Saturday, October 18, 2014

Should Americans turn to rural America for moral guidance?

I’m a fan of country music. It's music I grew up listening to, and it's music I, still, listen to.

After a long day of class, I, usually, unwind by listening to country music on Pandora Internet Radio, during my journey home from campus. Recently, as I trekked home, a Toby Keith song entitled “Beer for My Horses” found its way into my headphones.

Note that—though I am a country music fan—I am not a Toby Keith fan. Still, despite my dislike of Toby Keith, I decided to patiently listen to this particular song of his.

The song was catchy and very much entertaining. However, the message it promulgated did not sit well with me.

The message was one I was one of familiarity. It was a message I had heard in other country music songs and a message I had encountered, generally, in popular culture. 

Keith's song relays the message that the moral fabric of society is decaying and that the hope for restoration of that moral fabric rests in the hands of rural Americans, who never waiver in the maintenance of virtue and who are the beacon of morality and justice for all America.

There is no doubt that the ideal of the yeoman farmer propagated by President Thomas Jefferson is one fundamental to the core of American idealism. This is an ideal found in everything from popular American movies to American political campaign commercials. Rural America is constantly portrayed—as it is in Keith’s song—as being the backbone of all that is good and all that is America.

Though I do believe that this romanticized ideal of rural America does and will always represent a part of America’s core, I am not persuaded that America should turn entirely to its wheat fields and farm towns for moral guidance. I say this because I do not believe that rural America is completely void of all imperfects. To prove this point, I will provide some revealing information of the states with the highest porn subscription rates in the country.

A Harvard University professor by the name of Benjamin Edelman published a study in 2009 examining who buys online adult entertainment. His study exposed that eight of the ten states with the highest percentage of porn subscriptions were rural states (states with a majority of nonmetropolitan counties).

Here is the list of states with the highest number of porn subscriptions per 1,000 broadband users:

1. Utah: 5.47

2. Alaska: 5.03

3. Mississippi: 4.30

4. Hawaii: 3.61

5. Oklahoma: 3.21

6. Arkansas: 3.12

7. North Dakota: 3.05

8. Louisiana: 3.01

9. Florida: 3.01

10. West Virginia: 2.94

(*Rural states are bolded.)

Obviously, this study is not enough to prove that there is nothing of virtue or value worth adopting from rural America. However, it is enough evidence to deflate a bit of the romanticism in which Americans perceive rural America, and enough to caution Americans from accepting unchallenged rural customs and ideals.

Rural communities as well as urban ones play a contributing role in the fabrication of America’s morality and core identity. But the possibility exists that some of America’s most romanticized ideals of rural America are spoiled and even anachronistic.


Ahva said...

Your post seems to pick up on one of the themes we have been discussing over the course of the semester -- that we need to disabuse ourselves of this notion of the rural idyll and come to understand the realities of rural life in America. I agree with you that one study or statistic regarding "morality" in rural America is not dispositive as to whether Americans should turn to rural American for moral guidance. But I also agree that the statistics you provided are useful in terms of providing another piece in the puzzle of rural life and rural practices. To add to that discussion, I want to point out that youth and young adults in rural areas tend to engage in substance abuse at higher rates than their urban counterparts. More specifically, one national study found that rural youth and young adults abuse meth, prescription medication, and alcohol at higher rates than urban youth and young adults:

Kate said...

I really like the post. The statistics over all are very interesting. I would not have even known such statistics were out there. I wonder if those numbers could be contributable to a certain characteristic found in rural life. I would also be curious to know if those statistics are skewed by office broadband subscribers, where is might not be appropriate to view those sites. Other factors notwithstanding, I think that it is interesting to think that the rural populous is viewing porn at a higher rate than urban counterparts.

I have heard "beer for our horses," but could not recall the lyrics while reading this. So, I looked them up. In reading the lyrics, I was struck by the message of vigilante conduct. It seems like the men took the law into their own hands and encouraged the lynching of wrongdoers. Not model behavior, as far as I am concerned, in a civil world, notwithstanding whether there is a rural aspect. Great post.

Damon Alimouri said...

I am really curious to what extent those porn subscriptions are for "gay porn."

I am always amused whenever, every now and then, an evangelical preacher or reactionary politician is caught soliciting sex from another man.

The notion that rural areas are populated solely with exemplars of morality, quite frankly, is a lie.

As rural America vanishes and yet the concept of the rural ideal continues to be propagated, one should wonder why the ideal continues to be propagated.