Help a leftie ponder moving to Arkansas
December 11, 2019 7:42 AM   Subscribe

What should a rabidly left leaning person know about possibly moving to Arkansas.

I'm in a job search phase and I find myself pondering an opportunity in north western Arkansas, around Fayetteville, we'd be moving from the NY area. Culturally/politically I'm pretty darn far to the left. My wife has deep faith in humanity and assumes everything will be fine. I'm less convinced, I've been on the receiving end of being the oddball atheist among Christians when I was a kid, it wasn't awesome. I'm also super ignorant and maybe it'd be fine. I would just love to hear thoughts or input. What should I be thinking about, looking into, etc?
posted by Shutter to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Political geography is very local. Your blue vote and your blue dollar goes farther in a red state. Lots of people give zero shits about politics. A 60/40 red blob isn't uniformly racist shitbags and there are plenty of racist shitbags in 60/40 blue blobs. Also, what we think of as "Trump Country" was actually Cruz country and Trump's becoming the Republican candidate in the first place was largely powered by coastal racist shitbags, not flyover country ignoramuses.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 8:11 AM on December 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

Oh hi! Lifelong leftist NYer here, married to a native Arkansan who turned blue later in life. Fayetteville is cool - it's a college town, so it definitely leans Democratic relative to the rest of the state. That's not to say that you won't notice any differences. You'll definitely run into more Republicans than you're used to, and you should expect people telling you stories to mention the races of the people in the stories for no good reason. But I've been to lots of places in Arkansas, and Fayetteville is definitely where I've felt the most at home.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:21 AM on December 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Fayetteville and NW Arkansas in general is where you want to be if you’re going to be in Arkansas. You will find a LOT of east coast transplants. (Wal-Mart is headquartered there and requires vendors to also have a site there—or at least they did years ago). One of my favorite museums ever is there—Crystal Bridges. Terrible name but beautiful museum, free to the public, and largest collection of American art in the US.

Follow your wife’s lead. Everything will be fine. It’s not NY but also you’re not moving to a backwater hellhole.

It’s also beautiful there—so green. Lots of great outdoors stuff.
posted by namemeansgazelle at 8:25 AM on December 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

Fayetteville has the University of Arkansas which, if not a hotbed of liberalism, at least should have some outlets for the liberal-minded. Also, you'll be an hour away from Eureka Springs, which is a hotbed of liberalism.
posted by ubiquity at 8:26 AM on December 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Being an atheist in a community where social life depends heavily on church participation is not the most fun even if people aren't actively discriminating against you (that people are focusing on the racism aspect rather than the religious bigotry is a little bit telling). I've seen how it works in other small Midwestern towns. But that will depend very much on your specific location. When picking your actual town/neighborhood, you should be actively considering how you will be engaged with your community--whether there are a lot of secular opportunities for meeting up, or whether everyone is going to small group on Tuesday and that's the big night out.
posted by praemunire at 9:00 AM on December 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

(...I mean, substituting Cruz for Trump actually radically amps up the religious bigotry and exclusion aspect.)
posted by praemunire at 9:01 AM on December 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Arkansas passed a conservation tax in 1997, and when I was in Mississippi in the 2010s, we envied their parks and ability to do ecological restoration projects.

+1 you will be able to find like-minded folks to hang out with, especially in a college town.
posted by momus_window at 9:31 AM on December 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Fayetteville will be fine for you. Very few people there, or even in Springdale will give you shit for not being churchy. The UU church is open to the nonreligious participating in their events, if you find yourself feeling a need for cover in the event you end up working for some asshat who gives you shit about it. It really won't be an issue, though. It's not like Tulsa, where the first question out of people's mouth when they learn you are new is if you've found your "church home" yet.

It has also historically been a place where lefties can get elected to the city council and have some influence. Most of the people who matter in local politics are at worst Clinton Democrats. They might induce some facepalms, but shouldn't be incredibly outrage inducing. There will be plenty of outrage inducing things said by the cultists, but it's basically impossible to escape that no matter where you go.

Most of the people who actually believe regressive things, rather than just not thinking about it because it isn't a thing in their personal lives, flee from Fayetteville, thankfully. Not all, but most.
posted by wierdo at 10:04 AM on December 11, 2019

Hiya, gay Arkansas native who has lived in DC, LA, and SF for the last 15 years. Fayetteville and Little Rock (along with a few others, like Hot Springs, Clarksville, etc.) are very comfortable lefty bastions in the state. I spent 25 years in my home state, and I really only left because my field sort of required it (but I think about moving back all the time). Fayetteville is booming, Little Rock is becoming much more cosmopolitan, but this will all be relative to the expectations you have based on where you've lived before. I'm back in Arkansas about twice a year. Summers are hot and humid (i.e. the best) and the cultural backdrop of the Ozarks means you have a lot of interesting things at your doorstep. I float the Buffalo River every year, at least once, for instance, and eat my way between Little Rock, Eureka Springs, and my friends' homes along the river. There's a lot to loathe about the culture of poi ts in between, but that's no different anywhere. I'm in California, and the town's I go through between LA and SF feel just as regressive as back roads Arkansas, just with much more money and political capital. And, honestly, the cost of living in Arkansas will blow your damn mind. My mortgage on a 650 square foot SF house with no washer or dryer would by me a 4 bed house on 10 acres with a freshwater spring in Fayetteville.

Happy to start a chat via memail if you'd like. I'm headed to DC for work but will be in my Arkansawyer homelands next week.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:15 AM on December 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

What kind of job is it? If it's teaching at the university you'll be fine. If it's teaching in the public schools (I looked at your profile) it might not be as good. In really religious communities even the public schools are saturated with religiosity. I worked very briefly at a public middle school in Florida where a Christian prayer boomed out over the loudspeakers to the whole school every morning and a kid complained to the principal when I used the word damn. I think your hesitance is reasonable. Yeah, there are assholes everywhere, and I've known plenty of lefty assholes, but at least they don't fly confederate flags or wear MAGA hats.
posted by mareli at 10:16 AM on December 11, 2019

I lived in Fayetteville for a year and a half in the early 2010s. I still miss it. It's a lovely college town in a beautiful part of the country. Local government is progressive. There are incredible cultural opportunities and natural spaces. The public library and farmer's market are top-notch.

The town is full of Northern transplants and international students, but I worked in a pink-collar office job and got to know the locals. Many, though not all, of my coworkers were white evangelical Christians, and there were definitely moments of culture shock and weirdness. However, my overall impression of the culture was kind, civil, and relatively tolerant compared to other conservative Southern communities. I was open about my atheism to my closest colleagues, and it wasn't a huge deal. (At one point my department consisted of a conservative Lutheran, a Wiccan, and a Jehovah's Witness - no joke, we had some great theological discussions.)
posted by toastedcheese at 10:56 AM on December 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Forgot to mention: the Ozarks was a major destination for the back-to-the-land movement in the 1970s, and some of those folks never left. The artists and homesteaders are a pleasant counterbalance to the outsized influence of major corporations in NW Arkansas (Walmart, Tyson Foods, etc).
posted by toastedcheese at 11:01 AM on December 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Lots of great insight here and I'm super appreciative of you all, even if you agreed with my wife and are pushing me out of my comfort zone.
posted by Shutter at 5:31 AM on December 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

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