No traditional newsletter this week, as I was working on this piece — the result of talking at length with three dozen people who live who live full-time in rural/resort areas (or who are debating leaving the city for their second homes). I was trying to get at the larger story of how the privilege to “escape” cities is going to ravage rural communities, and was assisted mightily by several rural studies scholars who’ve been working and analyzing and writing about these issues for years.
What I arrived at:
“Americans struggle mightily with the ideology of individualism: that all that matters, in a particular moment, is what is happening to you and yours. Rural America is asking you to think otherwise. You might “enjoy” your quarantine more. But the rural places so many Americans treat as playgrounds, and the workers who make that play and respite and feeling of safety possible, may suffer profoundly in your service.”
I hope you’ll read the whole thing, and share widely with others who might be considering for these sorts of escapes — or those in rural areas looking for a way to tell others why it’s so important to stay away. This is all so hard, and all so important.
If you have ideas for a story or angle on everything that’s happening that you feel is going uncovered, just reply to this email (or find me at annehelenpetersen @ gmail.com). I also have Signal, which you can ask for, and will never quote you or use your story without your permission.
All of my stories these past few weeks have relied on people from all over, in all sorts of situations, telling me what’s going on and why it matters and others should pay attention. We have to keep telling this story the best we know how — and, at the risk of extreme corniness, I can’t do it alone. Tell me what’s getting ignored, what’s different and happening in your community, and I will do my very best.
Everyone’s asking how everyone’s doing, and most everyone is answering “not great.” Fucking same. But this, too, will end — and how we understand it now, and later, will determine how we can make sure that when it does happen again, it won’t be like this.
All of my good and sustaining thoughts, hoarded and allocated your way. And some Steve for good fortune.
I live in Big Bear, California and appreciated this article a LOT. We are being inundated with people taking "Corona Vacays." They come here from Coronavirus hotspots like San Diego, bring their entire families, raid our [only] two markets for supplies, and do not, unfortunately, bring with them their own medical supplies or hospital beds to augment our single, 12-bed hospital. They have interpreted "shelter at home" to mean "shelter indoors wherever you happen to have driven to today." The locals are spitting mad (well, not literally) but there is nothing we can do about it. The weekend rentals have been suspended, but the problem lies with people who own vacation homes up here & are spending weekends AND bringing different groups of friends & family every Friday night. I can't say I see much of a difference between this and weekenders, to tell you the truth. Anyway, the article helped to legitimize the worry of local, full-time residents, and I thank you.
I think about this a lot. As someone who relocated from southwestern Florida to northern Florida a few years ago due in part to sea level rise concerns I wrestle with urging everyone else to do the same and also wanting to physically wall off the lovely rural place that I now live. Great piece.