“But, are we all equal?”

Like probably half the world, we zoomed with our loved ones over the holidays. It was the only safe way to get together during these Sheltering Times, far-flung as we are, and eager to keep a few traditions intact.

As much as I loved the virtual contact, I think it will be the end of that magical process for me, at least until all pigs really do become equal. (I think the quote from George Orwell’s 1944 “Animal Farm” is actually: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others... The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which....”)

I’m speaking here of our internet access in rural America. For years — at least 10 – we’ve heard lip-service paid to “high-speed internet” and “better broadband service.” Mostly, we blow off that discussion after choice words about “Ma Bell” monopolies and middlemen and endless bureaucracy, usually winding up back at Orwell.

The latest inequity is in our “internet connectivity” — or at least that’s what the Zoom people call it. Our words go away, our faces freeze, often in mid-movement and in very unattractive positions. After a few beats we are treated to a message that says, “Your internet is unstable.” It lasts anywhere from a few seconds to interminable (probably less than two) minutes.

The fix is a no-brainer, at least for us. No more zooming with our loved ones. But what about the kids and teachers and business people who are dependent upon our connectivity-impaired services for necessary activities? And, of course, it is not the only disparity between our rural residents and those who live in more populated areas. Even here on the Peninsula, those of us on the bayside north of Joe Johns Road can’t even get cable TV. Not 40 years ago. Not now. Not enough population density. And don’t get me started on transportation choices.

Speaking of density (as in duh!) — it should be a no-brainer that basic, cutting-edge communication and transportation accessibility should begin in the less populated areas where we have fewer options for interacting with the rest of humanity. But, of course, it all boils down to money. It stands to reason that more people equal more money, the almighty bottom line. And here we are! Back to pigs.

Lest you think I am blowing off all the pluses of rural living … not so. I lived for many years in one of the most crowded metropolitan areas of our nation. I loved it but, for living out my time on this planet, I chose to come back to a place of family roots … a place where I can step outside and commune with nature. No need to leash up the dog, put on my jogging shoes and drive across town to a city park to remember what “natural beauty” is all about.

Plus, I love knowing people from every corner of our county and coming into contact with just about everybody at one time or other. I love actually talking with people who think in ways I don’t and who value different things than I do; I love finding how much we agree on — that Jack’s really does have everything, that neighborhood schools really are the best, how lucky we are that our first responders actually know who we are because they, too, are part of our community.

On the whole, I’m happy to remain an unequal pig. But … it sure would be nice to connect with confidence to those who are more equal. In fact, I’d feel like we were in hog-heaven at last!

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