Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Small Town Values Suck

Sarah Palin, in her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, ended up quoting known racist, right-wing writer (via Pandagon). The quote she used was:
We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity.”

Let's ignore, for a minute, who she choose to quote (and whether or not she was even aware of it) and focus in on the substance of her statement. She is claiming that people in small towns are more moral than the rest of us: those of us who live in cities. Now, first and foremost, this statement irritates me because of it's vagueness: I live in a "city" in North Dakota, but you can drive across it in less than twenty minutes. Do they raise "good people" here, or are we dishonest, and insincere, and undignified?

But, beside the ambiguities of "small town", I'm still going to call shenanigans on her statement. People in small towns are no more honest, sincere, or dignified than people in cities, and a lot of times, they are substantially less so.

I have lived in multiple communities, in multiple states, that are various sizes; and nobody was de facto more moral. My bike has been stolen in small towns, whereas my wallet full of money was returned to me in a big city. I was threatened in a suburban school by a white girl, and I was tortured by guys in a small town. I have met cultured people in towns in the middle of nowhere, and complete neadrathals in cities. The number of people you're around doesn't make you a better or worse person.

In general, there are a few differences between small towns and large cities.

Small towns compared to cities:

A greater percentage of people feel comfortable being openly racist, sexist, heterocentrist, and discriminatory to non-Christians in more public places. That doesn't mean that there aren't racist people in cities, or even the same amount in sheer numbers. But, I think it tends to be that if you live in the city, at some point you actually have to run across people of different ethnicities, belief structures, women in more than one career field, and non-heterosexual people, than if you live in a small town.

Small towns are filled with gossipers. Big towns, are too, but because of sheer numbers, it is impossible for everybody to know everybody else's business. There are no secrets in small town.

Small towns lack culture. They generally have one community theatre (if that) that puts on nonthreatning plays like Okalahoma and Shakespearean plays that most people don't know are dirty. The variety shows that they put on are likewise the only form of concerts, generally, except for an extremely local band for county fairs and the like. The theatres put on completely mainstream movies, about two weeks after they are released, and even they get filtered a lot. Compare that to a city which, at any given night, you have your choice of performances, concerts, clubs, museums, whatever.

There are pros and cons to living anywhere, but to suggest that people are more moral in small towns means the person doing the suggesting doesn't know what "moral" means.