Some background. I am posting under a pen name JC Houlihan. A houlihan is a particular kind of twist put into a rope when working cattle. This pen name was suggested to me by a close ranching friend. Needless to say, I can ride, but I can’t rope
I am a speechwriter and a published columnist and essayist living in NYC. I graduated from a notoriously liberal NE college, and still consider myself a liberal. Though, I will admit that people scratch their heads often when I say that. I think that the foundation of liberalism is openminded exploration of issues — but that seems to have become lost. While I have been invited to blog on rural issues at another site, I decided to begin to test out this idea here.
Most Easterners have no understanding of what coping with big government means because we simply don’t have an intimate experience with it — nor do we understand the west, where up to 50 percent of the land base is owned by the federal government, leaving the people who make a living from that land base feeling powerless and overrun. Perhaps the largest change that occurred for me was when I began to explore American ranching is this: I no longer believe that government is the answer to much of anything; it can’t police itself; it becomes rent seeking and power hungry. I would turn our land resources over to America’s farm, ranch, timber communities — with the agricultural extension colleges as a resource — if I could. I trust their decency, resourcefulness, and knowledge. These stories are untold, however, and they are persuasive. In fact, I would go further, my experiences in rural America, right after some horrific losses in my own community after 9/11, went a long way to restoring my trust in people.
Francis Fukuyama writes about the loss of social trust and how it imperils a nation. Much of the “dialogue” on the web now seems to be undermining what had been one of our greatest resources.
Right after the election and the appalling response in the media to Sarah Palin, the Wall Street Journal tried to resusitate “frontier values”. Where did they look? Alaska, Montana, Wyoming. Nope. Henninger did a piece on the deep past (Davy Crockett, I think); and they published a review by Glenn Reynolds on a science fiction work that considered the frontier prospects of Mars. I like both men, but these two pieces entirely ignored the frontier that is still with us, the frontier values alive and well in our own people It annoyed the hell out of me that the premier paper in terms of Republican opinion couldn’t find the Republican base. At a meeting of public lands ranchers in Salt Lake City, I recounted this story and got an ovation.
I have been frustrated in bringing these stories East in a way that this audience can hear. So, I don’t know if it would work for rural Americans to contact me here with some of these stories; the abuses continue out there and are rarely told here in the East. I might then also try to open up a blog-diary on Daily Kos (well that may be going too far) to translate them there. I suspect that is a losing proposition. More than ever, it seems to me that we need to begin to have a visceral understanding of the inanity and inertia that big government brings to living your life.
America’s rural communities understand humility in action. Arrogance gets you bucked off, stomped on, or dead. We need to restore those values — which even a NY liberal can celebrate — to the public forum. I am not certain how to penetrate the dogged convictions of my fellow liberals that we are better than the rest and will confer from on high solutions for one and all. But, I am willing to give it a shot