May 2, 2024 at 1:10 p.m.

If you don’t like it, you can change it

Dear Editor, 

Here’s the good news. If you don’t like it, you can change it.

I’ve been reading the very controversial book, “White Rural Rage.” In fact, since 2018 I’ve read numerous books about the anger that exists in our society, and the rural areas are no exception. No one can agree on the source of this anger and much of the criticism of “White Rural Rage” revolves around describing this sentiment in rural areas as rage instead of what some contend is more accurately described as resentment.

Resentment is what Katherine Cramer called it in her book, “The Politics of Resentment,” (2016)  a book that reports on multiple interviews she had with rural Wisconsin folks.  What may be true is that some of what began as resentment, which was very obvious to Dr. Cramer, has evolved to rage in the last few years.

At bridge rallies promoting voting, reproductive rights, and protecting immigrant rights at the border, I’ve been sworn at, flicked the bird, and coal rolled. (You’ve seen that heavy black exhaust purposely produced by rapidly accelerating a diesel truck.)  That’s not resentment, that is rage, and it was all by white folks. I need to quickly add that this was a small minority of those driving by, but don’t try to tell me that rural rage is not a thing.

I’ve recently given up posting signs calling for increased taxes on

the ultra-wealthy in one location. They were pulled up three times. I can’t think of any reason why anyone in Richland County would be so offended by a message directed at taxing the ultra-rich in order to make it possible to provide resources for our communities. This is not an act of resentment; it is an act of irrational rage. I am at a loss for how we deal with that.

What I do agree with in the criticisms of “White Rural Rage” is that rage is not nearly as ubiquitous as rural resentment.  And that is more good news, because resentment can be addressed if it comes from a rational place. Rage takes one to an irrational place that defies remediation.

The rural resentment I see is almost entirely focused on a feeling that our government has betrayed us.  What is more properly the focus, however, is that our government representatives have betrayed us – the ones we have elected.

And that brings me back to the good news. If our local elected representatives have failed to work at solving our local needs of fully funded schools, affordable childcare and housing, broadband access, repaired roads and bridges, protecting our water resources and our local agriculture, we have a solution.

If we don’t like it, we can get involved, research, and talk to those running for office, to determine who will work to serve our local rural communities. If they are running again, don’t just talk to them, look to see what they have done in the past.  If they are running for the first time, ask pointed, specific questions and let them know you will hold them to any promises they make.

If we have resentments and don’t like how we have been served by our representatives, we have a solution for that. We have our vote, and it is a powerful force.

 "Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind;  it forces you to stretch your own."  Charles Scribner Jr.  

Beverly Pestel

Richland Center, WI