“How can we justify the existence of rural communities?”
A student from a suburb near Dallas raised this concern about people he had never met. The rest of the class, headed by two high ranking academics in the university, continued the sentiment in gleefully discussing the destruction of the livelihoods of my family and the people I grew up with.
I had long suspected, but until that moment had never confirmed, that the problems of my community could not be solved by self-described intellectuals in a boardroom hundreds of miles away. I was disappointed to realize that they had no intention of solving them, and instead held us in open contempt.
Growing up I had always heard that our society was supposed to be founded on a single ideal: democracy. At its core, democracy is the simple idea that if you are affected by a decision, you get a say in that decision. In my hometown and the surrounding area, three major employers have left in the last decade. Those decisions were made thousands of miles away by people who never stepped foot in my town, but they affected tens of thousands of people in the surrounding communities. None of us had a say in whether or not our friends and family members lost their jobs.
When I think about how I have seen my community crumble, I don’t wonder if we can justify the existence of my home; I ask myself how we can continue to allow our community to be controlled by those who stand to gain from its destruction.