I recently checked out a couple of books from the public library with high hopes to learn more about all things rural and agricultural. It's going to be a big task...I know. It has already yielded some interesting thoughts that portray the original meaning of the American dream.
The book I have begun reading is "The Law of The Land: Two Hundred Years of American Farmland Policy" by John Opie. The book is a bit older and has definitely lost the new car smell! But, as with many things in life, I believe there is great value in items from the past. American culture is so caught up in instant gratification and staying current that we often forget to look right under our nose at what the past has to offer. I find it this way while choosing books to read. Many times quality books are passed over simply because of the publish date, but not this time. I chose to read an older book and figured it would have some great information regarding the history of our agriculture land laws and our western expansion. I was right! Profound thoughts and observations of our nations forefathers shed an interesting light to our rural beginnings and the source point of the infamous American Dream.
The book paints an obvious picture that America was founded on RURAL. The forefathers of our nation beleived strongly in the powers that land ownership and our ability to work provided to a citizens sense of freedom, character and personal contribution to society. In fact, this was the American dream for a good portion of the early immigrants that entered the country. In the book, Opie writes "The ability to buy land was perhaps the greatest attraction of all to the prospective immigrant, particularly in light of the impossibility of doing so in the Old World, even with cash in hand." The book continues quoting John Wentworth, governor of New Hampshire in 1786, saying "that even the highest wages in the empire, prime working conditions, and full choice employment could not keep people off the farm".
What!?! Did I read that correctly? Couldn't keep people off the farm? Fast forward to the present and our society has just about done a 180 degree turn. Rural areas are depopulating at an alarming rate, and why? It's simple, American's now associate the American Dream with home ownership and high earnings rather than land ownership. Check out what wikipedia has to say about the American Dream http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Dream. Sure, home ownership implies owning a small portion of land, but truly is most often associated with an urban or suburban plot of tract housing.
After my short foray into this great book, I have stumbled upon a new realization that transforming rural America may have promise in promoting our youth to find freedom in land ownership and the bounty it provides both physically and spiritually. As I scan my personal experiences, the most liberating ones are usually tied to open space and a little room to breath. Agricultural advocates are actively promoting reconnecting with the urban consumer. Why not also become a rural advocate by connecting future generations to the ultimate freedom of land ownership?
Drawing from the suburban experience, its difficult to pin point many friends who really connected with the land. Instead, we were taught to use our intellect to chase down the urban lifestyle and be successful ($$$). We were indoctrinated by nice homes, fancy cars and luxuries. With continued endorsement of the American dream as earning six figures and having a home with two cars in the garage, how can expect today's youth to learn something different. Modern life has provided so many distractions and luxuries that we may have lost our way in finding freedom in ownership of our own small kingdom, a good sized piece of land. For the price of the automobiles we think we need, we could buy a good sized portion of freedom in rural America.
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