The Rural Divide is Overstated Compared to The Rural Connection

Understanding and acknowledging the range of challenges for rural America ‎makes it easier for our urban and suburban friends and sometimes distant neighbors to find shared values and ambitions with rural Americans.

The trend seems to be to focus on the things that divide Americans based on where we live. Neglected in that conversation are the things that form the core of America as a whole. There is no disputing that health, prosperity, a good and safe future for our family, friends and neighbors, love of country, and respect for where we live are all common values no matter where we call home.

One easy way to begin to appreciate the diverse American landscape is to reject stereotypes and bigoted portrayals of life in the cities, suburbs or countryside. We can’t ignore that every part of America is unique, and we must appreciate that every American is an individual born with the same right to the pursuit of happiness no matter where we live. But we stand the best chance of accomplishing more when we start the conversation with what we agree on and stick to the truth. We should avoid false claims that exist only to support one way of thinking, or we will solve nothing.

We all know people who come from all parts of America. The rural brain drain has forced many people who grew up on a farm or small town to move to where the jobs are, often relocating to the suburbs or cities. Get to know them. Listen to their stories. Hear their dreams. Understand their concerns and fears. Start by recognizing the brain drain that brought them closer to you is an issue that has no geographic boundaries. People leave the cities and suburbs they grow up in, too, but the difference is most of those folks move to other cities or suburban neighborhoods.

When we explore the rural brain drain we discover the realities of rural life and the rural economy. There is a talented and committed workforce in rural America and plenty of affordable land to build a business, and frequently with low overhead. Often, however, there is not the essential infrastructure, including suitable roads, broadband or local medical facilities. Providing rural areas with the same government-supported incentives and private-public that drive the urban or suburban economy will make America stronger and can be a big part of reducing the trend of moving companies overseas.

The food we eat is of course the biggest connector for urban, suburban and rural Americans. It’s not a secret the food that we put on our tables mainly comes from rural America. No surprise there. Rural America is where the farms and ranches are. It’s important that we keep in mind the hard work our farmers endure to feed America, and big chunk of the world. We want nutritious, safe and delicious foods in our kitchens. Growers and harvesters deserve a good price for their produce, meats, fish and poultry. We all should want to protect especially the upstart and legacy family farmers who try to maintain a business without the fear of being pushed out by factory farms that can flood the marketplace and lower commodities prices. Factory farms can leave the small or mid-sized farmer are underwater. America is stronger when we have a stable system that respects and protects our family farmers.

Access to affordable quality healthcare and prescription medicine is another issue that hits us all. One size doesn’t fit all, but a base system that guarantees no American has to go without health insurance makes the most sense to ensure there is a bottom line with no holes for anyone to fall through. As we have seen, the fix is complicated and has to evolve and adjust. However, universal healthcare is achievable whether though private employer-provided healthcare pools, a public option, or Medicare and Medicaid expansion. America is stronger when access to affordable quality healthcare is available in our cities, towns and isolated areas.

Another big unifier is our collective love of our country. There are no fences around patriotism. We feel it in rural towns, bedroom communities and at the center of the big cities. Respect for rights and freedoms granted all of us in the Constitution is patriotic. Admiration for those who volunteer to serve our country in uniform and the veterans who have done so in the past is patriotic. Appreciation for the workers at the local USDA office, the men and women on call at the local fire or police station, the groundskeeper at the local park, or the clerk sitting at a desk in a daunting essential agency like the Social Security Administration is patriotic. To expect clean and fair elections devoid of outside or foreign intervention is patriotic. A strong democracy is patriotic and it makes America stronger.

We also share many hardships and losses no matter where we are from. We all mourn when we lose loved ones, and hurt when we find our family members or friends stricken with illness. Suicide, addiction, and seeing someone who showed promise cross the law pains us all. We suffer when see jobs go away or watch a business opportunity fail to materialize. It makes America stronger when we empathize and understand the disappointments and hard times we all can face.

These are just some of the examples that demonstrate what unites us to make one America. There will always be differences, but that diversity is also why America is so special. Our core values forge an unbreakable bond and hold together a union that remains the envy of the world. It’s an old saying, but it’s still worth saying again: we’re all in this together, and that makes America stronger.

(Note: This is the second installment in a series of posts on the merits of pursuing the rural vote)

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