Places to See in a Small Town

I recently noted in a bookseller’s catalogue books with titles like 101 Things to Do in New York and 101 Things to Do in Chicago. And I realized that all of them were about big places. With this list of “Things to do in Midwestern Small Towns” I aim to show why that might be.

  1. The first thing you’ll want to do is get your bearings. One of our roads runs North and South. The other East and West. It is vital that you not get these confused, or you might end up in a Great Lake. There aren’t any other proper roads.
  2. After that, you’ll want to see one of our many, many churches and bars. So, so, many. We have about 2,000 people and ten churches and the same number of bars. Most people attend both, sometimes on different days. The wide variety of churches will astound you: We have Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene, Episcopalian, Baptist, Catholic, and Bible. You may have thought that all Christian churches were Bible based, but apparently not. Those of you from other faiths are welcome to convert.
  3. Another thing you’ll want to experience is our thriving meth and heroin import trade. It’s practically our only industry! 
  4. Visit one of our five pizza shops. It’s amazing we have so many, since there are no Italians here, but if you’re looking for tough crust with vaguely tomato-y sauce topped with cheese-from-a-bag, look no farther.
  5. Make sure to visit one of our two parks. Perhaps the most interesting thing in each are our memorials to those who fought and died in war. There are three such remembrances, including one for our most recent conflicts. It’s a long list for such a small place.
  6. Marvel at School Street. The school was moved some time ago, but why change the name? That way lies madness.
  7. We have stores for hardware, car parts, feed and plants, but no bookstore. However, the plant place has a cat who is very friendly. Recommended.
  8.  Mind the Amish and their buggies. They’re as close as we get to diversity.
  9. As you stroll around town (don’t worry, it won’t take long), observe all the barking dogs! Some of them are entirely unrestrained and a few stay outside day and night in all weathers. Some towns might be embarrassed by this, but here it’s perfectly normal. Also, watch your step! Most people here do not clean up after their dogs, and are not at all ashamed. They won’t even pretend to do so if you watch. It’s charming!
  10. Enjoy our many feral and returned-to-the-wild cats. Spaying and neutering is expensive and house cats are basically outdoor animals, so why not let them all roam free? The population is kept in check though cars, predators and the occasional mass poisoning.
  11. In case you become ill, there is a doctors’ office. You will, however, need to make an appointment months in advance because they are the only doctors for miles. Unless you are willing to try the lovely Muslim doctor. Her schedule is wide open.
  12. If you are one of the 25% of Americans who suffer from mental health issues or one of the millions who suffer with addiction, you won’t have to worry about seeing a therapist here–because we don’t have any! In fact, there is no care for about thirty miles. Good luck!
  13. You won’t have to worry about waiting in line at Starbucks because we don’t have one.
  14. Wonder at the various rednecks, hillbillies, country people and white trash. Yes, they do sometimes go grocery shopping on a lawn mower, and yes, that might be because they lost their licence because they were intoxicated. Indeed, that IS a person riding an ALL-terrain vehicle up and down the paved road for an hour. Yes, someone does keep firing at exploding targets until midnight (and no, no official has bothered to stop them). Don’t stare too long at the various yards turned into junk plies though–most of those folks have guns (and yet more dogs!).

I do hope that this list has helped you understand life in a small town. And if you do decide to visit… For the love of everything, why would you?

Making America White Again?!

I’ve been thinking about this fellow a lot since I heard the story about his billboards with the slogan “Make America White Again.” Here’s the quote that I’ve been pondering (from that same link): he “wants to return to an earlier time ‘when there were no break-ins; no violent crime; no mass immigration.'”

1). As I tell my argument students, definitions are important. What does this person think is a “white” person? Are we going solely by skin color? Because even in “white” people, there’s a range of possibilities. Even within my own family, there’s a range of possibilities for white (with me being the palest–let me tell you, it’s no picnic to need sunscreen and hats whenever I step outside). Are we all white? Or are we using an ethnic definition– anyone with European ancestors, perhaps? My paternal grandmother’s parents were from England and Ireland–at the time, she would have been considered mixed-race because her father’s race was listed as Irish (i.e. not white). This applied to various other European groups in America’s immigration history, like the Italians. Does this fellow consider them all white? What about folks from Easter Europe? They faced the same kind of prejudice when they immigrated in large numbers–so do they count? How about Turkish folks? Turkey is a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. Russians? There are all kinds of ethic groups in Russia–do all of them “count” as white since Russia is European? Do Catholics count? At one point they didn’t. How about Jewish folks? Some of them have been in Europe for centuries. Are we just talking about WASPs? Or are we just talking paleness? Does the “one drop” rule apply? Since humans originated in Africa, are we all out of the running?

2) And when, exactly, was America white? I think I know when it was–when communities were segregated so that people of a certain age never saw anyone of color. That didn’t mean they weren’t there! I’ve read more than once that men who were kids in the fifties consider that time a golden age because they were shielded from many of the realities of life. So America wasn’t white then–just as it’s never been in our history. It’s that non-whites were so marginalized that their voices weren’t heard. That’s what we should go back to? Aren’t we better off now? (YES!)

3. Another mythical time is the “time before crime.” Again, I’m not sure when this was. It certainly wasn’t when Europeans stole the land from the people who were here first. Theft is a crime, even when it’s on a large scale, you know. It wasn’t when white people tried to commit genocide against the indigenous folks–that’s murder. Or introduce alcohol to them, killing millions more. Was it when Europeans kidnapped and enslaved millions of Africans? Why no, because that’s illegal too. How about when slave owners raped their slaves? No, that’s all kinds of crime right there. Was it when whites treated Chinese laborers as disposable? Obviously not. Was it when the US government interned Japanese citizens and confiscated all of their property? Again, that’s theft and unlawful imprisonment.

Oh, maybe he means crimes by individuals. In that case, here’s a link to the Brookings Institute which shows that the crime rate has been dropping for decades. Huh. And, of course, the folks who commit the crimes vary by area. Where I live, most of the crimes are committed by (wait for it) white people! Gosh. And what about those pesky immigrants? Well, the Wall Street Journal shows that to be a non-starter. Golly. In face, there’s some evidence to suggest that immigrants are more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators. Gee willikers!

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that although some of my best friends are white, it’s obvious that people of European heritage are bringing drugs; they’re bringing crime; they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.