How could any writer have trouble picking a topic? When you find the answer to that one, please send me an e-mail.
In this world so easily accessed via a keyboard there is an endless source of ideas. Sometimes, however, the mind refuses to accept any of them as an acceptable journalistic focus. Usually this means that a particular topic is trying to catch your attention and find its way out of your subconscious. Out of chaos comes Slickers and Stickers.
Slickers and stickers is a brief look at the dynamics of city slickers and hicks from the sticks. The politically correct version of this is urban and rural folks trying to get along in an ever increasingly crowded world.
I can't lay claim to this handy dandy term, slickers and stickers. No, it belongs to an astute and lively County Commissioner from Summerville, Oregon. Her name is Colleen MacLeod. She used it in a meeting we were in with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. She knows I have stolen it and made it part and parcel of my body of work which looks at ways and reasons for urban and rural Americans to get along and respect each other, and bring out the best in both sectors of our nation.
This is not always easy. Slicker and sticker tension is certainly not unique to the United States. While surfing the web in my search for a topic of interest there was no end of stories from around the world about urban and rural issues coming into conflict, and value systems not meshing.
It was noticing how this theme kept coming up in region after region, country after country that made me realize that the simple topic of 'slickers and stickers' needed to find its voice.
Urban and rural sectors of this country have a symbiotic relationship. They need and benefit each other. That's not a popular concept with many from both sectors.
Urban folks all too frequently view their rural neighbors as cultural novelties to be viewed by them on weekends as the slickers try out different bed and breakfasts in small countryside towns. Their weekend observations make great coffee break topics for the next week.
Rural folks have their special perspectives also. It's not uncommon for stickers to see slickers as 'culture vultures' who want only the superficial aspects of rural life.
Those superficial aspects include dressing the part but not living the part. You know, cowboys but no cows, mining museums but no miners, green pastures but no smelly livestock. You get the border-to-border drift.
Often slickers think stickers are slower on the uptake of what's happening in life. .
On the other hand, the sticker thinks the slicker is as dumb as a post when it comes to the most common skill level and powers of observation. Connecting the obvious dots is not seen as a strong suite of slickers.
The great thing about this 'group dynamic' is that both are correct and incorrect assessments. Plenty of cartoon material for both sides.
Urban and rural folks need what each other have to offer. The economic ties are undeniable. After all, how much wheat can a farmer sell to his wheat growing neighbor?
Urban folks on the other need the materials and value added products that flow from rural America. Food, computers, cell phones, wholesale and retail stores don't fall from the sky. The resources to produce these products come from rural settings somewhere.
Money and goods flow between these national sectors. Something that isn't flowing as easily, however, is a fundamental respect for the cultural and social differences.
Slickers should not lose sight of the reality that much of what they love about rural settings is the spirit of rural America. That spirit finds its origin in what rural people do for a living, and how they live while doing it. The things that create this spirit might look, smell and feel less appealing then their usual urban world, but that does not reduce rural folks to a second class citizenship.
Stickers should not lose sight of the fact that their markets and livelihoods are tied to the consumer demands of urban areas. However, they should not see only dollar signs. The millions of slickers running around consuming things create their own special spirit in this nation. This deserves respect.
Mutual respect of the slicker and sticker spirits of our nation is a winning combination. Let's use respect to reconnect America.
~ America's Voices - August 2002
Permission granted to reprint in full or part with full credit given to author.