We have all heard the chatter: Our nation is more divided than ever, with urban and rural interests pitted against each other.
But is it? Is it more divided than during the Vietnam War? More splintered than during the height of the Ku Klux Klan? More wounded than during the Civil War, when the fight over slavery had Americans killing each other by the hundreds of thousands?
Over the next two years, Indiana Humanities is inviting Hoosiers to explore Indiana’s urban-rural dynamic through a two-year initiative called INseparable.
Our aim as a neutral convener is to offer programming that will spark conversations about the ways the futures of urban, rural and suburban Hoosiers are linked, and what might be preventing us from working together.
The conclusion drawn from the near-constant polling, media commentary, and academic analysis of the past two years is that America is culturally divided by its geography.
A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll in 2017 found that nearly 7 in 10 rural residents believe their values differ from those who live in big cities, with many expressing fear that Christianity is under siege and that government cares most about helping urban dwellers.
These feelings most frequently come to the fore through politics. But we don’t want to go there. There’s been enough of that.
We want to focus on real things happening to real humans in our shared experience as Hoosiers. We want to encourage people to talk to each other rather than at each other. We want to use literature, history, poetry, philosophy and related disciplines to promote understanding and empathy across boundaries.
No matter where Hoosiers live, we share some common experiences.
When schools face potential closure or consolidation in Indianapolis or in my tiny hometown of Hamilton, the communities feel the same pain and possible loss of identity, no matter the setting.
When the scourge of opioid addiction ravages entire families, it hurts regardless of whether it happens in the urban core or in seemingly pastoral Scott County.
And when environmental troubles bubble up, it is just as concerning if the potential source is an old factory in a large industrial park or in a small town.
In 2019 and 2020, Indiana Humanities will offer programming to encourage Hoosiers to search for that common ground and explore where it makes sense to work together.
We’ll offer INconversation book discussions, Chew on This dinner parties, a speakers bureau offering discussions on related topics, a statewide read of the book “The Year We Left Home” by Jean Thompson, a poster on Indiana’s changing demographics to share with classrooms across the state, a reading challenge for K-12 students and more.
You can start the journey with us March 18-21 as we bring authors James and Deborah Fallows to Muncie, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Angola to share their findings on what makes successful and thriving communities.
On April 23, we’ll urge Hoosiers to consider the urban-rural dynamic at simultaneous Chew On This dinner conversations in Batesville, New Albany, Rensselaer, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Warsaw, Indianapolis and Carmel.
Starting in September, a Smithsonian-curated exhibit exploring changes in rural America will be on display in the small Indiana towns of Dillsboro, Salem, Vernon, Bristol, North Manchester and New Harmony.
You’ll find many more activities on our website at www.indianahumanities.org/inseparable as we encourage Hoosiers to explore how they relate to each other across boundaries and consider what it will take to indeed be inseparable, in all the ways that matter.