By A. Lidden Pate, publisher
Small towns are where great dreams are born. You grow up there and visions filled with wonder and awe come to control your mindset. So that, in middle age and beyond, you’re always looking forward.
In those dreams values prevail, forever pressing the holder to a brighter tomorrow.
The small-town values I write of are, I believe, the foundation stones of America’s greatness. For me, they are the values and teachings first stored in my memory when I was a boy.
Precisely, what are those values and teachings? Well…
First, there is Justice itself. Every person of every age should be given every benefit of the law and our legal system, without exception.
In small town America, Justice comes swiftly, depending on who, when and where the injustice may have occurred. If the crime is murderous and vicious so as to be disrespectful of the rule of law, it is punished as soon as possible, with punishment fitting the offense. But if it is a sin of innocence, wisdom and compassion are the order of the day; Justice’s other sides prevail.
Justice can only exist, of course, when accompanied by its twin—Equality. The little black boy, the poor Raggedy Ann and the Rich Kid; for each, the treatment response is one and the same done with all aspects taken into account.
In small town America over the past seven decades, Equality has been learned more fully over time. Slowly at first, it emerged out of the widespread, deeply -embedded American racism created by the institution of Slavery. Mature Equality continues to emerge as children play with “different" kids on a nearby vacant lot, then the next day attend the same school where they come to see how much they share.
Where there is Justice and Equality there is Compassion for the suffering and hurting. When a local dies, you mourn. When tragedy strikes others, you reach out. When wrong is done, you comfort and cheer— the neighbor wronged, and the neighbor who did it, tempered by passionate concern.
Amidst every challenge, there is Play. In the cradle, you are given a ball, bat, glove and other sporty toys for your toddling. Later, you acquire a bicycle to get you to where you can play, and also you get whatever equipment you need to perform. Then, if you’re good enough, you reach the heights of Play: high schools sports, especially football. If you’re nonathletic, you still play, in the band or on the sidelines in some way. Thereafter, Play lives on as a lifetime essential, along with…
Education. As a child, you talk the language of your community. If its partly Hispanic, you pick up vignettes of the Spanish language, while, unconsciously for the most part, you absorb Hispanic culture and, usually, a growing appreciation for it and that of other lands. In school, the competition of Play is transferred into your classes, where, perhaps for the first time, you must vie with the opposite sex. If you’re just an average student, you learn to accept that weakness while improving it and building upon your personal strengths. Along the way, you acquire a deep and abiding appreciation for books, learning and good teaching. Consequently, wherever you go afterward, you value learning and the skills and knowledge to be acquired through it. You fall in love with learning to use language well, and acquire an every-growing admiration for those who do.
All of our bedrocks take place in Community. Togetherness—The Team—the Family— Your Church—Your Civic Club—Your Town—Your State—Your Nation. Without togetherness, the foundation stones of America are but pebbles on some remote ocean beach— lost. With togetherness, nothing matters more than your relationships - the Union of everything.
Yes, boys and girls raised in small town America do fail, just as do those raised in the city. But the small town failure is not a failure of the essentials or the potentials. It is a failure in not keeping close to the bedrocks and building on them.