Country, City, Disability

Since the November electoral apocalypse there have been numerous articles published trying to get in touch with the grievances and sorrows of “forgotten” rural America, a code phrase for white country folks, rednecks, and crackers. What so many of the self flagellating authors of the “coastal elite” fail to realize is how elitist those whites are themselves, and how many of their problems are of their own making. They don’t understand the extent to which “working class whites” choose to forget. 

Schools are underfunded and in disrepair in much of the country, especially where poor people live. The practice of funding public schools primarily through local property taxes guarantees an exacerbation of inequality. Poor kids go to poor schools, in the sticks and in cities. The various solutions to this problem consist of ways to gather and more fairly redistribute those tax dollars to create schools of equal quality regardless of student socioeconomic status.  City dwellers are far more likely to approve of such measures. 

Disability services and programs in public schools are particularly underserved. City school districts have more schools and may have all disabled students attend one or two area schools together. This is not ideal, as it adds extra transportation time to the disabled child’s day and isolates them from the community they actually live in.  It is however better than what often happens in rural or more “conservative” areas: the disabled student is denied services and/or education. This violates federal education law but happens regardless. 

Disability service providers – from home health aids to housekeepers to speech therapists – are easier to find in the city. So are specialist doctors, drug research trials, hospitals, and fully stocked pharmacies. Emergency services and fancy hospital machines that go ping are abundant in a big university city with multiple competing research hospitals. In a city you can decide you dislike one hospital and go to a near equidistant alternate. This isn’t somnething mean cities are doing to small towns. It’s a reflection of different values. 

Small town country folk, especially from the white Southern redneck tradition, value tradition, obedience, and conformity. They favor authoritarian leaders in government, education, and religion. They define themselves by what they are not: sensitive, emasculated, metrosexual, cosmopolitan. Disabled people may either be declared part of the in group, in which case small town life may provide them a level of direct community support almost impossible to find in a city; or they may be declared out group: no one’s burden but their own. 

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