The Commonplace #10
As some of you know, The Commonplace is a collection of quick hits, links, and thoughts related in some way to our aim, to thinking about social possibility and the work for greater good. This week I swerve from policy to literature, contemplating resentment and hope…
- Is deep resentment, rooted in regional economic differences, fueling our political, social and cultural divides? Roberto Stefan Foa and Jonathan Wilmot, in Foreign Policy, suggest that urban/rural inequality has brought a heightened hostility and a new wave of populism, in the United States and Europe.
“Over the past 10 years, it has been this combination of rising urban wealth with government neglect for peripheral regions that has fueled populist resentment by combining material hardship with a sense of injustice.”
- There are no easy answers – Foa and Wilmot encourage that we build bridges, both metaphorical and literal, in the terms of better connections and infrastructure and jobs investment. Here in Virginia, we have worked to bring attention to rural/urban divisions as well as connections and to consider new ways to encourage shared prosperity across the Commonwealth.
- For more policy and research perspectives, try this special edition of the journal, State and Local Government Review, entitled: “Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide”. Edited by John Accordino at Virginia Commonwealth University, the issue does include a chapter I co-wrote with Anne Khademian on the role of higher education in this work.
- Hope is always an antidote to resentment and division. This opinion commentary from Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times calls for hope, writing that,
“Yes, our nation is a mess, but overlapping catastrophes have also created conditions that may finally let us extricate ourselves from the mire. The grim awareness of national failures — on the coronavirus, racism, health care and jobs — may be a necessary prelude to fixing our country.”
- Hope may indeed be found in suffering and difficulty, though this does not mean it is easy. I recently finished Robert Gipe’s partly illustrated, wholly excellent, emotionally difficult novel, Trampoline, a coming-of-age story centered on an adolescent girl in an Appalachian community. It is at once a tale of trauma, trauma of place and people, as well as a narrative of verve and redemption. A refreshingly complicated narrative with refreshingly complicated characters. Dawn, a plucky protagonist you can root for, who makes mistake after cringe-worthy mistake. Who contemplates suicide and leaving and running and killing, who sees death and drugs and destruction of land and livelihood and dignity, but who also discovers the redemption of small, ordinary things, of finding one’s way, of coming to terms with one’s self, one’s family, and one’s community. Later in the book, Dawn finds her way to church on Christmas with her family and newly found friends, and describes how her aunt, “took my hand in a way that said, ‘hang on’, and when I looked at her, her face was the future, and it was full of a million things neither of us knew the name for.”
- So, hang on, keep going, and hold on.