One thing I've learned in recent days is that I could never be vice-president of this country. Not that I want the job, but the Washington insiders and the media have pretty much told me that small town people are uneducated, hicks, know nothing about the real world and have no business running for one of the big jobs leading this country.
Small town people just like to have sex, drink beer, go hunting, and raise a pack o'kids. We don't travel, we don't read, and we sure as hell don't know about that information highway thang.
This attitude is rampant among self-described cosmopolitans or sophisticates. I have experienced this first hand from former Windy City residents who have moved to our area of southern Illinois (their definition) and laid claim to lake property homes nearby. In fact, I wrote a post about this last year, but deleted it when I "cleaned house" around the first of the year.
I saved it on my electronic gizmo (yeah, I do know how to do that) and I am re-posting it here, because I think it has even more relevance now with all the snooty Washington socialites and metro-media bashing of small town America that is currently taking place. Yet one insightful reported (probably from a small town) noted: "American is made of a million Wasillas and only one Chicago."
Aliens vs. Country Bumpkins
Our section of rural America is being infiltrated by aliens, although not the illegal or outer space kind.In recent years, upper income Chicago city dwellers and suburbanites have been buying homes in our neck of "southern" Illinois, and some have even chosen to retire here.
Who can blame them? Sell your house in the city for $500,000+ and buy something way bigger and better down here for $150,000, invest the rest, and have some fun! Those purchasing second homes are using them for weekend getaways, and will move into them permanently when they do retire.
Like other parts of America, the flavor of our community is changing because of the aliens, and that's not hitting so well with some of the local folk. As one recent Newcomer was quoted at a local town meeting, "Things are changing and you'd better get used to it!"
That didn't make things any better.
Reminiscent of the early days of America, the local natives are unhappy with the Newcomers. They're upset about being driven off their land because they can no longer afford the higher real estate taxes, the consequence of rising property values due to increased alien demand.
But the economics of a boom town are so much easier to handle than the arrogant, in-your-face metro-attitude that many of these aliens are bringing with them.
In our rural Mayberry, the pace of life is slower and quieter. We ask questions because we're interested in you. We speak softly because we don't have to yell over the sounds of jackhammers and traffic. We don't drive fast because it doesn't take us an hour to go two miles. We may wear blue jeans to work because we're not trying to impress anyone. We drive old cars because they only have 15,000 miles on them after 5 years and still run. Most of us are fiscally and politically conservative.
But those things don't make us poor, uneducated, or unsophisticated. It seems that many from the Chicago area consider all of Illinois south of I-80 as "southern Illinois." (Those of us who live in the middle of the state and have some knowledge of maps know there's a whole lot of miles between us and the Ohio River.) And "southern Illinois" to the city folk means country bumpkin.
Like earlier immigrants, upon arriving in our territory, the Newcomers circle their wagons by forming little cliques of fellow transplants, and party around the campfire sharing stories of city life and counting their blessings about their "New Land" that they haven't even begun to know. Apparently there's safety in keeping with your own kind. Besides, it's not worthwhile getting to know the savage natives because the Newcomers are so much smarter, richer and cosmopolitan.
What they never learn is that we natives can drink beer at the local bar and be knowledgeable about fine wines, that we can have church dinners and still enjoy a gourmet meal, that we can drive pick up trucks and be world travelers, that we can know the price of a bushel of corn and how much the Dow Jones was up or down. Some of our locals could buy out the Newcomers three times over. Living in the country is not living in a vacuum. We're just not hung up on impressing our neighbors with what we know and what we can buy.
Even more amazing, many of us local bumpkin business people are much more knowledgeable and worldly than the Newcomers think they are. Merchants and service providers in small rural areas wear many hats and must know a great deal about a wide variety of things. Specialists, like many of the Newcomers, could never last at their occupations in small towns, where your customer base is small but so diverse that a broad-based information background is a necessity for business survival.
Here an attorney will handle wills, estates, real estate, corporate issues and criminal trials. A Realtor may also be an insurance agent and tax preparer. The grocer will sell food, magazines and books, rent videos, sell lottery tickets, make copies and send faxes for customers. The druggist will have a pharmacy, gift and card shop, and be the local UPS store. The dentist could also be a fireman or emergency medical tech.
It may seem as laughable as a comedy series where the mayor is the sheriff, the dry goods owner, the barber, and judge. It is serious business, though. Juggling all these hats means fulfilling requirements for multiple state licenses, constant market research to cater to the ever-changing demands of the consumer, travel to find new products to bring back to the community, evening and weekends of continuing education to keep informed of business issues or learning the latest techniques.
Assimilation is generally a slow process. Divisiveness and wars have occurred because of Newcomer misunderstandings of the natives. Hopefully the Newcomers will remember from times past that pioneers should never underestimate the natives and that the natives may actually be able to teach them a thing or two.