Small town, small mind

Predominately white, close-minded town unwelcoming to new ideas and beliefs.

Perris Larson, Staff Writer

Hometowns can be very welcoming, but only if you share the same beliefs.

For a long time, I didn’t think of my town as an overly judgemental and small-minded place, not until I ventured out into the world. Leaving home, even for a three-week vacation allowed me to open my mind to different opinions and learn from different people. I wanted to talk about the things I learned, but I couldn’t. If I did, I would’ve been ridiculed.

When people think of California, some would assume that the entire state is liberal and open to new ideas and people, but that’s far from the truth. In the Central Valley, there are so many small towns that are stuck in the past, and they consider any new idea wrong and dangerous.

With many small and conservative towns, people within the community know a lot about everyone. Families from the church meet up at the town country club, donate money to the private school, and gossip about high school drama and politics.

The majority of the town’s population were older people who still hold the same ideals from decades before, and pass those same close-minded beliefs to their children and grandchildren. The children didn’t know what else to believe, they were raised to think everything the adults said was right.

High school students, including myself, were expected to believe what they were told without question.

Going to a private high school where everyone knew everyone, it was hard not to agree with the other students. Going to the same school for 13 years made everyone feel like family, we all knew and cared about each other.

But when you hear something you don’t agree with, you want to speak up, but you can’t because you are ridiculed by other students and even faculty. At sports events, some boys wave MAGA flags next to the American flags, and could make jokes about other political parties, calling them “mentally ill” and “crazy”.

Parents, including my own, voiced concerns about this but they would get someone giving a light shrug and a phrase like, “It’s just the way it is” as a response.

It is a toxic environment that only allowed one opinion to be voiced, and no one could debate it. If someone did, teachers and students would likely make jokes about them in front of the whole class, causing the student to appear as a black sheep.

By voicing a different opinion, you would very easily have a target on your back.

“Are you still a feminist?” “You watch too much CNN.” “You can’t be liberal and a Christian.”

If a young adult disagreed with something, they could move away after high school graduation and go to college so they can finally speak their mind. For some, college is home away from home, a place where they can finally find themselves and explore their identity.

When they leave home for the first time, they realize that they have been sheltered most of their lives, but they find that the beliefs that have been pressured into them conflict with the new views they may want to adopt.

It’s an internal crisis.

But when they return for the holidays, they have to prepare to be quiet again.

Some older college students could come home and find their high school friends would have nothing to do with them.

“Look what happened, she left for school and came back liberal.”

“But it’s liberal up there, they’ll brainwash you,” someone said to me.

But in reality, it’s the small-minded, small towns that are brainwashing people. They’re like little countries that separate themselves from the rest of the world; where the only thing connecting it to the outside world is the freeway. Other than that, time stands still there, nothing changes despite the many generations that had been raised in those towns.

Private Christian schools, especially in small towns, one may even be required to take a course in Christian marriage and family, where a teacher would teach from one perspective and condemn other lifestyles they might not agree with. And if one was not comfortable with what was being taught, the student could find their grade significantly reduced.

When it came to politics, the school faculty may be known to express their own opinions in class lectures, and expect students to agree with them and not debate. In classes like history, the teacher might even skip parts of the book because they believed them to be controversial.

During the summer, when protests were being held due to the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the TV widely televised some of the few protests that became violent. But small-town people tend to get filtered news from their neighbors and some biased news channels. And my town only chose to believe one version of the story.

Small American towns are known to be hotspots for white supremacy, mine was. and seeing how the media portrayed the protests as violent riots, people would have been very scared, not knowing what was going to happen. Seeing the violence shown on television, and the town receiving threats of violence on social media, adults encouraged me and other students to set the house alarm and load a gun.

Luckily, nothing violent occurred. The town experienced very peaceful rallies, much to the citizens’ surprise, and the social media threats turned out to be sick pranks.

People in small towns can be relatively nice until someone shows up with a different opinion, and if there is a college that is more welcoming to ideas, students could come home with an open mind, but will never be looked at the same way.

That’s the beauty of going to college, especially in Seattle. It’s beautiful, diverse, gritty, full of opinions and experiences. It’s where someone can be themselves, and not worry about being shunned by an entire population.

The thought of going back, and having to deal with the same close-minded people is not appealing, but one has to hold on to the hope that someday things will be different.