Epiphany moments come in all shapes and sizes — for Wesley Bolin, then-candidate for U.S. Congressional office and current Murray, Kentucky city councilperson, it came in the form of this line from The West Wing’s second season opener.
I sat down with Bolin and learned a bit more about his experience being active in local politics and small-town communities in general, and how essential each American’s participation actually is to perpetuating an effective system of local, state and federal governance.
When I asked what first encouraged him to enter a life in the public eye by running for Congressional office, he referenced the above moment of realization and continued by saying that it was not because he thought he could win in November. And that’s completely fair, as it is difficult to run successful grassroots campaigns against long-time incumbents. From the beginning, Wesley Bolin’s goal was to change how the first Congressional district of Kentucky approached local politics in general. …
As in, God is Great.
But is that what they were trying to say?
I sat down at my desk in the computer lab of my rural Kentucky middle school as the end of the line filed in.
Through laughter, a group of my classmates yelled
But surely my ears deceived me.
I couldn’t believe eighth-graders, too, were nonchalantly chanting the pernicious Muslim-American rhetoric that had soared to popular acceptance by 2016.
I was wrong to disbelieve.
When they walked past me, they imitated the sounds of planes crashing and buildings exploding — because they attached me to that imagery. As I heard their mockery, my heart sank. Empty, I questioned what place I had left in Murray, Kentucky, the only American community I then could call home. …
Contrary to oft-accepted assumptions, rural America is host to a concerning amount of the nation’s communities in poverty. Of the United States’ 100 most impoverished counties, 66 are located within Texas, South Dakota, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Children in these regions experience extensive negative implications that impact not only their performance in schools but their efforts towards achieving individual and community-wide social mobility. 48 of the nation’s 50 counties with the highest rates of childhood poverty qualify as rural counties.
Essentially, members of rural communities fall victim to a stagnation that becomes prohibitive to their intellectual growth as students and their financial stability as a part of the workforce. …