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8/30/2004

De-Kline

Today, we received a newspaper in the mail from a Kansas City historian with a piece about Ellsworth. The Pitch ran a story about Kansas Attorney General, Phill Kline’s efforts to censor the music offered in Kansas libraries. Basically, the censorship was aimed at rap music. I grew up on the counterculture of the 60's / early 70's and had my own share of anti-establishment. To each his own.  
Nathan Dinsdale, the writer of a story entitled, The De-Kline of Western Civilization, decided he should go to Ellsworth, Kansas, to investigate if rap music had any kind of presence in the “heartland”. It was evident that he was a product of the urban culture that surround Kansas City and that he had no idea what living in small town America was all about. Yes, he did find evidence of rap music in Ellsworth.  
I find it interesting that folks like Dinsdale seem to think that just because citizens of Ellsworth live out away from the city we don't have any idea of the lifestyle there. Nathan seems to forget or maybe doesn’t have a clue that many of us travel to Royals/Chiefs games. That Christmas shopping often takes us as far as Kansas City and that many of us have family that have moved into the vast sea of people that make up the "Kansas City" area. At the same time, it is very evident that they, on the other hand, have a very limited understanding of rural culture. It all develops into a pathetic superior attitude that underscores Mr. Dinsdale’s ignorance of this lifestyle and the good qualities that go with it. 
Dinsdale also implies that our kids are counting the days until they can get out of town and move to someplace of “importance”. He sadly places much too great a value on the “importance” of his culture, for it is not the culture that they leave rural America for. It is employment. I, for one, have three college graduates who have moved to the “mecca”, not for culture reasons, but for jobs. One was lucky enough to land a position less than 50 miles from home in Salina, another in K.C. KS contemplates a return to her rural roots if positions in their fields open up. The oldest son, balances “Kansas City” family with central Kansas heritage. I can see his love for this place in his eyes each time he returns home. My family is not unique. People are choosing the reality of rural life over the plastic fantastic false reality of urban America when economics allow.  
Dinsdale puts his finger on a problem without even knowing it when he says that kids are leaving the small towns of Kansas, “…which hints at something more devastating than anything Phill Kline can do.” But, their economic reason for leaving is not what Dinsdale is referring to. Those economics can be changed, but it takes leadership and an understanding from both the urban and the rural world. The answers are hidden in the soil, on the wind and in the souls of the rural community. It is time to take note. For if rural America doesn’t survive folks like Nathan Dinsmore won’t be able to continue their fantasy lives in Emerald City. 
So Long, 
The Cowboy 

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