Tonight I am sitting in the pickup watching my son’s football practice. Let me set the scene. We go to a rural school and the football field is set with a soybean field on one side and a corn field on the other. There is a Catholic Church in the background and the smell of alfalfa hangs in the air. If I close my eyes I hear the sounds of practice and the whistles of the coaches. Is this heaven, no its Kansas but in my eyes this is about as close as it gets.
This Midwestern scene is a great place for me to just relax and let the sights and the sounds take me away from the problems we all face. This is a long way from the partisan politics and fighting in D.C. This place seems light years away from the threat of a recession and the financial gloom that hangs over us now.
Sometimes I wonder if those elected officials have forgotten what it is all about. I wonder if they have forgotten (or never even gotten the chance) to spend a crisp fall evening watching football in the middle of rural America. Maybe they have never experienced the smell of fall with the roar of a combine in the background.
It makes me wonder if this is just a game for them much like the football practice directly in front of me. Do they believe in what they are fighting for or is it just another way to get re-elected. This country was built with rural America as its base. The corn and soybean fields I see are the foundation that keeps this country running.
In rural America, we understand the idea of civil discourse. We love to debate issues and ideas; we know how to disagree without being disagreeable. We understand that the greatness of this nation is because opposing views help strengthen our positions. Sure we have principles that we stand on and from those we do not back down. However, we also understand that you cannot have everything your way and that compromise is also necessary.
I think it is no coincidence that many of our great statesmen have come from rural areas and agriculture backgrounds. They understood the idea that hard work, compromise and sacrifice were needed to arrive at a good solution. They were grounded in their principles and in reality. It is that sense of farm and ranch values that we really need from our policy makers not the bickering, self-promotion we are getting now.
Do I have a solution? Other than the idea of sending them all out to spend a week (or longer) on the farm, I do not. However, as I watch the young men on the football field I do see hope for the future as they pull each other up off the ground, pat their teammates on the back and go back to work. I am confident in our ability to regain our composure and right the ship. I am also betting that leadership will come from someone with rural roots.