Rural Population Drain

Thirteen years ago, local notables in small-town Whitewater, Wisconsin insisted that Whitewater was the very center of the universe.  When that claim didn’t entice newcomers, these same men began to claim the very opposite, that Whitewater wasn’t doing better because no one knew where the city was. (Both of these claims are silly: billions of years since the Big Bang make locating the center of the universe difficult, and anyone with Google Maps could find the city if he or she so chose.)

Whitewater is truly smaller than boosters care to admit.  See The Meaning of Whitewater’s Not-Always-Mentioned Demographics.

Many parts of rural America are suffering a population drain of energetic people of working age.  See Area Population, Properly Understood.

This means that local institutions like the American Legion Post can’t go on with their own building.  See Whitewater American Legion selling its building.  The story is sadly predictable in two ways: (1) Whitewater lacks enough vital newcomers to replace aging community members, and (2) a nearby newspaper is only now reporting about a building sale that others already knew was coming for some time.  (The local paper’s reporter is a reporter only in the same way that a sloth is a cheetah.)

Some self-described local development men have spent years searching for ideal newcomers, but their definition of ideal often amounts to people like themselves, given to big-government conservatism, cronyism, corporate welfare, with rich shades of provincialism and nativism.

These men have searched in vain: industrious newcomers don’t want to fall in line behind platitude-spouting, big-spending, small-town reactionaries.

Whitewater and other Wisconsin cities need people (seeMigration Key To Wisconsin’s Workforce’), but welcome means welcome to all and any who’ll stake a life here.


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3 years ago

There is an interesting quote, or perhaps misquote, in the linked article:

“Our American Legion post was founded on Dec. 19, 1919, and it bears his name,” Smith said. “This year is the 50th anniversary of the building we now occupy. At that time, we had over 400 members — veterans from World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.”

Of course, there were no Vietnam, WW2, or Korean veterans in 1919.

The Legion is likely selling it’s building because the WW2 Vets have timed out. Those vets, in many AL and VFW posts, often went out of their way to make Vietnam vets, in particular, unwelcome in the organization, as they didn’t “win” their war. That is certainly a proximate reason why the Vietnam Veterans of America, and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War exist.

In a lot of small towns the Legion and/or the VFW reached an accommodation with the VVA, and merged. I don’t know if Whitewater is one of them.

We have been almost continuously at war since 1941. You would think that there would be a steady supply of Vets to keep the posts open. What is different, at least since the end of WW2, is that the patriotic fervor for war, as exemplified by the AL, is no longer there. Now, we just go to war on false pretenses or for nakedly political or commercial reasons. Our current professional warrior class doesn’t come home and join the Legion, like the draftees did. I’m not surprised that the Vet orgs are withering.