It’s a Long, Long Way to Towanda, Kansas: The price of neglecting rural America

By Vivian Gorham

Sometimes I envision the whole middle of the United States without farms and towns in it. Everyone is crowded along the coasts with a couple of oasis cities in between. Driving from San Francisco to Denver is one thing — but taking off from Denver to cross the wild plains that are full of buffalo and squatters and nomadic tribes who live in VW buses sporting solar panels and who sometimes attempt to stop travelers, just like an old fashioned stage coach robbery — that gets pretty interesting.

Cars have had to be redesigned with solar / electric batteries, because there are no gas station stops. (This has of course entirely undermined the oil-based economy and along with it, it’s economic relative: war. U.S. troops are now exclusively used for border patrol at both the external border as well as the internal border.)

In order to cross the Plains, you have to take plenty of water and your own chemical toilet. The old folks regale youngsters with tales of peaceful towns and Main Street businesses and interstate cafes and truck stops.

“You could even take a shower at a gas station if you wanted to, but only truck drivers did usually, as there were plenty of motel rooms for the rest of us.” This is the type of story told by old-timers, while families huddle over the dried rations they carry with them on Plains crossings. They take turns driving in shifts as they are afraid to turn off their cars.

Crops are all imported from Russia, Mexico, and South America, where they’ve managed to maintain farms. With the extinction of Canadian and American farmers, Russians were able to set their own food prices — one for internal consumption and one for export. The exports subsidize cheap food in Russia. People have never had it so good, and Russia has become the unilateral power of the world, with Mexico next in line.

Meanwhile, malnutrition in the United States has skyrocketed. If it weren’t for foreign aid donations, many would starve. Mexico and Argentina take turns providing airlifts of food rations over the Great Plains to the nomads. These nomads gather in the shells of old cities and towns for annual gatherings and powwows. Authorities from the coastal cities who attempt to join these gatherings do so at their own peril. It is believed these rendezvous points are related to internal trade in the region and that there is a large black market economy of goods siphoned off from the cities.

This is a major economic leakage, but so far U.S. authorities have been powerless to stop it. Some say this underground economy is essential to the coastal economies, as it allows businesses to carry on a non-taxable trade. Given the loss of customer bases in rural towns and skyrocketing poverty in coastal cities trying to maintain huge ghettos of rural refugees, the black market business in the periphery is the only way most urban businesses can survive. Many economists warn that cracking down on the illegal trade to the periphery may result in overall economic collapse.

“It would have been better and much cheaper in the long run if we would have maintained rural America with some simple economic revitalization programs,” said a representative of one of the land universities involved in a massive, multi-billion dollar research study that is developing resettlement strategies.

The one good that has come out of this is that many indigenous tribes have left reservations and have returned to the old ways, albeit with the addition of a few technologies. They have been joined by an influx of tribal peoples from Canada, Central and South America, as well as many African Americans who have fled coastal cities.

It is rumored that within seven generations, a tribal confederacy will be strong enough to lobby the United Nations for sovereignty. The key to this development will be the ability of the Tribal Confederacy to restart agriculture in those parts of the former breadbasket of the world that still have adequate water reserves. Fortunately, they have the knowledge of the Hopis and other tribes who have managed to grow crops in the desert for centuries. If fact, most of the people now in the region have previously lived in sustainable, subsistence ways, combining hunting, gathering, small cropping, grazing and milking with utilitarian crafts and extended kin networks. The shift has been most difficult for those who have been displaced from the land for several generations or who have acquired a huge disdain for working the land because of histories of slavery.

The tribes have already stated that when the Fourth Nation of the Americas achieves sovereignty, U.S. citizens will be required to carry immigrant cards and be processed through customs at both borders (entry and exit points), even though they are only passing through. This is viewed as a response to the long held racist policies of the United States government towards people of color.

When asked for verification of the reasoning behind this future foreign policy position, one Confederacy leader replied, “Well, sure. Why not? Look at the history. African Americans were not allowed to settle in the periphery and were treated with suspicion when they traveled through. Mexicans and Mexican Americans were treated like second-class citizens and were forced into low-wage, heavy labor jobs with the threat of deportation hanging over their heads at every moment. Tribes were forced into the most inhospitable parts of the region and were given subsistence support payments and plenty of alcohol to drink — even though we have known for years about the allergy of Native peoples to spirit drinks. Sorry to say, most White folks in the periphery had no consciousness and no consciences when it came to people of color within their region. In fact, they propped up the racist systems of the State for years through their silence. And why wouldn’t they? They were in competition for land with Blacks and Natives and they used Mexicans for farm labor. It worked for them. Why speak out about it?”

— Vivian Gorham, for Rural Womyn Zone. Copyright Rural Womyn Zone 2006. All rights reserved. Republished January 3, 2010

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