Rural Water - Quarter 4, 2018 - 46
FROM THE CEO
PEOPLE WHO LIVE
IN A DEFINED
EVEN WHEN THEY
WITH OR DISLIKE
FOURTH QUARTER 2018
In their quest to cultivate a renewed sense of civil society, Americans often
look to urban areas for examples of what is and isn't working in terms of bridging
divides and bringing people together. This makes sense, since approximately 80
percent of us live in urban areas. Many also point to a perceived rift between urban
and rural as a bright line of division in our country, which poses a threat to our civil
society writ large. There is a popular, longstanding perception (among urban folk) that
rural America is somehow separate from the rest of us-either by choice or ineptitude.
Studies by the Frameworks Institute have shown that most non-rural dwellers perceive
rural America as either one large, poorly educated and impoverished backwater (a rural
dystopia as in the film Deliverance), or a self-segregated, agrarian utopia, where life is
idyllic and residents want nothing to do with "city folk" (à la the sitcom Green Acres).
Post 2016, another frame has emerged: that of rural America as an angry white mob
that votes counter to its own interests.
These perceptions are patently inaccurate, and they deny the very real fact
that rural America is both incubator and innovator when it comes to creating and
maintaining civil society.
We believe civil society exists when people who live in a defined geographic
proximity work cooperatively-even when they strongly disagree with or dislike one
another-to sustain mutually beneficial conditions. Think of civil society as a magic
flying carpet that, to hold a community aloft, must contain many different fibers.
Ideally, everyone in a community supplies at least one fiber to help weave this carpet
and get it off the ground. Once in the air, some fibers naturally break off and float
away, so all passengers have a responsibility for continual care and reweaving. In
densely populated areas, there are enough citizens to supply fibers so that others can
coast along for free. In small rural towns, everyone must contribute multiple threads
and stay especially vigilant when it unravels to keep it from crashing to the ground. ●
Reprinted with permission from the Stanford Social Innovation Review. For the full
article, go to http://bit.ly/StanfordRuralAmerica.
BY SAM WADE, NRWA CEO
What Rural America
Can Teach Us About