Sunday, September 7, 2008

Small Town Values

I enjoy the comedy of John Stewart on the Daily Show, and was quite amused on Friday by his piece on small town values. (Follow this link if you want to see it.) Ignoring the political focus of the segment, I imagined myself trying to answer the question, “What, exactly, are small town values?” It’s a challenging exercise.

Uniquely Small Town Values?

The only value I can think of that may be uniquely small town is that of preferring to live in a small town. After that, it seems you can find any “small town value” in every community… and you can find just about any “value” imaginable in a small town.

Lewisburg, for example, has people who value education, who value religion, who value family, who value friends, who value health, who value stuff, who value freedom, who value their careers, who value community, who value sports, and who value TV shows. There are folks here who value their own interpretations of right and good to the degree that they expect everyone to share those interpretations. Other folks value diversity so much that they won’t express a position on either side of an issue. In short, there is absolutely nothing that makes “small town values” any different from what nearly every American would refer to as “values.”

If you want to politicize the notion of small town values, consider that there are Christian-raised, small-town, family-loving folk who are drug addicts, pregnant but not married, divorced, kleptomaniacs, rude, war-mongering, hateful, and all kinds of less-than-perfect. You can find a whole bunch of similar folks living in cities. I believe that neither small-town- nor urban-America would claim these as their values.

And Your Values?

While I haven’t been able to pin down what makes values “small town,” I have noticed a significant difference in how people relate to their values. My acquaintances in the city were never shy to reveal their points of view… but they also rarely injected moral, religious, or political commentary into a conversation. In small town USA—at least in the small town USA I know—for many people, religiousness is almost a calling card; sometime during a first meeting, it’s common to be asked what church you attend.

So, based on my experiences, I can add a second value to my short list of small town values: making sure other folks know what you value.

Across the US, our core values as basically the same. We differ in interpretation, in expression, in policy, and in behavior… but ask us what we value, and the answers will be boringly consistent. No group, organization, region, city, or town has a lock on values… Go ahead: ask anyone.

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1 comment:

Sandy C. said...

I've always wondered this myself. I've only lived in fairly large cities, but have always been intrigued of the lifestyle the lied behind the tree lined roads, and white fences on road trips. In fact, we just visited Lewisburg in April! It was amazing to see how common it was to see people waving "hi" everywhere, because they knew each other :)