Searching for America’s Small Town Values

Jackson_Hole_Rodeo_PrayerI was curious to check the pulse of our American values during my recent road trip.

Here’re a few examples of down-home-ness that I found:

Everyday Religiosity

Most Americans are religious. In fact, according to a recent Washington Post survey, 92% of American people in God or a higher spirit. (Actually, I thought this might’ve be even higher.)

I guess my surprise came because I just thought people’s beliefs were more of a private affair. Instead they were not only on display, but also assumed to be universal.

For instance, when I attended the Jackson Hole Rodeo one Saturday night, I didn’t expect us to be asked to bow our heads for the health of the riders and to hear an “All rodeo workers please gather for the pre-rodeo prayer” to be blared through the PA system beforehand.

I remember thinking: Huh, but what if all rodeo workers didn’t all want to participate in the group prayer?

Honoring_SoldiersTroop Patriotism

I was touched when driving through one small town in Western Montana where the downtown park had yellow ribbons and photos of our soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan on the trees lining the green.

I pulled over and walked through the garden, looking at the faces and reading their names and ranks. All the soldiers were so young. And now that I’m working with vets of these wars, it almost broke my heart to even have a small inkling of the trauma that they were enduring.

Literally my heart gave a little squeeze.

Pride in Hard Work

I was taking pictures at the Klamath Falls SE Oregon regional fair of carnival workers, the rides and the kids.

I was snapping one of the carnival workers as she set up her game booth, when she turned around. Instead of being miffed about me taking a behind-her-back photo, she instead asked me to take a picture of her face.

Carnival_Working_in_Klamath_Falls_ORI found this request endearing — that the woman wanted to be seen as she worked. I mean, really seen. She was proud of her work and the job she was doing.

Hard Work, God and Country — Basically the Protestant Ethic that created our country.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised. And yet, I was.

I was surprised by both the public display of beliefs and assumption of universality that all Americans would hold these same values dear.

To me, this seemed to go against two other ingrained American values: Privacy and Freedom of Expression.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 and is filed under North America.

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