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 this simplicity has become the bane of our existence. A lot of people living in urban and suburban areas use our simple lives to label us as simple and dimwitted. As rural people, 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 for what many assume to be 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 us, need to realize their own ignorance. Many votes for Trump 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 for 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.” But they themselves are the ignorant, racist ones, preaching from lives of privilege born on the backs of the rural working class, proselytizing to us from the high and mighty pillars of institutionalized racism raised by the blood and damnation of classism.
As educated as people want to believe themselves to be, they remain woefully uneducated in these bits of common sense. Urban provincialism will always drive rural dissidence.
So here’s some food for thought: If people want to save the world, look at yourselves in the mirror, then take some time to listen to the people who might just know how best to save it.
*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. They 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.