More and more, the United States seems to becoming un-united, polarized by democrats vs. republicans, liberals vs. conservatives, socialists vs. capitalists, big government vs. less government, rich vs. poor, equity vs. equality, the powerful vs. the powerless, those who want to uphold the constitution vs. those who want to make it more flexible, as well as the divisions caused by the various gender and melanin issues.
More important to me since I live in a small, isolated community, is the ever-growing divide between big cities and rural areas. One issue that concerns rural folks all around the country is the push toward a popular vote. If this were enacted, not only would policies that affect rural areas be decided by major cities within the state, they’d more probably be decided in New York City and Los Angeles, with perhaps Chicago and Houston chiming in, since those are the four largest cities in the USA. The Colorado Legislature has already passed a measure that all our electoral votes would go not to the candidate the people in Colorado voted for, but to whoever won the popular vote nationally. The only reason this is not now law is that it has to be voted on by the people. If it’s passed, it would lock rural areas out of the voting process completely because their vote simply would not count.
Which brings us to another divide within the state. Colorado used to be republican, but because of the vast numbers of people moving to Denver from California and New York as well as Texas, Denver — the capitol — is now democrat while the rest of the state is republican. It doesn’t sound like it would be that much of an issue, unless you live in a county far removed from Denver and its power-hungry politicians.
The latest mess we locals been handed is that some woman legislator in Denver decided that private prisons have to go for some murky reason I’ve never been able to discover. As far as I can tell, there are only two such prisons besides one in a major city: one in this county and one in a nearby county. Both counties have about the same population — approximately 5,000 people spread out over 1,541 square miles. With agriculture pretty much dead around here, there is basically only one business that employs more than a few people and pays them well— the prison.
Because of that one crotchety woman’s campaign against these prisons, the county stands to lose millions in annual payroll, almost a million in goods and services such as utilities, and more than a million in property taxes. Those property taxes help pay for fire control, ambulance, schools, library, the senior center and various other services this town needs. Without the prison, the people who live here — already an impoverished lot, with only prison workers and a few others making a decent living — will have to pick up the slack, with higher property taxes (as well as lower property values), higher utilities, and probably a whole slew of other problems that will stem from these major issues.
The county commissioners, of course, are working to keep this prison open, but it’s a hard slog when no one in power in Denver has any clue as to what is going on in the far reaches of the state.
We’re already isolated by distance and politics and economic standards (I’m sure you figured that out since I was actually able to buy a house here when there is no way I’d ever even be able to afford to rent a room in a ramshackle house in a place like Denver). I can’t imagine what would happen to this town if Denver has its way. If they decided to keep the prison and turn it into a state-run facility, it wouldn’t solve the problem — jobs would be lost, pay would not be as great, and the property taxes would still be lost since government installations don’t have to pay taxes.
Normally, I wouldn’t write about such a local issue (or maybe I would, what do I know?) but this particular conflict seems to mirror what is happening all over the country — an ideologic divide that is so great and polarized that there seems to be no way to bridge the gap.
It used to be that we in the USA all wanted the same thing — equality, prosperity, freedom — or at least most of us did. The party lines were drawn by the difference in how people wanted to go about achieving those ends.
Now the division is created not in trying to come together to achieve the same end, but in trying to achieve completely different ends, which is exactly what is going on here.
Whatever happens, either locally or nationally, I don’t see a long-range solution. Even if the local folks can save the prison and hence the town, the greater problem — the growing polarization in the country will remain.
What if God decided to re-create the world and turn it into a galactic theme park for galactic tourists? Considering the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, it might be an improvement. Or not.