I saw an interesting exchange of ideas on Meet the Press this past Sunday. One speaker I found most outstanding was Isabel Wilkerson, the author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.”
What a wise, informative, and well-spoken woman! I found this discussion interesting on a lot of different levels, but I could personally relate to it in terms of our own recent ‘migration’ out of the city…
“You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” – Malcom X
Yes, our move was mainly based on the idea of increasing our own freedom from densely populated cities, and all of the restrictions included in that lifestyle. Life can be GREAT in rural America!
At the beginning of the show, Ms. Wilkerson stated that, “Any migration is about freedom.” She spoke of the desperation so many blacks in the south felt to escape, and yet in some cases they were treated like criminals just for wanting to move north.
Another part of the conversation I enjoyed was with the author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis, J. D. Vance. He spoke of the part of the American dream which so often includes a desire for upward mobility. And yet moving to somewhere that is economically different requires that you socialize with others who are not like you. His example was when he attended Yale after growing up in the rural south.
At first I related to Mr. Vance’s experience in terms of my own life. I went from a public high school and a middle-class upbringing to attend an exclusive college with the sons and daughters of America’s millionaires in the early 1970s. What did I have in common with these children of privilege?
Then I began to think about our recent move to an old, relatively poor, mostly Latino town in southern Colorado after living in expensive, predominantly European-American suburbs for most of my life.
Some say the best way for those of us who live in the United States to advance past our many prejudices is to spend time with those whose lives are quite different. Moving here has been a step in that direction for me.
Living in a small, poor town has helped me make the small step past diversity towards commonality. At first I found this experience quite alienating. As the obvious outsider, I could not predict how others would respond to me. Those who look like me are mostly tourists in Walsenburg. They come, they hopefully spend some money, and they leave. But slowly, as I got to know more local residents personally, it became clear that we all want the same things for ourselves and our families. None of us is really so different than the other.
Are any of us really so different? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness summarize well the goals of every human being in this world I think.