Monday, April 30, 2012

Heart of America

Over the past two months I’ve put quite a few miles on cars as I’ve visited a number of states. While I’ve been driving from Grange to Grange, the radio has been on and I’ve heard commercials and news reports about the candidates for President, the Senate, and the House.

The commercials either tell you how bad the other guy is, or how great the candidate is. The news is filled with partisan strife and dissension between the parties and candidates.

One thing seems to be missing from both the news and commercials. They seem to think that the heart and soul of America is in Washington, D.C. I believe, and I think most Grange members would agree, the heart of America is out there between the cities.

When you choose to leave the airport and drive, the world becomes more real. When you leave the interstate and slow down for a myriad of small towns, you start to see the heart of America. You slow down for school zones where you often see kids playing outside their school during recess. You pass churches of all sizes and shapes, some with steeples pointing toward heaven and others looking like nondescript warehouses.

At each town’s edge, it is common to see a display of the different organizations and churches to be found in that town and I’ll admit that I feel a thrill of pride every time I see the Grange emblem displayed. 4-H, FFA, and Scouts are proudly supported by businesses, even when only a few cars are parked in front of their stores.

It is common to have people in rural American and small towns wave as you go by. When you stop at a cafe or diner, it is normal to be greeted like a friend. When you ask for directions, they help and usually start a conversation.

Small towns may not have big production companies producing plays, but we have a multitude of groups who love to share their passion for theater at Granges and in community buildings. Appreciation of art and music is a part of our rural and suburban lives.

The news and political commercials all seem to be talking about how important Washington, D. C., is to the local people. For a change, I’d love to hear a candidate talk about the importance of our American hometowns.

I believe that the heart and soul of America is vested in our small towns and rural areas. The values that are imbedded there are what most people are seeking and want in our cities. Our federal government is supposed to serve the principles of our nation, not regulate them. Lifestyles are not legislated, they are chosen and lived.

The government has not given us our hometown values and lifestyle, and government has not made America the land of the free. Instead, those are built by the great people across our nation. The heartbeat of America can be heard all across the United States. It is loudest to me when I’m in a small town or rural area, when I’m standing in a Grange Hall, and whenever I pause at a stop sign see another driving smile and wave.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Senseless Regulation

I listened to a news report today about the Department of Labors renewed effort to implement “farm safety rules” that would stop most labor by children on farms. The two opposing views were presented by two men with partisan positions. One implied that this was in response to factory farms and corporate farms while the other countered that this was regulation to fix a problem that didn’t exist and to expand federal regulation. How about a bit of common sense! I realize that that is a rare commodity in D.C., but it still exists in our hometowns. According to the EPA’s website, corporate farms account for only 3 percent of U.S. farms and 90 percent of those are family owned. Most Americans would consider developing regulations that affect everyone for less than 1 percent of farms is extreme. I am the product of a small American farm. I grew up doing chores, and as I matured I learned how to safely operate a wide variety of equipment. My parents provided supervision, and in looking back, I realize that long before I turned 18, I was safely operating and working on every piece of equipment that we owned on the farm. Since when did bureaucrats in Washington really know when a child has the maturity to do what task? I trust parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and the rest of the family far more than some bureaucrat to know what is best for each child. Childhood is a process that we all go through, and it ends in adulthood. It doesn’t happen the night before you turn 18 or 16 or any other age. It is a gradual process where we learn to deal with the world, and the people in it. Those that advocate for safety are not trying to stop participation in sports, yet I have a hunch that more kids get hurt participating in sports than doing their chores on Americas farms. Safety is critical in farming, driving, and a thousand other activities. We all want to protect every child, but government regulation and oversight of every young person on America’s farms will accomplish nothing but doing damage to rural America. Let’s not attack American values by removing the next generation from the farm. Department of Labor: how about instituting a little common sense in your actions.