So, I asked my sister-in-law (she of the city) to read yesterday’s piece before I posted it. She immediately messaged back with how wrong I was on what I wrote. “The good ole days were built on slavery and segregation where whole categories of humanity experienced religion as a lash on their back. Traditional families involved millions of women trapped in kitchens and bad marriages. Gays lived in fear and abortions were performed in back allies without benefit of medical professionals.”
Yeah, sort of. But is that any worse than what is happening in “white” rural America today? These people are getting crushed. Step outside your blue zone bubble and the suicide rate among young people doubles (which is a relatively new phenomenon, by the way … suicide used to be a city thing). The recession pounded rural communities, but all the recovery efforts went to the cities. The rate of new businesses opening in rural areas has utterly collapsed. Sure, they could all move to the city, but then they would have to live in a city with all the decadence, crime and social isolation that entails.
Rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, an oil refinery … when that business closed, the town started to disappear. Cities can make up for the loss of manufacturing jobs with service jobs — small towns cannot. That model doesn’t work below a certain population density.
I also sent my article to some cousins who live in rural communities in the Midwest and this was what they said to me. You can’t understand the hopelessness unless you live in a rural community. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called “Cost of Living.”
Let’s break this down. You’re a smart kid making $8 an hour at Walmart and you want to move to better things in the city. You’re now going to stuff yourself, your wife and your new baby into a tiny apartment with a park four blocks away (as opposed to a yard you can actually use) that will set you back $1200 a month. You will also pay double what you’re currently paying for utilities, groceries and babysitters. Unless of course you’re willing to live in a housing project where you can’t even go to the park without risking getting mugged.
In a city, you can plausibly aspire to be anything, but in a small town, there may be no venues for performing arts aside from country music bars and churches. There may only be two doctors in town — aspiring to that job means waiting for one of them to retire or die. You open the classifieds and all of the job listings will be for fast food or convenience stores. The “downtown” is just the corpses of mom and pop stores left shattered in Walmart’s blast crater, the “suburbs” are trailer parks. There are parts of these towns that look post-apocalyptic.
If you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege. Meanwhile, the rate of rural white suicides and overdoses skyrockets. It starts to feel like the worst of both worlds. Rural whites have all the ravages of poverty, but none of the sympathy. Blacks burn police cars, and those liberal elites say it’s not their fault because they’re poor. An Appalachian man gets jailed and fired over a baggie of meth and the city elites make jokes about his missing teeth. Country folk are everyone’s punching bag — it’s one of our society’s last remaining safe comedy targets.
And that’s painful because these people come from a long line of folks who took pride in looking after themselves. My grandfather would have been ashamed to be dependent on anyone — especially the government. In the country, you mow your own lawn, fix your own pipes, and haul your own firewood in your own pickup truck.
Not like those hipsters in their tiny apartments, or the urban poor in their public housing projects, waiting for the landlord any time something breaks, knowing if things get too bad they can just pick up and move. When you don’t own anything, it’s all somebody else’s problem.
If the rural folk who voted for Trump acknowledge to a city dweller that their way of life is dying, the city dweller smirks and say what they really mean is that blacks and gays are finally getting equal rights and the country folk hate it. That’s not how the country folks see it. They say their way of life is dying because it is. It’s not their imagination. No movie about the future portrays it as being full of traditional families, hunters, and coal mines. Oops — except for Hunger Games, and that was depicted as an apocalypse — a recipe for subjugation.
So, yes, my rural cousins voted for the guy promising to put things back the way they were, the guy who they hope will act as a wake-up call to the blue islands. They voted for the brick through the window.
Yeah, Trump has not shown himself to be a great guy by culturally elite standards. He insults people, he supposedly objectifies women and, my heavens, he cheats whenever possible. He’s not even an ordinary person. He’s an arrogant billionaire.
You’ve never rooted for somebody like that? Someone powerful who gives your enemies the insults they deserve? Somebody with big fun appetites who screws up just enough to make them relatable? Like Dr. House, Walter White or Tony Stark?
Yeah, those are fictional characters. But then there’s all those wealthy left-leaning talk show hosts who regularly insult whomever they don’t agree with. Do you love you some Bill Maher? They’re fine, because they’re on the proper side of the issues and everybody needs a Negen to smash their enemies with. It’s okay to be insulting so long as you hold the right views. Right? Country people are barely people, right? They’re just a mass of ignorant, angry, crude subhumans. They don’t matter!
It feels good to mock people, to dismiss them as “deplorables”. You can simply ignore those sorts of people … until they vote like a minority group and swing an election in what might be their favor. That then reminds the city folks that the country folks may now be able to assert some subjugation of their own and, shudder to think it, they may wield influence long after Trump leaves office.
So, can I suggest that instead of just dismissing them, you try talking to some of them. Not “talking AT” them. No. I mean you swallow your pride and talk to them as if they might actually know something worthwhile that might benefit you in your life and all of us in society. Give it a try and see if the next four years might not turn the country (as in the nation) in a better direction.
The blue islands have been in control for far too long and we’ve never been more divided, angry, dysfunctional or broke. Maybe there’s some wisdom out there in the red ocean that might save us all … if we let it.
By the way, the map in today’s post is from the 2016 Presidential election at the county level while the map from yesterday’s post is from the 2012 Presidential election at the county level. Pull them up in separate windows so you can see that this isn’t a new thing. And for good measure, here is the 2008 election map by county, because it shows the erosion for the Democratic Party didn’t necessarily have anything to do with Obama being black.