When Eddie Albert died last month at the age of 99, one of the early pioneers of American culture was lost. As the star of the popular 1960s television comedy series, "Green Acres," he was Oliver Douglas, the New York lawyer who settled in a generic caricacture of farm life with his glamorous wife, played by Eva Gabor. And so, one of the enduring themes of pop culture was set: That of a city clicker perplexed by the antics of the residents of rural America.
This theme has been repeated over the decades. American film and television has continually recycled the charming schism of this fish out of water story. Eventually, after his on-the-tube career as a Chicago psychiatrist ran out of ideas about dealing with the crazies of urban America, Bob Newhart moved out to the country, too. And there again was Newhart, scratchin' his head, dead pan, about eccentric country folk.
Then, in the 1980s and early 1990s, a sea-change occurred with "Northern Exposure." Based on the life of a tiny, remote town in Alaska, and the adventures of various city slickers who had also come out to the country in search of some kind of Eden fantasy, the question was turned on its ear. That is, who was more comedic, the city slicker or the laid-back logger, the dingy waitress or matter-of-fact restaurateur.
Arguments could be made on both sides, but if urban America's interest in this theme is any indication, there exists deep in the heart of the national fabric a lingering desire to return to "Green Acres."
To extend this deep-seated need into reality then, one need only to look at changes in the local rural environs as loads of people come up from Phoenix or other cities to attempt to find the sort of nirvana implied by escape from the city. In counter to this, long-standing residents of these rural areas regard such folk with suspicion. Typically, there is a fear these people want to bring the city with them.
So there exists, in the election of Camp Verde Mayor Tony Gioia, or, a refugee from more populous places such as newly elected Councilman Ron Smith, a natural rflex action that their values run counter to what old-timers whose families grew up here believe in. That is, a rural lifestyle.
One need only to look at the voting record of Gioia, as his votes continually are a minority on the town council, that there is an Us vs. Them formula at work. However, as more and more people come to town from the cities, with ideas of controlled growth and supposedly radical notions of preservation that seem to run counter to a general community desire that more is better, always better, one might take another view of these newcomers with a fresh thought: These people are canaries who have just come from the coal mine.