Thursday, February 03, 2005Sister Novena Becomes Even More Liberal, Vol. 1
You've noticed, I see, that I've been posting less frequently on political topics lately. (The fact is, I haven't even been paying attention. For example, I haven't even heard Bush's SOTU address yet... and I'm not sure I'm even going to bother, since no honest word has yet escaped that man's lips.) That's largely because I've been spending more of my time holed up in my academic world, focusing intently on a narrower set of concerns and trying to engage in the world immediately around me... which was, after all, the reason for coming up here in the first place.
As you no doubt know by now, I have made a transition from life in DeSoto Co., Mississppi -- one of the most solidly conservative counties in the country -- to Windham Co., Vermont, one of the most solidly liberal counties in the country. And do you know what I've discovered?
Windham county more closely reflects "conservative values" than DeSoto county does. This is a small, tightly-knit community, which is surrounded mostly by even smaller towns and old farms, many of which have been in the same hands for generations, some for centuries. As generous as the government support system is here, there's still a very strong sense of people individually working to help and support their neighbors. Families are close, divorces are significantly less common than in Mississippi, and small business is the rule rather than the exception.
Compare this to DeSoto County, where small business are few and far between, and exist under constant threat of going under due to the local omnipotence of Wal-Mart and similar corporate entities. Drive down the main street of Brattleboro and you see that nearly every business is owned by independent owners; drive down the main drag of Horn Lake, Mississippi, and all you'll see is chain restaurants and franchise businesses. The only local charities in DeSoto County are religiously-based, restricting the offer of help only to those who submit to a given set of beliefs. Individuals tend to reach for whatever most benefits themselves personally, brushing off the idea that what is good for the community will -- in the long run -- be good for them as well. Immediate gratification only need apply.
Don't get me wrong: as much as I talk here, I don't believe that liberal economic ideas alone are the answer; I'm not an economic utopian. I understand that fiscal conservatives have some valid ideas and some things to share with us. What the current crop of conservatives seems to fail to grasp, though, is that just as extreme-left ideas alone have never really worked, extreme-right ideas alone won't work any better. Sustainability and some amount of self-sacrifice towards the common good -- ie, spending fifty cents more on apples to support local farmers while getting produce that's healthier -- are also good ideas that really work.
I could argue that Brattleboro represents a much better example of a well-functioning marketplace than does Horn Lake. The people of Brattleboro made a decision about what they value, and while corporate entities still exist in this town, they have not been allowed to overrun the many small, independently-owned businesses that also live here. The people of Horn Lake, having surrendered to every corporate entity that comes to town, would now be hard-pressed to buy their daily needs from locally-owned businesses.
Those conservatives must really hate small business owners.