Rural And Urban Realities

Evidently, urban and rural Americans live in worlds that are different in ways we haven’t previously recognized.

Recently, the Washington Post analyzed attitudes about guns and gun violence. The results of that analysis added yet another item to the growing list of experiential differences between city dwellers and their rural cousins.

The article began with a recitation of the depressing statistics we have become accustomed to reading:

On average, there are 276 gun homicides a week in America. There are 439 gun suicides. All told, there are, on average, nearly 1,200 incidents involving gun violence, every week, in America.

This landscape of gun violence — suicides, homicides, mass shootings, accidents — is not evenly distributed. Instead, it plays out over geographic and political dividing lines — and these may help explain why individual Americans see the issue so differently.

The most striking difference is also arguably the weirdest. In the nation’s cities, which are overwhelmingly Democratic (blue dots in even the reddest states), people are more likely to be murdered with a gun than they are to shoot themselves. In red America, mostly rural and mostly Republican, people are more likely to shoot themselves to death than they are to be murdered with a gun.

In other words, In the regions where most Democrats live, gun violence is more often committed against someone else. Guns are used in crimes that are likely to generate news coverage and stoke fears of victimization. In more Republican areas, gun violence is more often self-inflicted, and suicides are unlikely to attract as much attention or generate as much fear. So even though Republican areas have more gun violence than Democratic ones, the public reaction is different.

On average, there were slightly more gun deaths in Republican areas than Democratic-leaning ones in the decade from 2007 to 2016. The disparity in death rates was even greater — 5.7 per 100,000 in Republican-leaning counties, versus 4.7 in Democratic-leaning counties — due to the higher total population in counties won by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Much of the disparity comes from the fact there are so many more suicides than homicides a year, and suicides are so much more prevalent in rural areas and small towns — a phenomenon that has been explored elsewhere

Guns kill or injure more children, teens and people in Democratic districts, and mass shootings occur more often in Democratic districts.

These Republican and Democratic breakdowns correspond strongly with National Rifle Association ratings. Of the 430 for which grades were available, only 33 (7.7 percent) deviated from the simple Republicans get “A” ratings, Democrats get “F” model.

Both support for the Republican Party and gun suicides increase the farther you get from urban America. (Research has shown gun ownership correlates strongly with gun suicide.) Many–perhaps most–people don’t see suicide as a public policy problem. According to Pew, only 32 percent of Republicans see gun violence as a “very big” problem and only 24 percent think gun laws should be stricter than they are today.

It is possible suicides do not spur more support for gun control because people figure popular gun control measures, such as banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines or tracking purchases, will not affect people who use guns against themselves. Prior analysis by The Post suggests that if the U.S. had a similar level of gun availability as other Western countries, firearm suicides would decline 82 percent and overall suicides would decline 20 to 38 percent.

This is useful information, and it may explain some otherwise confounding differences in policy preferences.

It doesn’t, however, explain why so many more rural Americans than city dwellers commit suicide…


  1. p.s. we dont report crime here on property,if caught… like my buddy said, ive got a shovel,2500 acres and i need some exercise… every home is a armed and dangerous,even the shefiff wont come on a property without backup,and only of its a immediate need.i got called out by a sheriff on my cell phone ,,he wouldnt get out to knock on the door,,,hes sitting in his suv,in front of my issues,just a check on some livestock,friendly,and im sure he was scared. just how they do it here.,if you want some background,look up gordon kahl,and ya get the idea how many think here..

  2. Welcome to the Next Phase of Our Prozac Nation – apparently, the happy pills aren’t working as well as Big Pharma would like.

    I’m still waiting for Congress to study the issue about gun violence against ourselves and each other. They won’t study it because they don’t want the facts used against them.

    It comes from the back rooms of ALEC where corporate executives who contribute money are introduced to their legislators (whores). They are referred to as bill mills for a very good reason.

    And, by the way, you can add SCOTUS decisions as well. We’ll see where SCOTUS heads next after defeating Janus and with the upcoming retirement of Kennedy.

    If there isn’t data to prove anything, then the problem doesn’t exist. It’s why IDEM places their air monitors in very select places, far away from the four super coal-burning plants we have in Southern and Southwestern Indiana.

    Why are farmers killing themselves?

    Because of their economic woes would be my guess. Most farms are now owned by large corporate interests so they can take advantage of buying power. You need to work more land to turn a profit. It’s just one more industry where the workers left behind aren’t important. When the auto industry bailed on the 90’s, what did our public servants have in place for displaced workers?

    As for gang members of the “Drug War”, do you honestly think the GOP cares about black on black crimes? Murders in the city are turf issues. I hear there is a lot of money in the drug industry and the gangs have their own system of laws. “Welcome to the jungle, baby…”

    Did you notice that once Canada legalized marijuana, Trudeau ordered the release of those imprisoned for selling pot? He said their records would be expunged. What a civilized thought!!

    In this country, they’ll figure out a way to for Bayer and Monsanto to control the growing of marijuana and hemp – a monopoly in the making.

  3. Am I confused, or haven’t we been told the rural, primarily Republican vote, has more control over elections than urban, mostly Democratic? So if rural American voters are now the political controlling factor, should that staunch Republican closed-to-change mind set be considered in compiling these statistics? I seriously do not know, I am asking.

    Rural settings today are not as isolated and isolating as in years past; and urban settings for shopping are more convenient to those living in rural areas. Having only visited family and friends years ago in rural areas; I wasn’t subjected to separation from human contact or shopping convenience for long periods of time so no idea what long-term effect rural life would have on one’s psychological life. I do know that my family members who have always lived in rural areas and raised their children in rural settings have remained Republicans while most of their children moved to urban settings and left that staunch Republican mind set of racist, bigoted, women-in-the kitchen ideology behind. Those who continue living in rural areas also seem to be naive to many realities of life…still leaving me with the question as to why they would be more apt to commit suicide than their urbanite children and grandchildren. I always loved the peaceful, natural surroundings of rural life; the lack of almost constant noise and of fresh air seemed to cleanse my thoughts and was a welcome change.

    “It doesn’t, however, explain why so many more rural Americans than city dwellers commit suicide…”

  4. Gun violence is not the only issue upon which the rural vs. urban reality is an issue :: almost every issue deals with that divide.
    And the rural areas still control society far beyond any rational reason for it. So much for living in an urban society of the 21st century under an 18th century agrarain slaveholding society.

  5. Why do so many more rural Americans commit suicide than urban Americans?

    The answer is very simple – an extreme lack of jobs and an extreme lack of social support.

    I live in rural northern Indiana. You must commute at least an hour (50 miles) to find a job that pays a living wage. However, those opportunities have all but dried up. People are worn out from the constant struggle to just try to survive. Assistance is not available.

  6. “And the rural areas still control society far beyond any rational reason for it. So much for living in an urban society of the 21st century under an 18th century agrarain slaveholding society.”

    Steve; doesn’t your comment above lead us directly to gerrymandering and the Electoral College; both lack rational reasoning, common sense and prevents “majority rules” as evidenced in the 2016 “election” and the 2000 selection of Republican presidents?

  7. “The answer is very simple – an extreme lack of jobs and an extreme lack of social support.”

    Nancy; the urban and suburban competition for jobs cuts down on the number available and as for social support; neighborhoods and neighbors are no longer what those terms meant in the past. We simply live near or almost on top of one another but do not know the names of more than can be counted on one hand. As for social support; it is also an era of past days. “Being lonely in the midst of a crowd” is a better description of urban and suburban life. We seem to have, or to seek out, more information sources and use the Internet for contact than our rural residents which gives us a better understanding of what is going on. But apparently; we have little more idea of “why” than they do, we do have a higher level of awareness. Trump is an excellent example; how many ruralites have been as aware of the past 40 years of Trump’s “activities” as those of us “townies”? His promise to rid the country of all minorities to protect and “Make America Great Again” resonates much better to them than those of us who live with the realities day-to-day. We are still dealing with the confusion of – how the hell did this happen? Those in rural areas are probably wondering why their lives have not improved over the past 18 months as Trump repeatedly promised. We are all victims of accelerating racism; in forms and at a level we never imagined possible.

  8. Having lived in rural Illinois and working part time on weekends at the local hospital I can attest to the large number of suicides. Most weekends we had at least one attempted suicide to deal with. There was no mental health care to be given, unless you call the ministries of a fresh out of college social worker mental health care. The numbers and frequency grew so large that the emergency room staff took care of the patient by having him/her sign a paper promising to not try to kill themselves again and sent them home.

    As Nancy wrote, there was an extreme lack of jobs and social support. Most of the young people left for college or the cities soon after graduating from high school. The ones who remained were, for the most part, ill equipped for anything except perhaps hunting, drinking, whining and working seasonal jobs (at minimum wages) on the vast corporate farms. There was a fine two year college in the next county over, but few takers from the county I lived in. The local library was closed for a year because the scathingly brilliant county commissioners failed to put it in the budget. They “forgot.”

  9. Several years ago, in a hardware store in rural Indiana, I overheard the conversation between the guy in line in front of me and the clerk. They lived near each other, so the customer told the clerk that the sound of gunshots he might hear was from the target range he set up on his property to teach his son to shoot. The clerk said the sound of gunshots does not bother him; he considers it to be the sound of freedom.

    My thought (unstated, of course) was that those guys never lived in a big city, where the sound of gunshots indicated either a drive-by shooting or some junkie with a Saturday-Night Special holding up a 7-11.

  10. Urban life has a confluence of many more factors than rural life. Connecting gun violence statistics with Democratic or Republican environments is a false premise. It’s like trying to predict the winner of a golf tournament: Too many variables that are not connected.

    Americans have always been armed with guns, especially while white Europeans were stealing the continent from its original inhabitants. We are the most fearful people on the planet and also the most susceptible to advertising methods that embody fear, guilt, lust and greed. It doesn’t really matter where one lives.

  11. JoAnn,

    While I recognize that urban areas also struggle with ‘less than living wage’ jobs, people in cities still have more access to social supports and also have more access to other human beings. These two things make a huge difference. I also recognize your statement about being lonely in the midst of a crowd and agree that can take place anywhere.

    In rural areas we have never had much access to social support. To this day, rural people believe that everyone should be able to take care of and support themselves. People who reveal that they might be needy will be shunned. This all goes back to the pioneer days of people learning that they can only depend upon themselves for survival.

    I recall being shocked a few decades ago at hearing what urban people called the police for help with. Out here in the country you learn to take care of things yourself or just go without. That is the mindset. Rural churches, by choice, are very blind to the economic struggles within their own communities and even more so within their own congregations. Members choose to focus on financially supporting mission work in far away countries rather than helping their own neighbors.

    Theresa was correct in recognizing that there is no social support in rural areas. Mental health access is non-existent and we have far too few medical doctors too. I am thankful for the local urgent care clinic that opened here a year ago. I have had the same local family practitioner for many years, but if I need to see her for any type of illness I must wait at least three weeks to get an appointment.

    I could go on and on about the struggles of rural vs urban America. The one good thing that we don’t necessarily worry about in rural America is getting mugged or shot at while walking down a street. That is a bonus that I appreciate.

  12. Suicide has touched my family and community, and I continue to work hard to spread awareness about suicide. We must also look at removing lethal means (guns and medication), when addressing suicide prevention. The medical community must admit that easy access to guns IS a major issue. We can’t ignore the rising rates of suicide in our state and country. Obviously, suicide is a complex issue and more research is needed. This is an interesting article.
    Suicides are declining in Europe. Three European nations have declining suicide rates, but only three continue to have rates above the U.S.: Belgium, Finland and France. It also notes two social factors: the weakening of the social safety net and increasing income inequality. As the rich keep getting richer, while the middle class dwindles with threats of cuts to social security, medicare, medicaid and social reform, I feel the anxiety in our country. I have anxiety. Each day, I awaken to news which continues to shock me when I don’t think we can go lower, and I will never understand how people continue to support trump and his administration. I am not sure that our country will ever fully recover from this administration. The recent retirement of Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court is another serious concern. Trump’s words and actions keep me up at night, as his supporters keep chanting “build that wall”, “lock her up.” “NRA”, “MAGA” and now “Space Force”at his rallies. Have you seen the interviews of people at the recent Trump rally?–everyone-loves–space-force-?xrs=synd_facebook_062718_tds_40 There are so many fires to put out and so many distractions – exhausting and I do not see a clear plan to snuff this wildfire out by the Democrats. People need to get organized and unite. Focus on the message and not on Trump. The Republicans are going to have a huge organizing dinner in Carmel soon – $10,000 for the top spot. We are in trouble people – the rich, greedy, privileged, dishonest, bigoted, gun-loving white men in power will win if we do not step up. The moral compass has disappeared in the Republican Party. Too many have no clue that they are being conned.

  13. I have never purchased a gun and never had need for one. I hunt and gather at the grocery store (in fact if I had to kill for meat I’d sooner give it up which I accept as blatant hypocrisy) and I have never been the victim of a crime.

    If I lived in an urban setting surrounded by the violent crime of gangs and drugs would I have purchased one? Probably. If I lived in an isolated rural place would I? Again probably.

    Those safety issues though carry with them extra baggage like where to keep a gun if the goal is personal protection. Obviously the place affording the maximum protection would be on my person.

    So Sheila’s statistics seem reasonable to me.

    What is completely unreasonable to me though are folks who arm themselves to the teeth as protection for the uprising, the revolution, the times when “they” come to take over the sanctuaries of peaceful whitefolks asleep in their beds, the home invasions by armies.

    Based on these things it’s easy to see why there is such a big gun problem here. What ads to it is the fact of the existence of the NRA as an ad agency, and the huge retail gun industry, selling as many guns as possible.

    Are their better solutions for all of this things? I think so though none are perfect. It would take an institution like the NRA to accomplish real progress and there’s frankly no money in it.

  14. I remember finding it grimly funny a few years ago when I read the report of a well-intentioned northeast Indiana charity that’s had studied the needs of the rural counties around its town and was shocked — shocked and surprised to the point you could tell from the report they absolutely had not expected this finding — that the rural residents had significant and unmet mental health issues. The tone was clearly “but they live in the country. They should be happy! Country and small town life is the best!” The townies and suburbanites of the charity were clueless about the realities of rural life, its isolation, the widespread poverty, the lack of safety nets and the culture of not talking about the problems. Remember that not only do rural areas lack city services but most lack even decent internet acccess, leet alone broadband, so few people live with the kind of or level of information access we city dwellers have come to take for granted. And that makes a big difference. And they don’t have local newspapers, and most folks have been out of school for a long time. Anyone who has looked at the census data and education data or who reads economic development reports knows the realities both urban and rural counties face. But that’s not a lot of people.

  15. Connie – I live in rural northeastern Indiana and am curious to know the name of the well-intentioned charity that you mentioned.

  16. A few years ago, on a trip to Big Bend National Park in west Texas, we spent the night in a park in southwestern Kansas along the Oklahoma border. In search for groceries, we went into a town within a few miles.

    It was apparent from the rural housing that most of the family farms and ranches were in decline or owned by Big Agra. Local business were almost non-existent, with boarded up store fronts lining the main street and a huge Walmart on the edge of town.

    Western small towns are dying a slow death of economic strangulation. The small businesses that used to be the backbone of those communities have been driven out by the ubiquity of Walmart, Dollar Stores and gas station convenience stores owned by Big Oil. The absence of local businesses means no living wage jobs, no tax base to support local schools and public services, no way for young people to find a way to move up. Medical services of any kind were hours away. BTW, Walmart is the largest employer in Indiana.

    Isolation and lack of opportunity breed resentment and hopelessness. Suicide and addiction are the answer for too many.

  17. “What is society? I have answered: Society is imitation”.
    Gabriel Tarde

  18. Having worked in a state run mental health clinic for 13 years in a small city in the South surrounded by rural communities . . . . I can think of several reasons suicides occur at a higher rate in the rural areas.
    1) Access to mental health care is more difficult. And as I got ready to retire (2014) the Medicare/Medicaid regs made it even harder. We could not bill for an assessment and a therapy session on the same day. Also, we could not bill for a medication check (done by a doc) and a therapy session on the same day. That meant clients had to come in on multiple days for services. If you are poor or ack transportation & have to ask a relative for ride of about 20+ miles into the mental health clinic , this becomes an issue.
    2) Since many rural communities in the South are VERY conservative, mental health is a touchy subject. Many churches teach their congregations that mental health problems are the work of devil and as such only require a “stronger faith in God.” Also, psychiatrists and psychotherapists are viewed with suspicion and use of psychotropic medications is viewed as “taking drugs.”
    3) Rural communities are very isolating. Except for churches, many communities have no social outlets for people, especially for older white men who are in a high risk category for suicide, especially by a fire arm. Depression is little understood by the average lay person and by rural people in particular, so suicide prevention is not generally considered by those with a loved one who is depressed.
    4) Men are less likely to seek mental health services for depression. In the South, especially, where masculinity is very much tied to “being strong and tough”, men tend not to reveal their level of depression or express suicidal ideation.
    5) In my 13 years of mental health treatment, I never once saw an obituary that stated “the deceased died by his own hand.” Suicide is still a shameful secret that many people still think happens to other folks in other places. It is covered up and denied.
    Unfortunately, given the inability of the current administration to look at actual facts and make policy recommendations based on facts, I doubt that we will see an improvement in mental health services. I would be willing to state that more people are affected by depression and suicide than have ever been injured or killed by the “rapists & murderers” coming across the border.

  19. A news item on AOL, a right leaning source at the very least; on the Veuer site, poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports; “Poll: Large number of United States voters think a civil war is coming” Rasmussen is a Presidential Tracking Poll based on a sample of “likely voters”; no explanation as to how they decide who are “likely voters. 31% of respondents believe a civil war is coming, 37% Democrats, 32% Republicans, 59% of the respondents are concerned those opposed to Trump’s policies will resort to violence vs. 53% during President Obama’s 2nd year. There was no breakdown of that 59% as to Democrats or Republicans, urban or rural but considering the Republicans are elated with Trump’s policies, it looks like the blame is being placed on 59% of those polled being the Democrats and I’m guessing that 53% during Obama’s first 2 years was Republicans.

    Another poll which appears to me to be guesswork at best and busy work at the least. Any idea who conducted that 86% of persistent poverty counties have entirely rural populations; and is that in this state or is that a national poll? Just askin’

  20. JD,

    You summed up the end game for capitalism in our country. With the destruction of hopes and dreams, comes despair and the accompanying suicide tendencies. I hate to keep bring it up, but Karl Marx predicted this sort of thing during capitalism’s swan song.

    Greed and hoarding are ancient instincts that were conscious adaptations by an emerging intellect a couple hundred thousand years ago. Those instincts allowed tribes of proto-humans to survive hard times and predation from other tribes. Some of those things haven’t changed much in the human condition.

    So, here we are teetering on the fence between the pressures of modern society and its countless rules necessary to keep us somewhat in line and mutually helpful, and the ancient survival instincts that say “me first!” Suicide, guns, murder and all the other mayhem can be attributed to those who don’t make the adjustment or who are left to die by an uncaring society. We, in the United States, are witnessing the end game for our brand of capitalism because we ignored the warning signs many decades ago. Keep in mind that we’ve only been at peace for 17 of our 242 years of existence, yet our streets are littered with homeless veterans and drug addicted veterans with no imminent solutions on the horizon.

    Meanwhile, so-called patriotic politicians keep feeding their donors more of the nation’s labor goods and services in the form of obscene tax cuts. The veterans in the streets, according to these Republicans, should grab their own bootstraps and pull themselves up to minimum wage jobs and flea bag dwellings. Thing is, these poor guys and women don’t have any boots at all. “Oh, but let’s have another tax cuts so our companies can be more competitive.” Those “companies” then turn around and send the jobs overseas, buy back their stock to make the stockholders richer still and pay themselves huge bonuses for a job well done – of bribery.

    Is it any wonder that suicide and hopelessness is on the rampage? Look at what our political system has built. That should supersede all these gobbledy-gook statistics about urban v. rural living. Our people are screaming for a system that treats them fairly and all we do is piss and moan about Donald Trump and his idiotic cabal of Nazis.

  21. BTW, Mr. Todd — psychotropic medications are a god-send to those of us who experience chronic debilitating depression caused by brain chemistry. I have tried to do without my anti-depressants several times, each time with the same result – a return to feelings of hopelessness and sadness- even though there was no change in my environment. I have taken them for over 20 years.
    Please do not speak disparagingly on topics you appear to have not experienced personally. You’re just keeping the “I take crazy pills” shame going!

  22. Too many view rural America through the Andy of Mayberry, Green Acres lens, just like Leave it to Beaver or Father Knows Best was a lens into urban America. The Norman Rockwell paints were false fronts of rural and urban life.

    My father-in-law was a farmer – 200 plus acres he owned. A very rough life 24/7/365. No paid vacations, no pension, no company health care, they relied on each other for extra help. Something like a “collective society” where trust was a given.

    Yesterday, there was a good article in the Guardian about Iowa farmers:

    Farming is perhaps the most physically taxing form of gambling. Every year, farmers take out loans to pay for sowing and harvesting a crop. They have to buy the right seed, plant at the right time and harvest at the right time. All along, they bear the risk of Mother Nature ruining everything. The weather might be too hot or it might be too cold. There might be too much rain falling or not enough. With all this uncertainty inherent to the profession, there’s now another variable, Donald Trump.

    The potential for a trade war between the United States and China has caused soya bean prices to fall significantly in recent weeks as both countries threaten to impose new tariffs on each other. One of China’s top targets is soya beans, a key crop for farmers in states like Iowa, which Trump relied upon in his 2016 victory, that have since fallen to their lowest prices in nearly a decade.
    Bottom line I believe people commit suicide, when they have lost hope in the future for one reason or another. For these people Orwell’s line in the novel 1984 is all to real: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”

    All the drugs, and booze may offer a temporary relief, but when you come back to reality – there is the boot stamping on a human face.

    American society for all it’s lofty ideals and phony promises is a cruel, brutal and inhumane, place. This is all to evident when Health Care is determined NOT on need, but if You Can afford it.

  23. JD – you mentioned that Western small towns are dying and gave a picture of what has taken place. This same thing has happened in Indiana. Your description matched exactly what we have here in rural Indiana.

    Vernon – re your statement “You summed up the end game for capitalism in our country. With the destruction of hopes and dreams, comes despair and the accompanying suicide tendencies.” Well stated. This exists everywhere in our country, but especially in rural areas.

    Monotonous Languor – I lived your description of farming for fifty years. It has become much worse over the years. The cost of inputs has risen astronomically while prices have remained steady or, like now, have declined to those of a decade or more ago. Farmers are committing suicide at an alarming rate.

  24. Suicide and homicide are bipartisan but their incidence in rural vs. urban populations is not. However, I am inclined to think that attributing such incidence to setting may be missing some other spreadsheet shortcomings such as the high rate of suicide among veterans as well as other components whose statistical treatment is unclear and which might skew the numbers upon which our conclusions are based. On the other hand, delving into such subsets might strengthen such conclusions since the proof of the pudding is in the pudding.

    I think all of the problems in the rural environment mentioned today are in the mix, along with others not adequately identified. Corporate farming where farmers who used to till their own land and now drive tractors for corporations could be one. Despair and hopelessness springing from the current economic and political morass could be another, among many others, despair which leads to opie, alcohol and other drug addictions, all of which provide fertile ground for suicide, and, of course, the proximity of weaponry – especially in rural areas.

    Iowa soy bean farmers, as an illustration, are increasingly at risk with Trump’s tariff games, which has led to China’s taking its giant soybean imports to Brazil and Argentina, among other such political matter involving agricultural exports (See Harley-Davidson’s urban response to Trump’s tariff games with the EU).

    In sum, I am not sure about causes and effects in trying to explain the rates of homicides and suicides either in this country or in its geographical breakdowns and I am not sure that our statistical analyses pinpoint the real and underlying issues that could provide answers. Given such a state of affairs, I think we should do much more research on what the problems are while treating the problems Sheila and contributors have set forth today in an all out attack on our homicide/suicide problem from whatever causes.

  25. Nancy @ 11:21 am. Nancy, at least back in 1970’s and 1980’s when my Father-in-Law was still farming over in Illinois most of the farms around him were owned by the people who farmed the land. It makes you wonder how much of the farmland in total is actually “farmed” by the owner vs the owner of the land not farming and hiring -renting the actual work???

    At least from what I know the person performing the actual farming on the absentee landlord’s farm is responsible for providing the equipment, etc., and pays a rental fee to the owner and then keeps a percentage of the production once the crops are sold.

  26. Nancy, a couple of other items I observed concerning my Father-In-Law during the 1970’s and 1980’s. His opportunities to sell became restricted, by the conglomeration brought about by mergers into Big Ag. The independent grain elevator operators were bought up. The seed, herbicide and pesticide were controlled by Big Ag. The three piece suits in the financial industry could manipulate the price of corn, soy beans, wheat, cattle, pigs, etc. The closest these three piece suit types came to farm was probably a fly-over at 25,000 feet on a jet.

    My Father-In-Law was keenly aware of environmental impacts – the land was his source of living and must cared for. CAFO’s maybe the ultimate example of destructive agricultural practices, with limited or no control of the toxic effects of air and water pollution on the neighbors.

  27. Monotonous Languor –
    Yes, most farms in the 70’s and 80’s were smaller and the owners farmed the land. The high interest rates in the late 70’s to mid 80’s pushed many family farmers out of business. Many lost everything that they had worked hard for. Operating loan interest rates of 16% were not sustainable.

    Since the early 90’s most of the farm land is rented out. Farming 2500 acres now is considered small. The equipment needed to farm several thousand acres is huge, as is the financial investment to purchase or lease that equipment. $150,000 for just a tractor is nothing.

    Most land owners and tenants have rental contracts. The tenant farmer typically pays 1/2 the rent on May 1st and the remaining 1/2 rent on November 1st. The tenant farmer then has all of the risks and rewards for their efforts. Unfortunately, the risks keep increasing with weather extremes and market prices that are out of their control. There are still a few crop sharing agreements around, but they are rare. Land owners typically don’t want to deal with storing or selling half of the crops or taking those risks.

  28. Nancy and Monotonous; just yesterday I had a conversation on Facebook with a friend about no longer getting quality produce due to the lack of local farms. I remember the small truck farms growing produce for the Mom and Pop grocery stores; always delicious. How long has it been since we have had quality produce that wasn’t picked and shipped before ready to harvest, destroying flavor? Also; we have no idea of the chemicals now used to induce growth and affecting flavor and probably destroying health benefits of natural vitamins. Amazing that people can actually grow beautiful tomatoes with absolutely no flavor and tough skins…I miss real food, the work of your families who farmed was taken for granted, millions of people miss what we no longer have available which your families worked so hard to provide.

  29. Oh, such a tragic series of posts – and describing such intractable issues it is almost easier just to move on. But our humanity refuses to let go…there must be something… As individuals, perhaps we can help ourselves while we add our personal antidotes to the misery – small comfort but comfort nonetheless.

    You all who regularly comment here, Sheila, who sparks us all on a daily basis – you all are already engaged in maintaining one of the essential roads out of this mess – connection. In reading one of those analyses of early death reasons (sorry I don’t have the reference) I learned that despite any number of unfortunate health issues, early death and dying out of step more generally, can be positively affected by – yes – connection. Not those big connections either, but a person’s daily, small interactions with others – the cashiers, waitresses, police, bus drivers, phone conversations, regardless of status or position, any other human you happen upon. Personally, I try to elicit smiles.

    Sorry, my essential pollyanna is showing…this (almost) effortless engaging with fellow sufferers is an action each of us is at least something positive to contribute while we all (hope springs eternal) simultaneously up our engagement with others working on solutions like the
    ones frequently outlined in this forum or the myriad other sources of sane and useful ideas.

    Thank you, as always, for listening.

  30. I have a strong suspicion that the suicide rate between rural and urban areas are about the same. The methods used by each demographic changes with the tools available.

  31. Pete Daggett; who orders the polls, who conducts the polls and who do they poll. As a wise friend told me years ago, we can find statistics to prove any point if we know where to look. Today; more than ever before, we must look at the source to consider the results.

  32. JoAnn,

    Mark Twain attribution to Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

  33. Nancy: I understand your interest, but I’m not going to name the group. It’s a smaller agency that I believe has reacted intelligently to its surprise and moved on. I don’t want to let one cynical person’s reaction to the wording of their report attach any value judgment to its name.

  34. To bring today’s subject matter to life, and for movie buffs who like
    “oldies but goodies” I suggest viewing “The Last Picture Show”, “The Grapes of Wrath” and others.

    Ah, suicide. People who truly hold themselves responsible for their own outcome are far more willing to punish themselves for failure.

    Most of us know that, and it seems simple; after all it all gets said in one simple sentence.

    But we have no idea how deep into our rural psyche that existential worm has eaten. To understand the complexities in that sentence, we need to understand the depth and the warp of rural folk’s existentialism. Me for example. I grew up on a farm, a small farm, a subsistence farm, forty acres for a family of seven. When we, my father and I, heard people, who worked in factories or stores or offices FOR SOMEONE ELSE, predominately republicans, remark that America would be much better off if only people would be responsible for themselves, we bristled. I still bristle.

    Subsistence farmers are the poster boys of being responsible for themselves. Mere employees, no matter the rank or weight of duties to which they eventually climb at work, have no idea what it means to be responsible for themselves. Not compared to a subsistence farmer. When those people – employees — left their parent’s home and took a job working for an employer, we, my father and I, considered that move nothing more responsible than trading one set of providers for another set of providers. How dare they preach to anyone about being responsible for oneself! You see the warp?

    Now, consider the really big farmer, who inherited the family farm(s) and the family cushion of cash…and the family existentialism, warped by now until it resembles a tempered golden screw. When that farmer faces failure, the failure is not only to himself but to his ancestors who did not fail. The failure is not of an individual; the failure is of a line, a blood line. He, the man, is already dead. You see the warp?

    Then consider the farmer’s objection, the insult, of having to ask someone else for work when your entire bloodline has preached that working for someone else is tantamount to being a childish dependent with chores, nothing more than forsaking the duties and character of a man. Again, the warp.

    Then, me again: consider listening to your father repeatedly threaten suicide when survival got tight on the subsistence farm. When I wanted a pair of blue suede shoes. When Christmas letters to Santa got too long. When prices of hogs and eggs and milk and corn and oats and wheat were too low. When lazy children want to quit the chores and play awhile.

    People who truly hold themselves responsible for their own outcome are far more willing to punish themselves for failure.

    It’s Ayn Rand’s recipe…full of poison.

  36. Larry,

    “When Christmas letters to Santa got too long.”

    Don’t give up on Santa Claus. He’s come EARLY this year in the “form of Donald Trump.” Keep believing.

    “SANTA TRUMP” has delivered a GIFT TO AMERICA of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German martyr, did so well describe: CIVIC COURAGE.

    It’s needless to say, our special gift needs to be UNWRAPPED before the Congressional hearings begin on our next Supreme Court Justice.

    Time is of the upmost essence.

  37. We have two choice:


    Give up (which I see some doing now). More will. Fighting is hard.

    The short term strategy of fighting is clear. Lay siege to the Executive and Judicial Branches by the Legislative by doing everything possible to elect Congressional D’s in November. Mueller may or may not be able to help.

    After that we have some breathing room going forward. If we aren’t successful in Nov to here will be no more breathing room left.

Comments are closed.