Public Speaker on Public Issues



Culture remnants represent an end product---an empty product. In terms of economic development such can be the case for towns and areas with strong tourist appeal. Lots of these areas remained for years low profile, with a strong sense of self and roots. Folks who have historically and culturally peopled an area are part and parcel of what appeals to tourists – part of why they want to come. Keeping people and place as one entity insures the genuineness of what tourists really come to experience. Maintaining this "oneness" is more easily said than done when those who come want the scenery to remain as is, but want more room made for their value system, and points of view than for those of the folks who have created its very spirit. It’s more easily said than done when the "move-ins" want the ornamental parts of historical lifestyles but none of the reality checks that produce them,– i.e., log homes, but no sawmills, cowboys but no cows, mining museums but no mines, reasonably priced food, but no inconvenience of slowly moving farm equipment or cow manure on a road.

Remnant culture is what evolves when the people of an area allow themselves to be culturally and legislatively devalued. All too often for rural America a culture vulture mentality guides the discussions around traditional and future economic activities. This mentality belongs, in large measure, to those from highly urbanized areas where life is learned third-hand. A place where the term "hands-on" refers to a keyboard. Tourism, repeatedly showcased as the politically correct economic development package for the 21st Century, is itself degraded when all an area has left to offer is "carnival culture".

Carnival culture is all about people who dress the part – but no longer live the part. People who provide that "Kodak moment" of what was – not what is. People whose rights to conduct business under our nation’s laws have been abused beyond recognition. These people are encouraged and harassed into abandoning their lifestyles. Rural economics across this country are being reformatted into a software package without any hard drive. The spirit of rural America that charms the tourist, decade after decade, stems from its economic foundations. Beautiful landscapes are only one part of the tourism picture. Rural America is populated by people who tend to mean what they say, say what they mean, and naively assume that the person to whom they are speaking also does. There is a high price for this straightforward assumption – MANIPULATION. There is much to lose by always "giving ground" under the popular buzzwords – consensus building. When carried to its usual extremes these words really mean:

Let’s each give something – I’ll give you guilt and you give up your lifestyle…

Over time folks of rural America have often come to see themselves as second class citizens who are out of step with the changing times. A conversion to a "tourism only" economy is marketed as a way to achieve forgiveness for past lifestyles of purported environmental abuse.

Tourism is an honorable way to make a living. Let us not pretend, however, that it’s the industrial and commercial foundation of this nation-both rural and urban. Far more importantly, however, let us not permit ourselves or our civic/elected leaders to engage in economic efforts that have room only for tourism and property easements to provide scenic vistas. The standard of needed leadership requires courage and civic maturity. Tourism seems to be the most politically correct, the easier to market venue for economic development. It’s the easy way to avoid the more contentious economic pursuits involving agriculture or natural resource utilization and discussions with environmental extremists.

Tourism is an economy that nourishes the soul, and benefits the economics of an area. It should be far more then T-shirts imprinted with pictures as life used to be. It’s a far more complete and genuine experience, however, when places offer with pride the differences of culture that diverse economic activities bring.

Rural communities subsidize the spirit of this nation. Surely such regions and communities of genuine spirit would be far more worth a tourist’s time and money; then would be a trip to some Star Trek hologram where life as you see it is an empty shell.

Perhaps it’s time for rural America to again embrace with pride their living legacies to ensure a real future that is not ashamed of its past.

Permission granted to reprint in full or part with full credit given to author.

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