By Charles Carney
Note: Charles Carney, of the PeaceWorks-KC Board, is walking 253 miles to call for care for the Earth and disarming nuclear weapons. Charles is dedicating his walk to his brother-in-law who died this spring.
Hank Williams Jr.’s signature country classic, “A Country Boy (sic) Can Survive,” extols rural independence. While I certainly revere pastoral ingenuity, it is a fact that a greater percentage of rural people suffer poverty, and for longer periods. For example, rural Lyon County, KS, which I just trudged through, possesses a 🚸 child poverty rate of 21 percent, as compared to 16 percent on average for the whole of the US.
Moreover, non-metro folks also rely more heavily on “welfare”—aka Medicaid, food stamps, and Supplemental Social Security (SSI)—than the general population. Please note that this is IN NO WAY an indictment of low-income rural people. This author is a strong proponent of universal health care for all, housing as a human right, and income support. However, this fact does shatter the stereotype that welfare recipients are mainly Black and Brown people who dwell in urban areas. I do sometimes wonder, though, why rural people so often vote against their financial interests. For example, in Lyon County, mentioned above, roughly 54 percent voted Republican and 43 percent voted Democrat.
It is very unlikely that rural folks who struggle with poverty will ever be included in the political parties of the owning classes, which they so richly support. It is up to us to change their minds. The national Poor People’s campaign, and Bernie Sanders’ “Our Revolution” seem to be the best ways out there to effect this change.
I have no doubt that country guys and gals will survive. I have experienced their hospitality and bright human spirit on this walk. I just think they’d survive a little longer, and with a much better quality of life, if we could figure out a way to cut the income disparities between the rich and the poor, between rural and non-rural.