September 9, 2022 By Michael Weymouth
A popular book when our kids were little was The Country Mouse and the City Mouse, which chronicled the adventures of two mice from two different worlds. At the end of the book the country mouse exclaimed to the city mouse "You may have luxuries and dainties that I have not," she said as she hurried back to the country, "but I prefer my plain food and simple life in the country with the peace and security that go with it.” The story was based on an Aesop fable: Poverty with security is better than plenty in the midst of fear and uncertainty.
For many country folk this fable still holds true: the solitude of rural life is preferable to the hectic pace of urban life. Unfortunately too many rural citizens have come to believe that solitude and simplicity, and the lower standard of living that often accompanies it, is something that has been forced on them by urban elites rather than acknowledging that their standard of living is often a result of their own choices. If so-called elites have prospered at a far greater rate than their rural neighbors, they have done so for their own benefit and not as a slap in the face of rural Americans.
Having grown up in a rural environment, I am well aware of this divide. I feel it every time I walk into a diner in my home town, as the locals I know shout out, “Democrat on board.” (Actually I’m an independent, but whatever, I’ve ceased to be not one of them.) In any event, the banter remains respectful and under control, and yet I cannot speak the truth about the situation they find themselves in. Were I to do so I would remind them that it is hard to leave your hometown as I did after high school and go out into the wide world to seek an education and eventually find a good job. And more often than not, out of necessity, become an urban dweller. For me, it took years of culture shock before I got my bearings, all the while living on a shoestring for most of that time. Theirs was the easier choice: to stay, even though they knew that over time they would most likely pay for it with a lower standard of living.
Unfortunately politicians have tapped into their resentment, convincing many of them that their fate is not due to their own choices but that they are the victims of elites who have shut them out and taken over the reins of power in the federal government. Unfortunately this strategy is working, as our national divide continues to grow.
Rural America is not the only example of victimization. Plenty of urban Americans on the lower end of the economic scale feel the same way. When an authoritarian politician like Donald Trump comes along claiming that he will put an end to the status quo, to globalists and to the “deep state,” to essentially poke the country’s elites in the eye, they are all for him, democratic institutions be damned.
For those Americans who would follow an authoritarian leader, rather than subscribe to Aesop’s fable about the country mouse and the city mouse, a more appropriate fable is Grimm’s story of the Pied Piper whose moral is “You will have to pay the piper for your actions, and the price is apt to be a high one.”
Unfortunately we are all paying for it, as we watch our democracy teetering on the edge of an abyss.