Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I stumbled across a page of demographics for Priest River, Idaho, and now I'm depressed. Consider the following:

Median household income: Local $26,765 (National $41,994)

Education: of 1271 people in the 1999 census, 338 of us haven't graduated from high school or completed a high school equivalency. That's over 20% of our adult population!

Employment: out of a population of 1,327 people aged 16 and older, 724 of us were not employed(!)

Sex and income: In 1999, out of 478 men, only 42 of them made 50K a year or more. For women, the stats are worse: of 378 women, only 2 women made over 50K, and these made less than 54,999. Most of us make less than 20K. Remember, these stats are for the people who were able to find work.

Our area voted for George W in 2004. Now, that's depressing!

To be fair, a LOT of people did not participate in the 199 census, and I was one of them. *But* I have a nasty feeling that this wouldn't alter the results much, and it might even make them worse.

It's almost enough to make me want to move. So, why do I live here? There are practical, rational, logical reasons: for example, my ex lives here, and we have shared custody of our three small children together. Moving would necessitate stressful commuting or long periods of time away from the children for one or both of us. My mate and I both have jobs in this area, and frankly, getting a steady job that we're happy about isn't easy for this makes us leery of relocating. The cost of living here is lower than someplace like, say, Sandpoint, Idaho...a place where I could find more likeminded souls of a more intellectual bent (considering that Sandpoint is only 25 miles away, I can easily drive there when I want to).

In truth, my real reasons for staying where I am are wholly emotional and subjective: I am attached to the place, damn it! I know the nooks and crannies of the forests, the store where I work is the same one that I used to dart in and out of furtively as a socially phobic teen, the faces I see include some that I've known for close to two decades. I may have undergone a transformation from a bible thumping conservative who fervently believed that all of creation was put there by God for the use of mankind into a liberal agnostic leaning towards a gentler, more ecologically sound approach....but I still swoon with delight when some logger walks by the deli with the scent of fresh trees and pine sap wafting about him (I try to ignore the fact that yes, I also like the aroma of chainsaw intermingled with it, and that somewhere, there are a lot of stumps where a forest used to be). This is my home, and I am as deeply rooted in this place as the flora around me.

I'll try to overlook that my coworkers (avid readers of tabloids and romance novels- when they read at all) are shocked that I actually read non-fiction and listen to classical music (country-western is the standard fare here). Or that the school age girls my kids play with have only been to the library once. Try as I might, I can't quite reconcile myself to the fact that my son's school mates tease him relentlessly for being brainy and the best reader in his class (and possibly in the school). He's actually told me that he's going to give up reading -his passion- because it doesn't do him any good and the other kids hate him for it. But this is where change comes in; someone has to care enough to want it to be different, and I like to believe that even a few voices can make a difference.

Maybe someday we can have the best of both worlds?

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