Rural America – Appalachia

Before I get into the New York Times quote below I want to tell you about my visit to the Museum of Appalachia from a few years ago. I didn’t know what to expect before I went but was blown away by what I found. There seems to be a lot of pride in their folksy past and art. Some would never consider leaving their “holler” and are proud of their Appalachian culture. It showed the light side of Appalachia, the stories below show the dark side.

I’m from Appalachia, where getting into the working class was an aspiration. I was raised “up the holler” and know the culture intimately. You have no idea of the amount of anger, self-righteousness, bigotry and willful ignorance you’re dealing with. I have seen a blighted small town use a corrupt sheriff and judge to run off a business owned by a black man. I have been present when an entire community looked the other way when a gay couple was burned out of their home.
They support Trump and the reason is simple: He acts just like they would if they had money. There is no saving this culture, nor should you want to save it. The people who could have revitalized it have either left for better opportunities or been run off. It’s a breeding ground for hatred and despair, dying with a Bible in one arm and a heroin needle in the other. Let it die. — Peregrinus, Erehwon

Source: New York Times

Here is another story about the dark side:

HERE ARE LOTS of diversions in the Big White Ghetto, the vast moribund matrix of Wonder Bread–hued Appalachian towns and villages stretching from northern Mississippi to southern New York, a slowly dissipating nebula of poverty and misery with its heart in eastern Kentucky…

Thinking about the future here and its bleak prospects is not much fun at all, so instead you have the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the endless scratch-off lotto cards, healing meetings up on the hill, the federally funded ritual of trading cases of food-stamp Pepsi for packs of Kentucky’s Best cigarettes and good old hard currency, tall piles of gas-station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, the draw, the recreational making and surgical unmaking of teenaged mothers, and death: Life expectancies are short …

There is here a strain of fervid and sometimes apocalyptic Christianity, and visions of the Rapture must have a certain appeal for people who already have been left behind. Like its black urban counterparts, the Big White Ghetto suffers from a whole trainload of social problems, but the most significant among them may be adverse selection: Those who have the required work skills, the academic ability, or the simple desperate native enterprising grit to do so get the hell out as fast as they can, and they have been doing that for decades. As they go, businesses disappear, institutions fall into decline, social networks erode, and there is little or nothing left over for those who remain

Source: The Week – January 2104

A very big part of the current populist movement occurs in Appalachia. 95% of the Appalachian counties voted for Trump in the last election, but what is unclear is just what they expect a “new” version government to do? An even bigger question is can anything be done for areas of the country like this other than to provide an easy exit for those wanting to escape.

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