I was raised rural in the Appalachian Mountains. I spent my childhood split between exploring the ridgelines, hollers, and creeks with my cousins to playing Nintendo, screwing around with PCs at the onset of the internet, and watching Nickelodeon on C-Band satellite. We raised a garden for fresh vegetables and to save money when dad was on strike or laid off from the mines.
In other words, our lives have been pretty simple, or at least as simple as we could keep them.
But the choice to remain rooted in a simple life has become the bane of our existence. When roughly 80% of the US population lives in urban and suburban areas we are greatly outnumbered when it comes to how public policy is written and for whom it benefits the most. Our nation has become an oligarchy based upon a purely utilitarian philosophy. Public policy paves the way for capitalists to satisfy urban desires (cheap agricultural products, material goods, and fossil fuel based energy) at the cost of our rural needs (clean air, clean water, living wages, etc). Stereotypes of rural people as ignorant, backwards, and in some cases, racist, provides cognitive dissonance enough for what many assume to be the equitable treatment of their rural counterparts.
But we aren’t stupid.
We know more than many people give us credit for. When someone assumes that our problems are created in-house by our own “lack of intelligence and work ethic,” and they come across as if they know more about what’s good for us than we do—we don’t take kindly to it.
All the folks who sit around looking at election maps of Trump Country and spitting venom towards rural communities need to realize their own ignorance as well. Many votes for Trump in Appalachia were votes against Hillary and the people she represented i.e. people from urban areas who have demeaned and discounted rural communities since God knows when. They ignore our input and deal out policy after policy that they believe is in our best interests. But they don’t truly understand. As Ron Eller stated
“…efforts to explain and deal with the social problems of the [Appalachian] region have focused not on economic and political realities in the area as they evolved over time, but on the supposed inadequacies of a pathological culture that is seen to have equipped mountain people poorly for life in the modern industrial world.” Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers (1982)
The fact that Trump, a wealthy white New York megalomaniac, became the lesser of the two evils in the eyes of rural communities, speaks volumes to the flaming hatred for the liberal elitism people have come to see housed within the modern day democratic party.*
Rather than address the issue, large portions of the liberal elite want to once again shuffle blame onto the “ignorant, racist, rural folk” for their inability to win elections. As educated as people want to believe themselves to be, they remain woefully uneducated in this bit of common sense–urban provincialism will always drive rural dissidence.
So here’s some food for thought: If people want to save the world, perhaps we need to focus on the regions of the nation that consume the most resources and begin to ask their rural counterparts, how we can all do become more sustainable.
*Note: This isn’t to say that right-wing conservatives are much better. Their idea of saving rural people is creating jobs, most of which sell our labor to the lowest bidders so they can reap all the surplus value, or through buying up and consolidating farms to drive out the basic farmer. Conservatives just know better than to come in and try to tell us how to live. Instead, they just make it so we can only live a certain way—usually with ample amounts of mandatory overtime on non-livable wages.