Notes from Home: Recivilization

Trudy Wischemann

In the wake of the biggest cliffhanger election in this nation’s history, I would like to write a wordless column. It would match my true feelings. I am glad not to be holding my breath anymore, but there are way too many words flying around right now about what’s going to happen, or what might. I prefer to pray and see.

But words are the building blocks of columns, so here are the ones I can find. The tasks ahead are mindboggling, but at least we will have people with some expertise to address them, and the spirit of cooperation and problem-solving being employed.

We have a president now, and a decent backup VP should the job prove too much for this oldest person ever in the White House. In my opinion, for the last four years we have been unpresidented. The man elected by a minority of registered U.S. voters in 2016 never rose to the occasion of being president, nor even a decent adult man. His malign neglect of the coronavirus emergency is likely to bring new meaning this year to the term “the dead of winter.” Those of you who don’t believe in the coronavirus or in the civic duty of wearing a mask may experience this reality first-hand.

If you can hear the bitterness in my words, perhaps you can chalk it up to my loss and grief over the decivilization we’ve experienced. And you might even find it funny, because I’m not exactly civilization’s premier advocate. I don’t believe that modernization is necessarily progress. I believe that manners often mask real malevolence, or at least selfish interests, and I often find myself on the slippery slope of politeness, wishing I could be honest instead. I know that science, in its proclaimed “objectivity”, has been used too often to dupe people, sometimes destroying their lives, in the acquisitive, greedy interests of the monied. I know that a college degree is often received as a license in hubris.

But there are some things I really cherish about being an American that have taken huge hits, been torpedoed since Trump was elected, and I can only hope that we get some of them back, perhaps even new improved versions. I believe in popular elections, one person, one vote. This election we showed ourselves that matters to many of us, and that it matters enough for us to work to improve the system. Compared to elections in almost any other country outside Europe, the practice of this principle here makes us “civilized” in my eyes.

Respect for difference is another. We say we believe in it, not only the right to be different but to be respected as a human being in our difference. Over this past four years we’ve discovered pockets where we’ve sewn over difference, put on blinders. White cops have to stop killing black men; racial inequality built into our economic fabric has to be unraveled, then rewoven with equality built in. The racial inequalities some people are trying to maintain in this country make us as uncivilized the Hutu and Tutsi tribes in Rwanda.

Neither political party truly respects rural people: Republicans know how to talk at us, Democrats know how to talk over us, but we rural people are suddenly in a position to help both sides learn how to talk with us, and perhaps we’re at a moment where that can happen. The country cannot exist without us. The more urban our nation’s population becomes, the more dependent we are on the people who bring them their food, fiber, and minerals. They’re dependent on the ones who make their bread and toilet paper, who take their waste products.

We rural people may need to learn to respect ourselves first, together, in all our differences. That’s a recivilization project itself, and one I think we can begin. It is no small thing to bring in the harvest and prepare to make a crop next year, year after year. Many different hands keep this nation fed, and there’s beauty in that wholeness. To quote William Everson, one of our Valley’s first farmer poets, “This valley after the storms can be beautiful beyond the telling,” and that beauty includes us. Let us work to build a new rural civilization.

Trudy Wischemann is a writer who sees the glass both half-full and half-empty. You can send her your thoughts on the primaries c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit and leave a comment there.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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