A Tight-Knit Community Only Appeals If You’re Not The Loose Thread

Whenever a journalist goes to a rural community, you hear about how “tight-knit” it is. Everybody helps everybody, by golly, and we’re not like those city folk. I talked about this on Twitter, but I’m going to be honest; That tight-knit is why rural communities are dying.

Here’s a hypothetical. Let’s say you’re part of that tight-knit community, you and your family. And then you have a family problem. Your sibling is arrested on a “morals charge” (i.e. being gay a few towns over) or turns up at the hospital overdosing on opioids, or catches pregnant. Something that offends the morals of this tight-knit community.

And you discover how tightly knit it is because suddenly, this person they’ve known for years can’t get the time of day! They can’t go anywhere without whispers. Maybe the police hassle them a little, they spend a night or two in the clink.

Maybe you discover some of your family is a part of this tight-knit community.

So, something has to give, right? Maybe this person you love is forced to move away. Maybe they commit a crime that seems so stupid it’s like they were begging to be sent to jail and you realize a little too late they were. Maybe they commit themselves somewhere, promising it’s only for a little while, a little while that gets just a little longer each day.

Maybe one day you wake up to a phone call because nobody else will come claim the body. That’s one I heard a lot.

As you might have guessed, these are all real stories, related to me by people who grew up like I did, in “tight-knit communities.” Some were archconservative. Some were “liberal enclaves.” Some of these stories have happy endings, in the end. Some have a quiet grave, where flowers are sent but no sympathies truly given.

But all of them end the same way; somebody looks at a community they thought they knew and decided there’s nothing there for them. Oh, they come back at holidays and for family events. Nothing seems wrong. But they get asked every few years why they don’t come back, and the answer catches in the back of their throat, waiting for a sympathetic ear and a little liquor to shake it loose.

It’s a little tragedy, in the grand scheme of things. It’s one that once you look closely is often messier and more murky than your desire for clean endings and clean morals will truly allow. But little tragedies have a way of redirecting our lives, and there is one moral worth taking away: Tight-knit communities are only appealing if you’re not the loose thread.

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