Communism in “Forgotten” America

On a Facebook meme I read a cool thing that said, “If you have enough time, everything’s in walking distance.” I love(d) to walk so I suppose I’d walk across country with my big white dog and her cart pulling our camping supplies. Bear doesn’t have a cart and I don’t have camping supplies anymore, but I still think that would be fun. That’s why this is one of my favorite videos — I’ve hiked part of this, the beginning — but since I was alone, it was a back and forth thing and I didn’t get far but I was thorough…

What I really want to write about is communism. I live in a communist town, but If I told them that, they’d come visit me with torches and pitchforks or something. 😉  I have all the stuff I bought to help me rehab after the surgery I’m not doing and I wanted to find a place to take it where it might help people. I posted on my town’s community Facebook page and soon got the name of a woman. She (I do not know her) messaged me; she’s the pastor’s wife at the First Christian Church. They keep a closet of medical equipment for people who need it. Perfect. But that is communism. The movie theater in my town went out of business year before last. The community raised funds, bought the theater and keep it open. It’s run by volunteers; proceeds from sales go to getting NEW (really new) movies. The community felt it needed the theater as a place for kids to go on weekends, for families, for dates… Communism.

As I was driving through the valley with my step-daughter-in-law, we passed a huge truck filled to overflowing with potatoes. I pointed it out to her. She said, “I’ll never look at potatoes the same way.” The day before we’d been at the supermarket and I’d shown her a bag of potatoes that had been grown in Monte Vista. She was truly stunned by the writing on the bag, “Monte Vista, CO.” Heaven. As we drove around, I had pointed out the harvested fields and the old and dilapidated, no longer used, adobe potato barns, replaced by more sophisticated (really? are they?) systems. I told her about the Potato Festival and how wonderful and magic it was in its way. “We are so far away from where our food actually comes from,” she continued, looking at the truck, “and the work that goes into growing it. It’s sad that’s how it is.” I agree. I thought, “Honor the labor of the peasant.” A Maoist slogan. I hate Maoism, but that is the point, the good side of it. I don’t see the farmers around me as “peasants” but the labor is hard and their product does no less than keep people from starving.

My step-daughter-in-law asked if anyone ever left the Valley and I said yeah, of course, but people also come back. I told her about the people I’d met — many — who’d gone somewhere else looking for what they imagined would be a bigger life. Of course the ones I know are the ones who came back, but their reasons for returning are almost always, “It wasn’t that great. I missed the beauty of the valley and the people.” It’s more or less what drew me here — years and years of hard work in a world in which I did not matter, where much of my effort was “busy” work. The work done by people in a community like this is NOT “busy work.”

People here are intensely patriotic. I feel their deep sentiments are for a gubmint that (IMO) no longer exists or knows they are here. Poverty here is harsh. What the poor have for social welfare, though, is not so much government programs as it is the church, the family, the town, the neighbors — it is the community. The food bank is active and generous and open to people. Communism.

This is also the old-fashioned way of small-town life. It’s nothing “special” — it’s how people have lived in villages forever.

I remember how long it took me to learn in California that in that kind of population, the numbers, the ethnic and national diversity, high taxes to support government run programs are absolutely necessary. There is no way a community can voluntarily support a population of need such as exists there. The numbers are too great and the motivation is different. People really do need to be paid to help each other because the cost of living there is so high. For example, it’s not walk down the street and man the food bank for half a day. It’s drive at $4/gallon for forty minutes to help out at the foodbank half a day. And it isn’t just ONE foodbank; there need to be hundreds of foodbanks.

I wish there were a way to differentiate taxation based on the nature of communities — maybe there is but I don’t know it. The reason regions such as mine vote conservative — passionately and adamantly — is not because they love Fox News, it’s because increased taxation HURTS us. We raise our OWN funds if we need a community center; we contribute our OWN money, out of pocket, to support the local food bank meaning that taxation is DOUBLE for a community like this one. The government taxes us and then we tax ourselves. We know this — when a proposal comes along to build something for a community, those who grow food (live on more than 40 acres) are exempt from contributing. They can if they want, of course, but they aren’t required. Potatoes.

So tomorrow I will load my car with my brand-new walker, still in its box, my bath seat — still in its box, the grabber, the raised toilet seat — still wrapped, and a pair of crutches that just happen to be in my garage and take it all over to the First Christian Church. When I do decide to get knee surgery, I’ll know where to go to get help with medical equipment. I’ll go to my community.

6 thoughts on “Communism in “Forgotten” America

  1. Blasphemy! Reminds me of the moshavs in Israel where everyone has their own home, but they hold the fields and flocks and orchards in common. They are by far (along with the kibbutzim) the most efficient agricultural communities anywhere. Strength in numbers and all that. Does that make you a Communist or perhaps harking back to an historic even, a Communard?

    • I am. I’d much rather contribute to my community according to my lights than live in an anonymous file drawer and pay taxes. Marx was right… But how can we eliminate the vice of greed?

  2. In most Swiss villages and towns we have a common place where medical supplies are stored and controlled by the First Aid Groups, of which I was also a member. Communism – they were all churchgoers (except for atheist me), but if someone needed something we had it. I was the accountant so saw what we paid for various supplies, like wheelchairs, crutches, raised toilet seats, rollators etc. etc. and if someone needed it they could pick it up. Of course they paid, but did not have to buy the complete object, just a small rental fee.
    i could never actually understand the hysterics in america about the communists. Why not, a bit of everything is not a bad thing, you just have to keep it under control. And even the Chinese seem to be waking up slowly.

    • Americans confuse communism with Stalinist and Maoist totalitarianism and they seem to have NO desire to learn the difference. Yay! Cold War! Yay!

  3. The idea of the Pacific Crest Trail has been haunting me! It would take a much bigger skill set than one needs for the Camino, that’s for sure!

    In Spain (you might have seen coverage last week when shepherds herded their sheep through Madrid in a pre-organized protest) do open grazing all over the Basque Region and it was an unbelievable experience to wade through herds of sheep, then goats, then horses, then oxen (at least I was sincerely hoping they were oxen and not bulls as I tiptoed through them…..), then pigs, then more sheep – all through the mountains.

    Seems like this country has a long way to go to grow up to the point of being able do things more communally. Or maybe it’s just that commercialism and regulation is hard to get around. I had a friend who tried to donate surplus crops to the food bank here and they refused, citing regulations . I like what I’m seeing young people doing, though, with finding alternative ways to live.
    Good ideas as always, Martha. We WERE overly-nutty about Communism here. I remember some of it.

    • My dad was a wargamer for SAC and though he felt communism was evil, he equated it with Stalin not with Marx. I think that’s where we got lost (and they got lost). I bet in Spain you saw big white dogs, too! I did on my drive to New Mexico day before yesterday — it was beautiful to me, to see two Great Pyrenees out in the middle of no where caring for 30 sheep on an empty hillside.

      The PCT fascinated me, too, but I couldn’t ever find a partner! So I did about 15 miles near my home in CA. I love this video because I KNOW the spots and it makes me happy to see them again. And then I get to see the rest of it!

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