Tuesday, March 03, 2009

On Listening

It's interesting what people talk about. And it seems sometimes that conversation is more present in our lives than ever. Or at least it is in mine; I have twitter and facebook and text messages and IMs all chirping at me all day long. Iran. Michael Jackson. Finally Franken. The Wild. The Twins. #fail. Unemployment rates. Honduras. Air France. Cool web links. Even cooler thoughts about web links. Blogs. Tweets. Updates. "News."
And I like that.

But I unplugged this weekend.
And I started to hear something that people AREN'T talking about.

How the recession is affecting small towns.
The silence driving through Eveleth, MN- on one of the busiest tourist weekends of the year- was deafening. One in three store fronts was boarded up in every town we drove through. Cotton, same. Virginia, same. Tower, same. And it felt like the dilapidated houses in downtown Ely were screaming out loud.

People keep talking about the death of Detroit. And the stock market. They talk about the death of American cars. And the death of American banks.
And, this week, everyone in the country has been talking about the death of Michael Jackson, an American Icon. Their conversations took down the internet.

But I haven't seen a single bit of media about the death of small towns. Or about how their people are coping or making rent or mortgage payments or buying groceries. I know how many foreclosures there were in Minneapolis. But what about Eveleth. Or Virginia. Or Embarrass. Or Gilbert... Mines on the Iron Range are opening and closing every day and the stories get buried beneath people's other conversations.

We mourn an American Icon more than we mourn our American towns.
It's interesting what people talk about. And what they don't.

What else aren't people talking about?