June 12, 2022
By Arthur H. Gunther III
When in the course of human events these United States, still in experimentation, requires a reset, it is necessary to have a big do – a block party, a hoedown, a hayride under a strawberry moon. Everyone invited, especially the prejudiced.
A personal recollection: Moons ago, in a quiet village, the one of my youth, my father’s time, my grandparents’ community, when we had long lost house keys, when the mailman on a hot day came in the back door and helped himself to cold refrigerator water, when teachers remembered instructing parents, when a deal was by handshake, when an elderly neighbor got the help she needed, when a tradesman was able to afford free estimates, the long-held quiet rhythm was stirred by a post-war population explosion, eventually quadrupling my village count. The new arrivals were mostly urban. They locked car doors. They installed burglar alarms. They began civic groups aimed at getting sidewalks on country lanes. They wanted shopping centers.
To many of us hicks, certainly to me as a 17 year old, it was all too busy, too noisy with backyard parties, more traffic, other things that rankled. I was immediately prejudiced against urbanities. Who were they to disturb rural quiet, to live in houses where my beloved woods and trails used to be?
I held this view in growing suspicion until one day an ex-urbanite befriended me, and after talking and thinking on many walks downtown, I came to see his point of view. He had left the city without choice. There was post-war decay and insufficient reinvestment. His father used the G.I. Bill to get a veteran’s mortgage and move his family to the “country for a better life,” or at least the chance at it.
But my new friend missed his pals on the block, the street stickball games, the excitement of urban life.
I began to realize that he, too, gave up something to move out of the city, just as I and others lost some of our quiet and simpler ways. In our growing friendship, we each developed tolerance for differing perspective. We both lost some of our prejudices, and decades later he remains my best male friend.
In the course of human events today it has become necessary for similar friendship on a national scale. For example, eastern people should try and understand Texans and Iowans and everyone who comes from other cultures and views and ways of living. We would all learn a thing or two, or many things. The nation’s toxicity and ignorance increasingly fueled by prejudice spread by the word bites of social media would lessen.
We need a national hoedown.
The writer is a retired newspaperman.