I’ve written at FREE WHITEWATER for over nine years, and I’ll be writing here for far longer to come. A good friend asked me today if I’d given up on local coverage, and the easy answer is…not at all. We’ve a small and beautiful city, well worth talking about and contending over. A few quick remarks for longtime readers, and for some new readers who’ve come to FW since the election —
Plain Views. I’ve written plainly before, and I’ll do the same now. My views are libertarian, from a family that was liberty-oriented before the term libertarian became popular. (Dean Russell sometimes gets credit for boosting the word libertarian in 1955, but of course the ideas involved are far older.) My family came here before the Revolution, and they and many others have held liberty-centric political views throughout their time on this continent, using other descriptions for their politics before libertarian took off in the second half of the twentieth century.
One could say less in the hope of pleasing more, but that’s likely futile. I would happily decline an invitation to a gathering that favored acceptance over conviction (in the improbable & unwelcome event that anyone would send such an invitation to me).
The Limits of Local. One of the themes of this site is that towns like ours accomplish the most when they embrace American and not local standards for politics & economics. In fact, hyper-local standards in politics & economics are lesser standards, easy and comfortable for the myopic but inadequate for a competitive people. There are a few websites or newspapers nearby that are hyper-local in focus. That makes sense if one’s writing about a sewing club; it’s both sad and laughable as one’s way of considering political, economic, or fiscal policy. If hyper-local politics were enough, then one might as well embrace a small village in authoritarian Russia as a small town in democratic America.
Putin’s not detestable because he speaks Russian; he’s detestable because he’s returned oppression to Russia. The undeniable prettiness of particular Russian villages lessens Putin’s many sins, and Russia’s hardships, not in the slightest.
In same way, Whitewater is not beautiful simply because, so to speak, she’s beautiful; she’s beautiful because America is a free country of which Whitewater is one part. Hyper-localism at the price of national standards reminds of nothing so much as Socrates’s remarks on the unexamined life.
Whitewater’s Near Term. I’m an optimist about Whitewater’s longterm, but these next several years will prove difficult for this small, midwestern city. Whitewater has significant poverty (especially child poverty), and limited growth. Considering the principal possibilities of a drastic change of course now or a renaissance after continued decline, I’d guess we’ll prove an example of a city that chooses poorly, declines relatively, and rebounds only afterward. (It needn’t have been this way, but too many mistakes have taken us past the point of a different course.)
Many have enjoyed the James & Deborah Fallows American Futures series on thriving small towns, and it’s disappointing to write that Whitewater’s near future probably will not be like that of those growing towns; there’s much that’s disconcerting about surveying a city – however naturally pretty – that’s a cautionary tale of what not to do. Disconcerting, but not hard – the hardship of the wrong course will not fall on someone writing about our city, but on the many vulnerable people within it.
The future will write the history of the present; with few exceptions, it will be unkind to the last generation of local policymakers.
Logo. When I write about local topics, I’ll add the logo that appears in the upper-left corner of this post.
The Mix of National and Local. Most people in our city, or any other, are naturally sharp. It’s a libertarian teaching – because it is true and always has been – that the overwhelming number of people are capable and clever (and so need less governmental meddling than they receive). People who voted for one major party candidate or another are not worse for doing so. It’s impossible that Americans were fundamentally good until a few weeks ago.
Voting for Clinton or Trump did not make the average person better or worse. I don’t write this to ingratiate – that wouldn’t be my way, one can guess – but because saying so is consistent with what I have always believed about people. (In any event, if someone who voted his or her conscience needs reassurance now, he or she should think more carefully.)
Trump is a fundamentally different candidate from those who have come before him. Not grasping this would be obtuse. Writing only about sewing circles or local clubs or a single local meeting while ignoring Trump’s vast power as president – and what it will bring about – would be odd.
Someone in Tuscany, circa 1925, had more to write about than the countryside.
One may think otherwise, of course. It’s simply unrealistic to expect a libertarian to think otherwise (at least if the term is to have any meaning).
I’m not worried about posting both national and local topics, as though some nationally-focused posts will detract from local coverage. The local die has been cast. Describing near term local events is now careful narration more than advocacy. There’s much to say, and in detail, but for local policymakers in this town there’s little room to move. Perhaps the shifts they can make in the near future will still help those in need.
These will prove, I think, challenging times for those both near and far.