I like small towns. I grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York state, just beyond the reach of the commuter trains to Manhattan; spent 15 years in rural Colorado, living in a town with no traffic lights and a population well under 2,000; then moved to a similarly tiny town in southwestern Washington state, where I live today. I could, in theory, settle anywhere with reliable internet service and a reasonable cost of living, and sometimes I wonder why I continue to choose places that by any conventional measure are both inconvenient and unhip.
I’m drawn to the big landscapes that surround them, but most of all, I think, I value my membership in these cranky, intimate communities. I like that my neighbors come from many different walks of life, and that they regularly (and sometimes uncomfortably) puncture my assumptions about their experiences and interests and political leanings — just as I puncture theirs. I like that I know the librarians by name, and that they know when I have books overdue.
Since the 2016 election, the national media has frequently used the term “rural Americans” as shorthand for middle-aged, white Trump supporters. The conflation obscu... Read more