Monday, July 28, 2008

Lost Town Blues

A while back I came across this article from New York Time's journalist, Timothy Egan (link to article above). It's an important observation on what's happening in our country during this election year and turmoil in our economy. The towns we are using as locations in our film are feeling the effects of an economic downward spiral. Just recently, a local mill was shut down and hundreds of people have lost their jobs. To witness art imitate life and life imitate art at such a close proximity while we sit in our production office, build sets and rehearse with actors is troubling to say the least.

People and businesses here do prosper - people and businesses here do fall. We are taking a look at a fictional American small town's struggle and survival and hope there are some poignant illustrations of real life and what's really happening, to simply address the forgotten towns that still have a voice. We should all listen before it's too late.

The following comments are from the reader Dennis Egan - posted from the Lost Town Blue's Article from Timothy Egan.

Small town America is a bedrock of values, hopes, and dreams. It is also a tumbleweed, wind-blown ghost town of misery and lethargy. Feelings wash across this land with the connectivity of the internet - somehow giving the impression that the world is moving on without us and we are part of a glacial decline - a backwater - yet an early indicator of national trends as much as a canary carried by coal miners to sense the toxic atmosphere…by dying first.

There is much at stake and it is the core of the rhetoric of politicians. Small towns provide the incubator for our economy and future success in technology, business and politics. Tim Egan (New York Times journalist) one of my favorites, comes from the State of Washington where the barefoot schoolboy law prevailed, providing a threshold of funds for rural schools to offer education to kids that would build their understanding and incubate their dreams. Kids were so smart they saw their opportunity far, far away from their small town - they migrated to the big city. This has been the rule for the last 100 years. Some stayed and invested in the local community, some made it big then came home, some vowed like Scarlet O'Hara in Gone With the Wind - Lord I never want to be poor again…and never, never came home.

As I travel the world I find old friends from my small town of Sunnyside, Washington in every imaginable walk of life - many very successful because that small town was an incubator of big dreams of the greatest nation of the world. We still believe that stuff. We benefitted as a community of farmers from the huge public works projects that provided good jobs for our families building the national highway system and running the huge energy research laboratories at Hanford, Washington. The schools eagerly polled their students to get a piece of that federal money that was distributed to schools of federal worker children. We attended Community Concerts provided by the federal government grants bringing artists from the New York Metropolitan Opera and the Chicago Symphony into our little town - we learned about diversity and respected culture.

It is true there were twice as many taverns in town as there were churches, but the churches were on every corner. Sunday morning was a rousing chorus of church bells coaxing mothers to bundle up their kids and attend services. In small town America fathers and sons sneaked out on a Sunday morning and went fishing and hunting - still do. We had our Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, our Rotary Clubs, our Masonic Lodges and our Kiwanis Clubs, our American Legion, VFW and our Little League baseball teams sponsored by the A&W Root Beer Company and the local John Deere distributor. Yes we learned how to shoot, how to survive in the wilderness and how to respect life and preserve our freedoms. This deep love of freedom and soul and trust in God are values deep seated in American culture - not bitterness about lost American Dreams. These values are strong as bedrock and can be reinforced to bolster the strength of our hopes for a brighter future of our nation and its leadership role in the world community.

We have our heroes - those who leave our small towns and make it big- by careers in public service, the military, business or professions. We are not - repeat - are not psychotically clinging to religion and guns - we simply associate guns and God with our love for individual freedom. Despite our reliance on occasional federal programs creating opportunities for good jobs and future for our kids, we are wise to maintain a healthy distrust of the federal government's insufferable tendency to want to dictate how we are to run our daily lives in our "village". We may be bitter and frustrated - but we are proud - we have dreams - and somehow - with our faith in God - we know our kids can be anything that they want to be - with hard work and sacrifice. We only wish that more would finally come home and reinvest in the intellectual capital that they left behind for the opportunity of the big city.