Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A DRIVE IN THE BACKCOUNTRY Today, the day before Thanksgiving, we took a drive out of our little village, up the escarpment, past Mount Baldy, to the next little town, then further up on the hills south of that into one of the most rural areas of the county. The sky was gray and threatening, typical of this time of year, but the countryside was beautiful in its open starkness. Stands of what had to be hundred-year old birch trees stood like sentinels between packs of conifers and the skeletons of leafless oaks and maples swaying in the brisk wind. Rows of rolled hay, black Angus beef cattle sheltering against the wind, chopped cornstalks, half-fallen barns, single-wide trailers, houses clearly in need of repair, and whitetail deer near the tree lines.. It’s a beautiful area, the northernmost tip of the Appalachian Mountain Chain, magnificent in summer, brutal in winter when the snow fall is measured in feet, not inches. It was rural America. And it was easy to see how the people who lived out here in the back of beyond could feel that their government had left them to their own efforts to survive, much less thrive, much less chase the Great American Dream. To wonder how many times they had listened to a politician’s promises, only to find them empty husks that blew away the day after election. It was easy to see how they could lose faith in politicians. I remembered the old joke, “It was so cold today I saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets.” To say this is a conservative area, is an understatement. Two out of three votes in this county went for Trump in 2016. Three out of six in 2020. And out here in the back of beyond, five out of six. We drove out here the day before Election Day. And were shocked at the preponderance of Trump signs and Trump flags. They were everywhere, dozens of them, it seemed like almost every house had one. They stood out even more against the apparent poverty of run-drown trucks and ramshackle buildings. And there was a defiance in the air that one could not dismiss. Today, three weeks after the election, something between six and ten lawn signs and a few flags still cried out at passers-by, “You can’t forget us! You can’t just forget we exist!” These people had been driven to the end of their rope by elected and appointed officials who only paid attention to big donors, powerful, rich men and corporations. The land was back to what it had been and would be--- and I could only pray that for once, something might change, and someone in power might feel empathy for these people and this land, and act as if they did matter.