picture by me
I went to this cultural event with my husband where they ran a program where people write about their towns both good and bad. I don't know if they understand what they are getting into in this place. This is an affluent town, where the divide between the haves and have-nots is immense. One paper asked "What do you think of your town?" We were supposed to fill these out. We also were supposed to write questions to ask things about our town.
I asked the lady in charge, "Do you want us to be honest"? She said, "Yes, write whatever you want." I wrote "This place has great scenery, beautiful nature, but is socially disconnected and less friendly then any other small town, I have ever lived in. There are great cultural things here like this great art center, and a wonderful library, but the economic divides here are so immense they have created great disconnection". I wrote about our library being a wonderful library on one paper, and went in more detail wanting to stress some of the good too.
I also wrote, "Why is this place so conservative?" Republican politics rule our town with an iron fist probably due to it being so affluent. There's a few liberals especially since other human beings are out there protesting with us, but we often discuss the influence of these negative Republican politics around here. We then discussed the historical reasons behind the predominant conservatism. Smaller towns are more conservative in general at least in our region of the country.
I also wrote, "Why are there no young people here? Gen X seems nonexistent and millennials are leaving." Two older ladies were there, and said, they were concerned about young people leaving too, due to the lack of jobs. One man in his 50s piped up and said, "They were bored with smaller town life." Some people brought up the racial and economic divides between the wealthy side of town and the poorer more African American side of town--a point I was eluding to more generally. One of the older ladies, said, she agreed with me about the social disconnection, and unlike other small towns, this place operated socially like bigger cities and it was nothing like Cheers where everyone knows your name. People move a lot in and out for a big corporation that dominates our town.
The group then discussed why the reasons for the social disconnection. The idea was offered was that this is a far more transient place, and people moved a lot. The impact of our heavy tourist here [they come for the beautiful scenery] also was seen as something that impacts a community negatively when it comes to cohesion and so much of the community catering to their needs over local needs. One lady said, "This town changes and becomes almost a different place when the tourists leave." I nodded my head and agreed.
I have a hate/love relationship with the place I live. I know on this blog I talked about moving away. It still gets brought up at times, but I decided to focus on the bloom where you are planted approach, that helped a lot. I am even now figuring out where to find more of a niche. I have involved myself in more community events as health has allowed, this has ranged from a public transit meeting to a cultural meeting like this. My protesting is a "community" event of sorts too that allowed me to meet a few nice people. I figure if you are living in a place, try and change it for the better.
I do enjoy many activities here. I don't sneeze at having a great art center, library, medical resources and charity that was non-existent in my old town. The wealth of this area, probably has brought me these resources too. However, I have wondered why it seems so hard to get to know people here. Sure there are friendly people here, there's one church I go to a book club and charity dinner at and know a few friends, but this is one odd place.
Sometimes the social class chasms get to me, on the other side of the river, there's plenty of people even poorer then me, but what would they think if they were sitting at at various social events, listening to several people all at once talk about their international vacations. This was not at this particular event but one lady was talking about exploring shops, and some were expensive, I thought she was talking about our downtown, but she was talking about Rome. The whole room then burst forward with their tales of going to Greece, India and Germany. I made a joke, I would visit some of those places if I won the Lotto but my comment wasn't heard among the endless travelogues. I don't fit in a lot of places, but these endless class divisions do affect me. One question bounces around in my brain, why are they always bragging so much to each other? How come they never talk about anything real? It's always achievements and showing off.
It really is older here, most places I went most women were 15-20 years older then me and I am already "older" myself. It helped to learn, I wasn't imagining this. Gen X didn't make this level of wealth, or are far fewer in number. Millennials definitely are struggling even worse. I found this discussion interesting in that others were noticing many things I had. My husband said, that knowing the "voter" turn out, being so low, that there is definitely some people who do not support the dominant conservatism and Republicanism. I suppose a small town can be a micro-cosm of America.
The economic and racial divides that are so predominant here are growing in America. The out of touch conservatism among the affluent, definitely is playing a role nationally. Some are charitable of course, but their world is so completely different. My town is a picture of this. I read where Republicans considered a 450,000 dollar a year income to be "middle-class", well maybe on the spectrum with big buck 1 percent people on one end, but it shows how out of touch many are.
Socially what people focus on in different classes is quite different. I have felt like a fish out of water, because achievement and status is so important to the upper middle class here. I have my family baggage affecting things and admit it. I don't relate to them. I want to talk about other things. Some of them like my art, but I feel nervous around them. It feels like everything I talk about is "wrong" and Aspergers only makes it harder.
Technically I and my husband could lay claim to an alternative form of the "creative class" since he is a published author though we are very low income, but I notice even my brain seems to just work different. I don't want to hate on the rich, but sometimes when trying to talk to them, there seems to be an immense wall between me and them. I also look at the poorer side of our town, the few poor on this side of town, and their troubles and oppressions with growing alarm. So many are struggling just to survive, and that seems to be getting worse. What do these other folks really learn as they travel the world?