April 15, 2008


“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest…(the people) fell through (the cracks of the previous administrations) and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not…And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” presidential hopeful Barack Obama stated, according to news reports.

Certainly, there are bitter people in small towns in Pennsylvania. There are also bitter people in mid-size towns, large communities and mega-cities. There are people who are bitter throughout the nation, the continent and the world. And notably, there are bitter people among the impoverished, the middle class and the rich.

Are the people in small towns in Pennsylvania more bitter than those in any other community?

None of these characteristics—community or wealth-level—insulates a person from being bitter. The Amish, whose schoolchildren were gunned down, have every right to be bitter. They are not. The person caught behind the Sunday driver on a country road fills with road rage. He has little right to be bitter over this “interference” in his life.

I’ve lived in a community when it reached its two-million population mark. I’ve lived in different communities of varying population sizes: about 30,000, 5,000, 900, 50, and currently, 189. Each of these communities had their share of bitter persons—and their share of happy persons. The difference generally lay in their approach to problem solving. The content persons knew how to address a problem and resolve it—and they didn’t expect life to be problem-free. The bitter people waited for others to solve their problems, and when it didn’t happen, they became angry.

Certainly, life circumstances can affect one’s ability to solve problems. Illness and trauma are great interferences. However, I observe many persons who, if they would act to solve their own situations, would have a byproduct of contentment rather than bitterness.

But perhaps I see through the glass dimly, since I am not bitter, although I moved on up through poverty to live a life of contentment.

I’ll end with one question: what is progress? This is the first question that “hits” me when I read Obama’s statement: “Our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives…” Is it the increasing accumulation of material goods, or good relationships?


  1. I’m polishing a novel set in the southwestern part of Pa. It is a sequel to a novel set in Texas before and during the Civil War. In the sequel my main character is a Cofederate boat captain who is critically injured behind enemy lines in Pa.I’ve scheduled a September trip to Pa. for further research.I need to establish correspondence with someone from your state who is familiar with Amish traditions, the terrain, flora and fauna.
    I found you through a writers search on Google.
    I will send questions taken from what I’ve written to establish authenticity.
    Does this sound like something you can help me with? If not, can you suggest someone, preferable in southwestern portion of Pa. I also need to know more about Amish beliefs as they pertain to what I’ve written.Any help will be greatly appreciated.Nilah Turner Lubbock, Texas 806-698-0998 806-445-1598

    Comment by Nilah Turner — May 18, 2010 @ 12:21 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Carolyn,
    I contacted you last year before leaving for Pa. I loved Pa, was surprised at how green everything is, how friendly and polite everyone was . I spent most of my time in the Pittsburg area, Beaver State Park (talked to Patrick Adams), included a visit to Gettsburg. Headquartered in Monaca and fanned out, Found the perfect setting along the Ohio at Georgetown..

    We didn’t have but one day in the Lancaster-Amish country and would have loved to stay a week.

    I incorporated all I’d gleamed into the sequel, Tending the Enemy, but put it aside to do a complete rewrite on the first novel, Home to Hidden Springs ,which has turned into several rewrites, since it needs to be first.

    I’m still seeking someone with an Amish /Mennonite background to check for authentisity.

    I’m on Facebook as Nilah Turner, have a website,
    9-17, 2011

    Comment by Nilah Turner — September 17, 2011 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

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