Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s declaration rural America is becoming irrelevant sent me mind-stumbling back to a point early in my writing career when I entered a contest awarding a plaque for the much vaunted title of: Best Regular Columnist. I, and dozens of other struggling writers, were to be graded against each other’s personally categorized colleagues as denoted by the subscription sales of our “home” newspapers.
Category One equaled 9.95 Bazillionteen subscribers. Category Two equaled a subscription rate of half that and so forth until you got to my placement category; number Seven (lucky 7?). We had a total readership in the impoverished neighborhood of 20% of our families wrapping garbage within its folds. Shoot! My wife didn’t read the paper!
As luck had it, my humble entries were judged least agonizing to read or least likely to cause dyspepsia. I ascended to the height of that regency most sought: Best Regular Columnist (Category Seven). It didn’t matter there were seven other “Bests”; I was “Best” of Cat 7, (Go figure how you can be best if you’re only one of a plurality.) Luckily nobody commanded we provide proof people actually read my column. That could’ve been embarrassing.
None of my family watched my walk of fame. My four year old played hide-and-seek under the tables in the presentation room. He did this rather than share Dad’s glory in receiving a piece of wood commemorating something or other of absolutely no interest to him. But afterwards, I got to read some of the critique sheets from the foreign Press Association judging Louisiana’s competition.
It was enlightening. Then it became aggravating: fast.
One of the judges was kind to me, stating: “he has a sound grasp of his subject matter which he puts across with an economy of words his readers can appreciate. (Me? An economy of words?)
Then came the aggravating part; “Sarge speaks of subjects happening on the national stage making one wonder if anybody in his rural audience cares about the subject.”
Was it this person’s belief we, the inhabitants of rural America are too stupid to understand? Or, did he/she believe us too “tuckered out” by our daily toil splitting logs, slopping hogs and draining bogs to recognize this country’s heading toward Hades in a hand-basket? Did this person believe we in rural America had no national cemeteries inhabited by the souls of our sons and daughters NOT returning from Iraq and Afghanistan? Is the fact these souls are sheltered and cared for by their predecessors killed in World Wars I and II not a part of this person’s understanding? Wouldn’t it seem his/her ignorance of us far over-reached our supposed ignorance of national and foreign affairs?
I was offended then and Tom Vilsack has offended me again. And the supposition of our encroaching irrelevance as a voting public, coming from an alleged public servant is disheartening to hear and unacceptable.
Vilsack, as an American Citizen, I’m your boss: so SHUT UP AND LISTEN UP!
The fact is rural America is where the true heart of America lives. The seaboard states have always attracted the masses. The seaboard colonies were the crucibles of industry and international commerce. People congregated and harnessed the productive engines of the Industrial Revolution. They constructed modern Towers of Babel, in which they reside, proclaiming their goals of upward mobility.
But, who fed them? Who poured blood, sweat and tears of joy and pain etching the history of their efforts into the dirt on their faces as they too worked to make this nation what it is? It was a nation of farmers and laborers and frontier craftsmen pulling the nutrients from the earth. They served it up to their brethren so they might increase the bounty from commerce. Rural Americans weren’t and aren’t irrelevant.
If anything they’re irreplaceable and irreducible. They’re the vertebrae in this nation’s spine; a spine showing its mettle daily as it competes with the rest of the world for social exceptionality and world leadership.
So, Mr. Vilsack if you’ve got nothing good to say, I’ll say it again: Shut Up. You’re an insult to the people you claim to represent.
Thanks for listening.