After much thought I have decided to come clean on the matter of the supposed inherent goodness of growing up rural. I was born to Iowa corn and hog farmers in the late 1950’s. This business of supposing that growing up on a farm magically confers a kind of wholesomeness is based on some faulty assumptions: 1) Farms are wholesome environments untread upon by people corrupted by the incessant Bacchanalian orgy of wanton excess found in the city. This is plainly wrong. Farms and farmers are just isolated. Modern conveniences get to farms later because of the isolation. Farmers are exposed to pathogens and insecticides in the course of their work. They often get mangled in unspeakable ways by their equipment. Farmers would party like brain-damaged test monkeys with everyone else if it wasn’t such a long ride into town.
Misperception 2) Growing up on a farm brings one into better harmony with nature. This is wrong as well. Farming is about the conquest of nature. Farmers know alot about nature, but take it from me, people who plow the ground, churn in soil amendments, and neutron bomb the insect population are not nature lovers. They are nature conquerors. Farming is about return on investment. Just watch Ag PhD if you don’t believe me. Hey, I watch this show- it’s pretty interesting.
Misperception 3) Growing up on a farm is peaceful and soothes the soul. Well, it seems outwardly peaceful. This is true. And that can soothe the soul. But consider that the prolonged lack of intellectual stimulation has a dulling and isolating effect that prevents people from finding a whole spread of achievement that is possible in the modern world.
Misperception 4) rural life is good because people know each other. You know the guy who owns the CO-OP and the family who sells the home grown eggs. Folks pull together when times are tough. Well, maybe. The Gaussian distribution of saints and knuckleheads applies everywhere. In a rural community you just know the saints and knuckleheads who farm. Farms have produced Ed Gein and Dwight Eisenhower. Less pathologically, people in rural communities are just as frequently unhappy with their lives as those in the city. It’s faulty thinking to conclude that the farming or rural life imbues some special merit to a person. As always, your life story is about what you put into it. I would offer that rural life is less than good because people know each other.
The notion that a politician with a rural history, or one displaying an outward appearance, is invested with a more nuanced sensibility than some city slicker is also faulty thinking. You can manipulate people with the “aw shucks, ma’am” act as effectively as with the tools of a cosmopolitan confidence man. In fact, the country boy approach may be more persuasive.