In my town, you’re either a redneck or a hippie. It’s a wildly simplistic view of the world, but for some residents, it’s reality.
Rednecks are folks
who can claim, "My great-granddad chased the Utes out of this
valley" — or who drive pickup trucks, drink Budweiser and
vote Republican. Hippies are the folks who sport dreadlocks and
smoke funny herbs — or else they’re newcomers like me,
who may steer clear of the dreads and the herbs, and even drink an
occasional Budweiser, but clearly hold political views that run
counter to the conservative mainstream.
For several years
now, I’ve been wanting to print up a bumper sticker that
says, "REDNECKS AND HIPPIES UNITE!" Not that I buy into the
hippie-redneck dichotomy; the point is that we’re all here
for the same reasons — the small-town living, the mountain
backdrop. And we all share some of the same dreams for this quirky,
run-down town — for a more lively economy, more jobs for the
young people. Together, we could get some work done.
recent town elections have dampened my enthusiasm. A few right-wing
good-ol’-boys landed in office, and have announced their
intention to turn our small town into a big one, no matter what it
costs. At a town council meeting this week, their ringleader waved
off concerns about the possible multimillion-dollar price tag of a
wider bridge on the road into town, saying, "We can’t let
things like that get in the way of growth." This, in a
working-class town of roughly 1,500, with an annual budget of just
The pro-growth mayor tried to reassure a
restless audience by saying, "I’m the mayor of all the people
— even the opposition." Uh, right.
winner-takes-all arrogance is not unlike what we’re seeing on
the national level, as Ray Ring reports in this issue’s
feature story. The Bush administration is laying waste to the
bedrock laws and tough regulations that protect the West’s
land, air, water and residents. Bigwigs in the Interior and
Agriculture departments spout platitudes about bringing
environmentalists and industry together to find common ground, but
behind the scenes, they’re gutting the very rules that force
industry to the negotiating table in the first place.
Champions of the "radical center," who gained so much ground under
the Clinton administration, must be feeling burned. Some are
walking away from negotiations and mounting the barricades,
shouting back at Bush and slinging lawsuits.
understand the disappointment and anger. But on the local front, I
think I’ll make my bumper sticker, anyway: It’s time we
all got together to fight for responsive, and responsible,