441 CHRONICLESncially LA and New York) that arenchaotic and violent, while our ruralncommunities live in comparativenpeace and order, the peace of thenproperty owner, the natural order ofnthe seasons. The born-and-bred citydwellernfeels, no doubt naturally,nmore at home in the city than in thencountry. It is hard for him to noticenthe normal, and he is struck by thendifferent, which he tends to interpretnas the bizarre. The city-dweller alsontends to assimilate what he does see tonwhat he knows. This leads to somenstriking insights and some appallingnoversights.nThe most impressive insight is thenvision of the modern farmer as a victim.nFrom time immemorial the farmernhas been the one independent figurenin our society, as in others. He cannproduce his own food and clothing.nHe can afford independence of viewsnand action as no trader or professionalncan, because he can retreat back to hisnown land and grow his own food. He isnthe archetypical free man who, innJefferson’s vision of America, was thenbasis of a free society. But no more.nNow letters to the editor, the suicidenrate, and publicity all present him as anvictim. As we have concerts to raisenmoney for starving Ethiopians, so wenhave concerts for the farmer. He collapsesninto severe depression or explodesninto violent outbursts. In Rivernhe sells himself as a strikebreaker tonnefarious urban interests. He is thenpuppet of forces he can neither controlnnor understand, whether big businessnin River or heartless bureaucrats innCountry. He wants to die and maynwell kill himself. He survives even innmovie fantasy only because he has anstar for a wife.nThe least sympathetic aspect of thisnvision is presented in the mandatorynbank scene (in all three movies). Thenfarmer has become a mini-Third-nWorld country, shouting back at thenbanker who wants his loan repaid,nreminding him that he was the onenwho urged the farmer to borrow thenmoney (in several films). WilfrednBrimley in Country has a few justnwords on this attitude. The farmersnhired the money, didn’t they? To depictnthe farmer, of all people, as someonenso out of touch with the rootednnature of things as to believe the slicknexperts on economics, a group that hasnnot been right since 1929 (to take anyear at random), is to present thenmodern farmer as so infantile as to benunsalvageable. It is hard to put togetherna consciousness-raising session fornCandide.nThere is little reason to doubt thatnthese films do reflect a dismal newnreality on the farms. The farmer hasnjoined the ranks of the bank teller whoncannot talk back without losing his jobnor the honest cop who has to watchncorruption flourishing and Serpiconbeing mugged. In the recent farmnfilms, the banker is the farmer’s friendnand neighbor, but he, too, has hisnstrings pulled by remorseless forcesnbehind or above him, a monopolisticnbusinessman in River or a ruthlessnbureaucrat in Country. The only waynthe banker can make things better is tonquit. It is the vision of Wendell Berry’snUnsettling of America. The farmer is anredskin, and strip-mining stands asnmetaphor for American big businessnand big government, as in Clint Eastwood’snPale Rider.nThe reason is plain to see and easynto tell. We live in a money economy.nAll of us, even the richest executive,ndepend on the artificial monthly ornweekly doling out of money, not thennatural creative rhythm of the land.nWe are all puppets of the sources ofnmoney: big business, big banks, bigngovernment. Even our freedom ofnspeech is guaranteed only by thesensame sources. Inevitably we identifynwith the new, impotent farmer andnrejoice in his or (in these movies) hernrigged success against the money economy,njust as we cheer Rambo andnRocky and Lou Gossett’s Iron Eaglenwhen they fight against socialist aggression.nIt is good psychological catharsis,nbut in our hearts we know thatnthings do not work that way. We watchnthese movies in darkened theaters ornon our VCR’s, where it is hard toncheck up on us. On the job, in public,nwe keep our mouths shut and ournnoses clean.nAll of us, you see, owe money to thenbank or to credit card companies. Wenall feel frustrated at bureaucratic interferencenor the vagaries of a marketneconomy which even the experts fail tonexplain and cannot control. In thisnenvironment the farmer has becomenanother film version of the secretarynfrom Nine to Five, the factory workernnnin Modern Times.nIn each film someone fights back.nIn each case a woman with a family isnbehind it all. Here, too, is an insightnthat is worth savoring. The basis ofnsalvation and renewal in the secularnworld is family. Business can hurt anfamily as it does in Country or evennattempt to split it up, as it tries to do innPlaces. Each film, however, depictsnthe family as the basis for resistance tondestructive and simplifying bigness.nIs family enough? Common sensenwould say no. Families need community;nthey need religion. In River SissynSpacek’s husband, Mel Gibson, alwaysntries to do things on his own. Annangry crowd shouting at the auctioneernfails to stop the sale of a friend’s farm.nMen unite only to work in a darknfactory while breaking a strike—whichnthey fail to break—or to shore up andike against a flood, which other men,nhired by the ruthless local businessmannto stop them, attempt to breakndown. In Country the crowd’s refusalnto bid for a friend’s farm does stop annauction. Only in Places in the Heart,nhowever, do we see a real communitynat work. Rich and poor, healthy andnblind, black and white work togethernto stop the seemingly inevitable loss ofnhome and breaking up of communitynin the face of economic humiliationnand racial hatred and sexual infidelity.nPlaces is also the only film in whichnreligion has a significant role. Thennarrative is framed by a church service.nIt begins with a father saying gracenover a meal. In the final church scene,nthe entire community joins in thencommunion service; rich and poor,nblack and white, quick and dead. It isnonly as we see the dead sharing in thencommunion that we understand thatnthis scene is an allegory of the Reformednview of Paul’s insistence thatnthe Christian perceive the Body ofnChrist, the communion of true believers.nThat communion, that community,nrooted in religion and protectingnthe family, is the true basis for thensurvival of home and farm. It is anpowerful scene, incomprehensible tonmost urban Americans, Christian ornnot.nReligion is relegated to saying gracenin the other two farm movies. As Inmentioned. Places begins with Field’snhusband, a strong masculine figure,ngiving thanks for the family’s meal.n