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Are Rural Americans Irrelevant?

December 30, 2012
Mike Myer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Rural America is "becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said recently.

Vilsack is a Democrat, the former governor of Iowa. His comments were made in a forum sponsored by a publication aimed at farmers. After delivering his diagnosis, Vilsack added, "we had better recognize it and we better begin to reverse it."

Vilsack is right. Take a look at results of the Nov. 6 presidential election if you doubt it. President Barack Obama was re-elected by the large urban areas. That's where he and other national candidates of both parties will direct their campaigns in the future. And that's where the "gifts" cited by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will go.

There's a reason they call us "flyover country." Quite a few of our fellow Americans see rural areas merely as places to pass over or through as quickly as possible, as they travel between cities.

Our ways of life and our traditions are viewed as quaint - maybe dangerous. We are, well, backward - not quite in step with the 21st century mainstream.

Vilsack is just reminding us of what urban dwellers, who are gaining more and more political power, think of us.

We grow the food that goes on their tables every day, and to the expensive restaurants the urban elite favor. Yet we are irrelevant.

Even the water they drink comes from us, sometimes via pipelines and viaducts scores or even hundreds of miles long. It is irrelevant to them - even those who sometimes condemn us for allegedly not worrying enough about the environment - that such practices drain rivers and ancient aquifers.

We mine the coal that generates by far the highest percentage of the electricity without which their cities would be dark. Yet we are irrelevant.

We drill for the gas that heats their apartment buildings and the oil that fuels their buses and taxis. Yet we are irrelevant.

Their skyscrapers, busy streets and sidewalks would not exist but for the limestone we quarry. But we are irrelevant.

We cut the timber they use to build suburban homes and, when they can't pay the mortgages, our taxes bail them out. That does not make us less irrelevant.

Wool from the sheep we raise and cotton from southern fields are woven into the best clothing sold in their stores. Still, we are irrelevant to them.

When the cities become too much to bear, their dwellers flee to our mountains and forests for relief. We who live there are irrelevant.

And when they are threatened by foreign enemies, they turn to those of us who "cling" to our guns to provide their first line of defense. And then we sometimes become relevant - as they worry aloud that our traditions of self-reliance, personal liberty and yes, self-defense may be threats to them.

But most of the time we are, as Vilsack reminded us, irrelevant in making political decisions.

Without small-town and rural America, the cities would not - could not - exist. At some point, we may have to remind our urban neighbors just how relevant we are to them.

Myer can be reached at: Myer@news-register.net.

 
 

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