ROSE NOLEN: People can make big changes in small towns

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:56 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 12, 2011

City folks do not always understand why many of us choose to live in small towns. We may not have all the amenities provided by larger communities, but we do have certain advantages.

Most of us don’t have the crime, the traffic and the dog-eat-dog attitude that can be prevalent in bigger areas. In other words, just as the country was easier to manage when it consisted of only 13 colonies, a small town is much easier to govern than a major city.

Then, too, some of us appreciate the simpler life. I really don’t want to have to choose between 500 department stores, 1,500 grocery stores and 200 hardware stores to determine where to buy a dress, get the ingredients for dinner or pick up a screwdriver.

I’d much rather spend time building a better community and helping my neighbors sustain their quality of life.

Maintaining a democracy is hard work, and it takes a committed citizenry to get the job done right. It takes time and energy to be a good watchdog over one’s municipal government.

We need to keep track of what’s going on in City Hall. You can’t just elect city officials and walk away expecting them to act in the town’s best interest. Those who complain most about unfair and do-nothing governments are those who may never show up to meetings or bother to make their opinions known on issues that matter.

Since we have just recently celebrated another Independence Day, it is a good time to consider the responsibilities involved in being a citizen of a government of the people, by the people and for the people. We are the ones charged with the duty of making the country live up to its creed.

Even though we often point the finger at someone else when things go wrong with our government, that’s really not supposed to be how it works. Too often we forget that "we the people" are obligated to make it work in the best interests of everyone.

Small towns are places where we can best demonstrate that process in action. When the safety of the neighborhood is at stake, you can ask for stoplights or safety signals at certain intersections to ensure that people travel unharmed.  

In a larger city, one may have to rely on officials in charge to perform this task, but in a small town, the individual can still make the difference. Every day in little towns throughout America individuals are stepping forward and actively participating in acts of self-government. Because of them, we can all gain heart from the fact that the process still works.

Americans can learn from those living in villages and hamlets, where residents are the government. If they want the school buses to run, they must drive them; if they want snow removed from the streets, they must shovel it.

If we want things to work, we must be the driving force behind them.

Freedom is not free; it costs. In the end, we likely will get out of the process exactly what we put into it. That’s why it's called the “noble experiment." We get to try it on to see if it fits.

Maybe we will finally figure out whose fault it is if the government is not working. It’s never too late to learn.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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