The Oldest Divide

Oh, what do we have here but another in a centuries-old series bemoaning the corruption of city life in comparison to the idyllic, harmonious, connected-to-nature rural life — working the fields, repairing tractors, you know the rundown. We’ve heard this since before the Industrial Revolution. Thank you for your worthless addition to it, Victor Davis Hanson.

Yes, all us “urbanites” — many living in rather small suburban or ex-urban towns themselves — just don’t understand how independent and anti-government the government-subsidized great mining corporations and agricultural conglomerates are. I forgot that small family farms barely exist because of those corporations. Yes, the factory farms may give low-paying jobs to people living in rural areas, but the people take them most likely because they’re the only jobs on offer. But let’s not call them farmers. They’re more like factory workers. In rural areas they’re just called “field hands.”

Claim I’m wrong, but I must have missed or forgotten about the current booming job market in Evergreen, Alabama, where my father grew up and our family owns farmland. Maybe the Central Valley of California, where Hanson spends his weekends when not being an urban-dwelling pseudo-intellectual, has a better job market.

Also, he gets wired high-speed Internet out there? Lucky him! Must be more populated than he claims (or he lives closer to a population center, which negates his argument).

And the claim that rural people don’t care about national issues beyond those of an existential nature? O the laughter that should bring! Explain widespread anti-gay sentiment and actions by rural county clerks then.

As for the tumultuous, dissatisfied, spoiled urban masses who are always on the verge of revolt against government to get more from government, we’ll have to put aside history — like the agrarian uprisings that occurred in concert with those in Paris and other French urban centers pre-, during and post-Revolution. Oh, and the Founders he mentions being such hardworking rural men? I’m betting they spent less time on backbreaking labor (that’s what slaves are for) than ruminating on national and philosophical issues. Have you read their books?

But don’t forget: Rural folks are independent and don’t need the government. They don’t even like it. It’s only city dwellers who need and use Head Start (available in rural areas), federal student loans (also available to rural kids), the Small Business Administration (which helps out entrepreneurs wherever they may be — also, I thought being a small business owner was independence personified. I’ll have to go back and listen to the GOP debates and see how many times farmers are brought up) and the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Act — well, where did that even come in? It’s the woman’s fault she’s immorally paid less than a male for the same work? Should his wife get fewer eggs from the chickens she takes care of at the farm just because she’s a woman?

Ultimately, his depiction of his “country” or “rural” life sounds like that of a combined country-boy-wannabe and fearful urbanite’s overnight stay at a backwoods B&B. It sounds like he spends more time being scared and toting his gun around than actually getting his hands dirty (which is the real problem with all us urbanites; not the fact that we vote for Democrats).

Those in rural America — of all races — have been migrating to the cities (in the U.S.) for hundreds of years, with a quickening pace after the civil rights era. But the real reason everyone is leaving? Because there are no jobs there. Despite what Hanson may think.

But maybe, just maybe, Hanson is planning to quit his city-based job and head back to the Central Valley where he can open a business (without an SBA loan) or start a farm (without the Farm Bureau’s help or tax breaks) and hire the locals. He could avoid the corruption of the city’s theaters and museums, and maybe that will keep the rural folks rural. God knows we need their example.

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