why do you hate God?". What was so wrong about it?

As for anti-intellectualism... I'm not exactly sure where you're heading. Apart from the politicians (where we all know how... ahem a certain way... they are) not sure what is so anti-intellectualism there. They may not be promoting intellectualism (even though that is debatable too), but that does not make them anti-intellectuals. Just because you don't promote X doesn't mean you are anti-X.


btw: what's a school voucher?
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del_diablo
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posted January 04, 2009 03:52 PM
Edited by del_diablo at 15:53, 04 Jan 2009.

Quote:
btw: what's a school voucher?


I'd like to know that too.

The anti-intulectalisme is a thing, like refusing to aknowledge scientific evolition or accept progress. Not accepting progress is however ok, but it depends on what. I know there was this place on the countryside(in USA however) the ended up electing a dog to mayor because none of the others going for the position was fitting the place(they would do a 360 on it, someting that the locals did not like).
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Mamgaeater
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posted January 04, 2009 03:52 PM

Quote:
Anyway, for a 6th grade, frankly I don't get what's wrong with asking you "Why do you hate God?". What was so wrong about it?

IIRC atheists simply do not believe in a greater power such as god. they don't hate said greater power.
She was acting as if atheists hated god.
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TheDeath
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posted January 04, 2009 04:04 PM

In 6th grade, what do you expect? What if she never met an atheist before? What's so weird in asking that?

As for evolution 'proofs', I have quite a few articles I linked all over this forum about them, and they were scientifical (I bet they were using a lot more mathematics, relativity included, than mvass would be able to grasp anyway, but that's beside the point)
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mvassilev
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posted January 04, 2009 04:12 PM

Binabik:
I haven't lived in all small towns. It may be different in New England, California, or the Northwest. But I've been to many small towns here in Oklahoma, and the pattern is very similar.

But when people do stupid things, don't expect me to pat them on the back and say, "Good job!"

JJ:
Your analysis is correct. But an even bigger problem is that the town doesn't try to attract more people.

My friend's dad is a preacher. He was visiting a nursing home, and was talking to some old lady. She says, "I don't feel like a local." He asks, "How old are you?" She says, "I'm 84, and I moved from Othernoplace [a town of 3000 people 30 miles from Noplace] to Noplace when I was 16. And I still don't feel like I'm from here."

del_diablo:
The gun laws? I don't know exactly. Certainly one isn't allowed to carry guns inside a library or anything like that, but many people do have guns in their cars. But I was listening to my state representative talk (BTW, he's also an idiot) and he said that he will expand concealed carry and will allow people to carry guns everywhere.

TheDeath:
What's wrong with asking atheists why they hate God? Nothing, if the kid came up with the question herself. But she didn't. Atheists are the least trusted and least liked group in America (even worse than Muslims!). At home, many people teach their children that atheists are evil closet Satanists.

As for anti-intellectualism, it's rampant. Whenever I start reading a book in one of my non-AP classes, someone nearly always says, "Man, why you readin'?" And when I inquired into the matter one time, a guy said, "Man, readin's gay. It's for girls and ****suckers. How about driving a four-wheeler in the mud, huh?"

As for school vouchers, they're an idea that many politicians have about education reform. The argument is, because many public schools are terrible, especially in the inner city, the government shouldn't make people go to their local schools, but instead give them vouchers that could pay (or partially pay) for them to go to any school, including private ones.
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TheDeath
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posted January 04, 2009 04:17 PM

Quote:
As for anti-intellectualism, it's rampant. Whenever I start reading a book in one of my non-AP classes, someone nearly always says, "Man, why you readin'?" And when I inquired into the matter one time, a guy said, "Man, readin's gay. It's for girls and ****suckers. How about driving a four-wheeler in the mud, huh?"
lol really? I agree, most guys like that in my school were "machos" though. I never though of calling them anti-intellectuals, even though in high-school they were a BIT more mature.

Quote:
As for school vouchers, they're an idea that many politicians have about education reform. The argument is, because many public schools are terrible, especially in the inner city, the government shouldn't make people go to their local schools, but instead give them vouchers that could pay (or partially pay) for them to go to any school, including private ones.
Aye, I get what you're saying. Something like a student paycheck? We have something similar here but the amount is a joke.


As for the atheism thing, did you actually want to talk to her and explain that you actually don't believe in God, rather than hate Him?
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Lith-Maethor
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posted January 04, 2009 04:22 PM

*blinks at TheDeath*

...aaalright...

*backs away from the thread*
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mvassilev
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posted January 04, 2009 04:25 PM
Edited by mvassilev at 19:04, 04 Jan 2009.

Yes, really. A lot of people are like that.

Yeah, vouchers are kind of like a student paycheck. But they can only be used towards school.

As for the atheism thing, I just replied, "No, I just don't believe in God." And she walked away. But that was sixth grade. Now those kinds of questions are more rare, but whenever someone does inquire into that, they don't take "I don't believe in God" for an answer. They are convinced that I am a Satanist.

But perhaps I am focusing too much on the dumb people. There are a few smart people here. And some of it may be a generational thing. One of my closest friends was talking to her family, and she happened to mention that she was best friends with an atheist. One of her aunts immediately exploded and asked for my phone number so she could "drive the Devil out of me." But that aunt is known for being crazy. But even her nice aunt said, "Really? Oh, that's nice." and looked kind of concerned and disapproving.


Perhaps someone else would like to offer their two cents?
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mvassilev
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posted January 04, 2009 10:05 PM

I think you misunderstood my questions. In 1, I meant, why are small towns so resistant to trying to adapt? And why don't they try to attract more people?
I am aware that there is more in the world than Noplace, and after I go to college, I am never coming back. But, in 2, I meant on a larger scale. Can (or should) anything be done about these towns? Because if the process continues, the only people left will be old people and those who are less than intelligent. And then just old people. And then no one. Perhaps it's a good thing.
And in 3, I didn't mean nationwide. I meant within the small towns. Who benefits from resisting change and education?
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TheDeath
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posted January 04, 2009 10:11 PM
Edited by TheDeath at 22:12, 04 Jan 2009.

Quote:
But, in 2, I meant on a larger scale. Can (or should) anything be done about these towns?
Not sure if it "can", depending on what you mean by "being done anything". (that could get subjective a lot and heated issues)
"Should"? Why would you decide, if they don't demand it? lol.
You don't have to "do something" to sell your plasma TVs if no one wants it, for example. Respect other people's opinions and demands, no one has same attitudes as you do

Quote:
And in 3, I didn't mean nationwide. I meant within the small towns. Who benefits from resisting change and education?
Opinion?

Some can ask, who benefits from change and education? Those that want it. Those that don't, well, don't.
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