This spring an article three years in the making appeared in The Atlantic magazine. James Fallows wrote that while most Americans believe we are headed in the wrong direction, communities are seeing renewal and revival at the local level.
The story begins in San Bernardino, California, a city with a population smaller than Wichita’s, which was the scene of a mass shooting in 2015. San Bernardino had its problems even before last year’s attack, but Fallows noted, “If ‘news’ is what you didn’t know before you went to look, the news of San Bernardino, from our perspective, was not the unraveling but the reverse. ... The surprise was how a wide range of people, of different generations and races and political outlooks, believed that the city was on the upswing, and that their own efforts could help speed that trend.”
A year later, our country seems more divided than ever. The latest mass shooting reminds us of that even as it pulls us together.
Fallows and his wife Deborah traveled the country in a small airplane, and found the heart of America. A sidebar to their story is called “Eleven Signs A City Will Succeed.” (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/03/eleven-signs-a-city-will-succeed/426885/ ) Our own community displays many of these traits: A focus on problems the community address, rather than divisive national politics; local champions of the community; public-private partnerships; a “civic story” that people know; we have a downtown; and we have, and care about, a community college. We have big plans; we have distinctive schools. About the only thing on the list that Great Bend lacks is a craft brewery. (Mo’s Place in Beaver is open again and reportedly the owners are working on getting a license to sell beer again. It is about 26 miles from Great Bend.)
We could make a claim for these positive traits, as could many communities. The spirit of community is what makes us proud to be Americans.