Small Talk

"Anonymity is the enemy of civility, and produces insensitivity and callousness. The nice thing about small towns is everybody has to be civil to each other. You can't live that close without being civil. Nobody in our hometown suppressed arguing something on the merits, but it was done in a civil fashion. I think there actually tends to be more independent thinking in small towns. It helps develop individuality to be in smaller communities."

Gaylord Nelson
former US Senator
Clear Lake, Wisconsin


Roadkill said...


Great quote.

Coming from a small town in Minnesota, I could not agree more with Senator Nelson.

At the same time, I think mass media (radio, television, the internet) has/is substantially undermining the phenomenon. Not the independent thinking part, but rather, the civility part.

The New Richmond School referendum wars of the last few years bear that out, I think. Things got suprisingly nasty for a small farm town of 8000 souls.

Aside: Could the New Richmond example be explained by the influx of metropolitan commuter types looking to remake their "hicktown" bedroom community?

Sunny B. said...

RK: Since my grandma babysat Senator Nelson back in the late 1910s, I was inspired to put up that quote.

I agree with you on the impact of the media. People have become nestled into their homes and rely on the media to provide the buffet from which they get their mental meal from. I found it very interesting during the election when people where complaining about the number and negativity of the political commericals on TV. As the elections approached, more and more people asked me who to vote for. My response is that I know who I'm voting for and I'll tell you why, but I won't tell you who to vote for.

Most asked me how they were supposed to make their decisions based on the tone and content of the political ads. I explained those ads aren't for that purpose. They are focused on putting down the opponent and getting the viewers to not vote.

Concerning the NR school referendum wars, I would say them most of the vocal groups and individuals involved where heavily skewed with home grown people. If they weren't home growned, they were from similar towns to NR. In fact, many of the people that I meet the move into NR may be moving from the cities but they grew up in rural towns and on farms in southern Minnesota, Iowa and central Wisconsin. They moved here to capture some of the "hicktown" feel that they grew up with.

I think NR is still a very sleepy town with sidewalks that roll up pretty early. There are a few attempts to bring in some culture and music, e.g. The Space, the Gem Teather, the Bristol, but those are evolving very slowly. River Falls has a bustling arts and entertainment thing happening. RF people support the arts enthusiatically. Hudson has the Phipps Center. However, I think it tends to lean more towards elite entertainment. But there is also good band shell entertainment in the summer.

I also think the NR school wars had a lot to do with personel issues, teacher contracts issues, etc. I hear a lot of quacking about taxes but only a handful of people attend the school board meeting and the vote at the annual meeting on the operating budget was 31-0.

The school issue in NR remains of two tom cats on a hot summer night. There's a lot of loud squeeching but little, if any, serious fighting.