My name is Alexa Beyer and I’m 24 years old. I grew up in Los Angeles wishing I lived in a small town like the ones I saw on TV, where everyone shopped at the local grocery store and made group decisions with their neighbors in the town meeting.
For years, I’ve been traveling to these communities and realizing that they’re under attack. Main Streets are turning into ghost towns as Wal-Marts bully their way into communities that don’t want them. Burrillville, Rhode Island is being forced to have their ___th fossil fuel power plant in ___ miles even though the ____ unanimously voted against it since the [state governor] wanted the tax revenue and gave it the OK. The rural farming neighborhood Egan Slough in Montana is full of farmers, ranchers…and a well-endowed retiree from California named Lew Weaver who spent the past three years secretly planning to build a Nestle-sized water bottling plant in their neighborhood that draws ____ gallons per year from the community aquifer. He tricked his neighbors into thinking it was a mom and pop operation and didn’t inform anyone until the process was so far underway that it was almost legally impossible to stop.
We talk a lot about the corrosion of democracy at the national scale. But what we don’t talk about, or we don’t realize, is that these battles are being waged town by town. If enough of us band together to fight the local battles, we’ll revitalize democracy all by ourselves and Washington will have no choice but to follow.
These corporations thrive on isolation of the communities they venture into. Wal-Mart can pull the same moves on Maryville, Tennessee as they did on Bakersfield two years earlier because Maryville wasn’t paying attention to what happened in Bakersfield. This is silly, and it’s no longer necessary: we’re in the digital age. This blog is a massive opportunity for us to connect with each other: communities hundreds or thousands of miles away who may have never heard of each other before but are dealing with the same corporation or resisting the same type of project.
I’m the girl who cares about these towns and the fate of the people in it. I’m also the girl who realized she was uncomfortably similar to Lew Weaver the water villain in the way she tried to wring the reluctant-to-speak town dry for her own documentary. I’m also the girl who accidentally drove her truck into a ditch trying to smear industrial hog farmers, got pulled out by the biggest industrial farm family in town, the one I was trying to smear, spent one of the best weeks of my life with them, and got conflicted when I realized that I not only loved my enemy but liked them too. I want to use my stories not only to tell you what’s happening to these communities and why it matters, but to explore what it means to be a hero and what it means to be an enemy and maybe what it means to be both, to tell you about the times where these towns needed me to be a martyr but I succumbed to selfishness instead, about the time where I tried to save Lil’ Bill not only because I cared about him and his bike repair shed being gentrified out of his neighborhood but also because I was insecure about my former workplace telling me that I “didn’t have what it takes” to be a community organizer and wanted to prove them all wrong on Facebook.
In many ways, the problems in these communities are scaled-down versions of the problems we are experiencing on a national stage. But the other side is that these war for the future of the American soul is being waged within ourselves. At least, that’s what’s happening within me. I speak out against corporations like Tyson that legally threaten communities and individuals from talking about their experiences with them, only to realize I’m scared of telling certain people who I think might not like me because of what I’m doing.