What is there to do in a small town? The same thing there is in a large city. There are the same books, the same movies, the same sports, and for the most part the same social activities. There’s also ready access to wilderness and outdoor activities that folks from the cities often drive for hours to find. What’s not there in small towns? Well, for the most part there aren’t any night clubs where people are going to be impressed by your ride or your suit, and the local selection of shoes probably doesn’t include anything being worn this week on the CW (and if that’s how you judge the sort of place you want to live, then frankly I’d just as soon you stay in the city).
The people at the GOP convention weren’t able to define small town values when pressed on the subject, but I can give you my definition: small town values mean judging people more on their actions, and less on their possessions.
No. Just … no.
I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, and I live in Chicago now, and I can say that once you start generalizing based on location or size you start limiting the question, making it about some kind of standard, instead of about people.
Not judged for your possessions? I went to Catholic school where there was a dress code and, in the younger grades, uniforms. I always laugh when people say uniforms will make kids less likely to judge one another on what they have, because … okay, you’re all wearing the same plaid skirt, but you know what you judge then? Socks. I’m not kidding, socks. Certain styles are cool. Certain others aren’t. Shoes. Barrettes. Kids are mean as hell and lots of the kids I knew didn’t go to Catholic school because they were Catholic, they went to Catholic school because their folks were rich and the Catholic school was mostly white.
Designer jeans, fancy shoes, we may not have had a nightclub to show off our outfits at but we damn sure had TV and school dances, and even if all you could shop at was Target or Wal-Mart, the high school hallways were as much a catwalk as anything on Project Effing Runway. Everybody knew what your father did, if your mother worked or not, that you were the one who’d had head lice or couldn’t afford a new coat, where you shopped and ate out and what you did on weekends. Kids got cars with bows on them from their folks and kids took three buses to get to school and back or drove some old beater and because there were only a few dozen of us everybody knew who belonged to what group. And as a teenager, with so little to define you, you reached for what was easiest, for what you could see. I don’t think that’s confined to towns of 10,000 or less. I really don’t.
I was judged for my actions, my values, my work, what I had instead of what I didn’t have, only once Ileft that small town, and that may be a function of age and experience, it may be that that’s what kids do and adults are less prone, less than the place itself. I don’t know if things would be different, had I stayed where I was raised, and done my work there. Maybe opinions would have changed. I don’t know. But that’s a different thing, than saying it’s about location, and that people in the city are more likely to do that to you than people in a small town. Your actions matter just as much in a city; in fact in some ways I think they matter more. We’re all mashed up close together here, I don’t pull my weight, you feel it faster. Still, who the fuck knows. The point isn’t that you are where you live, the point is that you are what you are, and Devilstower gets to that, eventually:
Hard as it is for some on both sides of the divide to believe, small town people are exactly as smart, dumb, good, bad, close-minded and curious as those who live in the cities. Small town values are American values, but no more American than “New York City Values” or “San Francisco Values.” In fact, their values are the same values.
And not for nothing, but “San Francisco Values” is just code for “gay,” and “New York Values” means Jew, and pointing out Barack Obama was a “community organizer” is just a nice way of saying he’s a Black Communist, and anybody who thinks it’s about more than that for the GOP is kidding himself.