Un/Settled has been on hiatus for the last month, not so much by choice – but because it has been difficult for both of us to find the words to explain our feelings and thoughts about the presidential election. When we started this project about the complexities of the rural, we hadn’t anticipated that we’d have to contend with the reality of a President Donald Trump. Or more to the point, we hadn’t been prepared to talk about the role that rural America played in electing a man with a such a blatant track record of bigotry, racism, misogyny, and ableism (never mind his disrespect for the constitution and lack of actual governing experience).
But perhaps we should have anticipated it. After all, we come from the part of America that largely voted for Trump. And one of the reasons we moved away is because we experienced various kinds of bigotry first hand. Here, we rarely talk about this part of our childhood—about the pain that each of us carries from feeling so out of step in a place where a culture of prejudice and bigotry is so dominant. But it is as much a part of our identities as the longing we often express on Un/Settled about the quietude and natural beauty of the countryside.
One thing we know from living in various places in this country is that we are hardly alone in this experience. When post-election analysts characterize this country as a divided space of rural versus urban they are ignoring the flow between these two spaces by those who never quite felt at home where they grew up. This country is dynamic, its population ever fluid as cultures and economies shift and change. Cities have long been a place where people have gone not just for opportunities, but often to find a community that more closely fits their ideals. And when those people leave, and age – and perhaps have kids of their own – they don’t lose their bonds to their rural background. There are invisible bonds, sometimes strong, often times more tenuous, between these regions.
And moreover, because this is important too – when analysts make those conclusions about this country, they are also downplaying the diversity of views within rural America itself, often within a single individual.
This is the tension we find ourselves in: feeling the sting of this election and the bigotry it has emboldened while also understanding that the picture painted of rural America is too often dismissive and disrespectful.
When we started this blog, it felt like a side project for us to explore our personal relationships with place. But now this project feels all the more relevant and important, if also more difficult. We recognize the importance of listening. We recognize the importance of seeking understanding and looking for common ground. And so, we go forward in the weeks and months with with these values in mind, as we try to listen, reflect, and learn.
-Bryna and William