New word for ‘rural’

The US Census Bureau simply defines rural as anything that is not urban.

Such a standard definition by an institution that measures everything by the number of inhabitants is clearly one-dimensional. It is also incomplete and seems to be growing more and more.

Rural populations do not simply live a non-urban lifestyle, which means that rural living is not just the opposite of urban or suburban living.

The word “rural” has many connotations, some of which are no longer applicable. Rural was once equated with rustic, but that is no longer the case for many residents. In farmland, rural is often synonymous with farming. Then again, that’s a misnomer for more and more country folk who don’t toil in the work of the earth – except perhaps in some hobby farm or other. For other areas, rural can mean cattle, or border, or sticks, depending on who is being asked and who is asking.

In reality, the historical legacy definitions of the countryside are becoming less and less applicable in modern America. “Rural” was once primitive, but electrification and county-wide water districts changed that. Even today, internet connections are connecting more and more rural households to Amazon and Netflix and “smart home” capabilities at the same speeds as cities.

For centuries, the countryside was considered unsophisticated, especially in an appreciation of finer tastes in art and leisure. But rural and remote Taylor Swift fans were online last week crashing Ticketmaster servers alongside their most urban counterparts.

Perhaps there is too much baggage with the word “rural” for it to remain meaningful without immediately invoking prejudice and prejudice. Maybe it’s time to retire “nationally” and replace it with something else.

But what?

The national divide is real. This is not news; in fact, its reality predates our consideration of it in the US by about 2,600 years, making it something of a timeless nature. That’s when the story of “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” and its morals found its way into Aesop’s stories.

Hidden between “slow and steady wins the race,”https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/”heaven helps those who help themselves,”https://news.google.com/__i/ rss/rd/articles/ “struggle is not always for the strong” and “once bitten, twice shy” is the conclusion of the country mouse, drawn from a visit to the lavish household of his urban cousin and narrowly escaping being devoured be by a cat.

‘You live in luxury, I can see that, but you are surrounded by dangers,’ said the provincial mouse in parting. “While I can enjoy my simple meal of carrots and corn in peace at home.”

So for at least two and a half millennia, increased safety and security has been a social benefit in rural areas. That’s not to say there isn’t crime in the country; no statement could be further from the truth.

I like to remember Sherlock Holmes’ old observation expressed to Dr. Watson on a train ride in “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,” in which the sleuth admits his cursed ghost watches everything—even a rural English pastoral scene—referring to his blunted perspective of the detective.

“Who would associate crime with these dear old farmhouses?” Watson cried.

Holmes replied that in his experience “the lowest and dirtiest alleys of London afford no more dreadful record of sin than the smiling and beautiful countryside.”

Thus, no place is completely exempt from crime, even in quiet rural areas. Wherever people coexist, violations of the law can occur. Rather, it is a matter of speed, scale, and time: Holmes was not comparing modern Chicago, New York, or Detroit, or his comment would be different.

Urbanization also works against the remaining national DNA, because at the beginning of our relatively short American experiment, everything started as rural. The earliest battles of the Revolutionary War involved towns (Lexington and Concord) roughly the size of Marvell and McCrory, respectively.

Philadelphia was the largest city in our young country during the constitutional convention, with a population about as large as Pine Bluff. New York City was only slightly more populated than Paragould at the time.

Nearly all of our national principles and precepts were conceived in a mostly rural, small-town mentality, so it’s no wonder that massive urban growth in the US has been problematic. Aesop saw it coming in 600 BC.

Today, rural and small-town lifestyles are less about agrarianism or simplicity, and more about quality-of-life fundamentals, including less crime (and very little violence), more space and privacy, fewer people in poverty, more affordable everything and a tightly woven social fabric.

A 2018 Pew Research study found that more people know their rural neighbors, and rural residents aged 18–29 are more than twice as likely to know all or most of their neighbors than young urban adults.

However, finding a replacement word for rural is a challenge. “Country” has similar preconceived legacy connotations. This may be a good opportunity for readers to weigh in, especially those who identify as rural people.

Is a new word needed? Or are we just redefining “rural” to more accurately apply? Chew it with yesterday’s leftovers and drop me a note with ideas: [email protected]


Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro.

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