Where the Small-Town American Dream Lives On

Where the Small-Town American Dream Lives On, by Larissa MacFarquar.

Orange City, the county seat of Sioux County, Iowa, is a square mile and a half of town, more or less, population six thousand, surrounded by fields in every direction. … Orange City is isolated from the world outside — an hour over slow roads to the interstate, more than two hours to the airport in Omaha, nearly four to Des Moines. … Orange City never had a river or a railroad, or, until recently, even a four-lane highway, and so its pure, hermetic culture has been preserved.

Orange City is small and cut off, but, unlike many such towns, it is not dying. Its Central Avenue is not the hollowed-out, boarded-up Main Street of twenty-first-century lore. Along a couple of blocks, there are two law offices, a real-estate office, an insurance brokerage, a coffee shop, a sewing shop, a store that sells Bibles, books, and gifts, a notions-and-antiques store, a hair-and-tanning salon, and a home-décor-and-clothing boutique, as well as the Sioux County farm bureau, the town hall, and the red brick Romanesque courthouse.

There are sixteen churches in town. The high-school graduation rate is ninety-eight per cent, the unemployment rate is two per cent. There is little crime. The median home price is around a hundred and sixty thousand dollars, which buys a three- or four-bedroom house with a yard, in a town where the median income is close to sixty thousand. For the twenty per cent of residents who make more than a hundred thousand dollars a year, it can be difficult to find ways to spend it, at least locally. There are only so many times you can redo your kitchen. Besides, conspicuous extravagance is not the Orange City way. “There are stories about people who are too showy, who ended up ruined,” Dan Vermeer, who grew up in the town, says. “The Dutch are comfortable with prosperity, but not with pleasure.”

Why? It is isolated from on-going progressive culture. Skim through for a look at the town and its people:

Rod Dreher comments:

I’ve read the piece twice now, and am struck by how much Orange City’s stability depends on cultural homogeneity. … Orange City is overwhelmingly Protestant …

Orange City is unusually non-diverse by today’s standards, but illustrates the old maxim that diversity plus proximity leads to conflict and an erosion of trust and community.

hat-tip Stephen Neil