Trump is Not the Problem, Urban Provincialism Is

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Photo: Nick Mullins

Please allow me to speak conversationally…

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 bain of our existence. A lot of people living in urban and suburban areas use our simple lives to label us as simple and dimwitted while they focus the might of their numbers into public policy. That public policy helps pave 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 amid the divisions of labor we face.

But we aren’t stupid; we know more than many people give us credit for. So when someone assumes that our problems are created in-house by our own “lack of intelligence,” 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.

Here again, I will quote Ron Eller as he attempts to enlighten people from outside of Appalachia (and please feel free to add many rural southern communities as well),

“…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.” frm Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers

So for all those folks who sit around looking at election maps of Trump Country and spitting venom towards us, they 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. It’s also worth pointing out that many Democrats within the mountains couldn’t stomach voting for Hillary, so they just didn’t vote at all.

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, of the basic comprehension that under the afore mentioned circumstances, 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. After all, we live closer to the land than most, even when we have to destroy it to supply insatiable wants.

*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 still fall well within the scope of “Privileged White Know-It-Alls.” 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.

**I’d like to apologize to my readership for the seemingly unprofessional title that was the original for this post “It’s not Trump, It’s Privileged White Know-It-Alls.” My original title was going to be the current one, “It’s Not Trump, It’s Urban Provincialism” Firstly, I knew that title wouldn’t draw but a select, minimal, readership, upon its release, and two, I wanted a title that would “stir the pot” as they say. It succeeded and I was accused of stereotyping, Appalachian victimization, warned that I am biting the hand that feeds me (from a place of concern), and more. I will leave it to my readers to guess who and where these accusations came from. It would be easy to say that I feel vindicated by the fallout, and I’m sure many are thinking I’m ever the more pretentious for having said it. But those are the people who do not truly know me.

5 thoughts on “Trump is Not the Problem, Urban Provincialism Is

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  1. I never thought that smart, practical country people would be taken in by someone who clearly lacks the intelligence, temperment, discipline, and values to run our country. But they were! His record was not hidden; he cheated wives and business associates, lied regularly, and threatened succuessful businesses ande long term allies. His performance has been uniformly awful, but it makes no difference. So yes, progressive Americans ARE frustrated. We offer solutions, and they are rejected, and the call is for policies that move us backwards. Hillary Clinton told the truth about the future of coal and offered a $300 billion transition plan. She was hooted out of town. How do you help people who won’t take steps to help themselves and prepare for the future? It will be a long time before a progressive politician gets involved. The truth? They can’t handle the truth!

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    1. They were being smarter than you think.

      Folks knew that $300 billion wouldn’t come close…if she could get it. They also knew there was a high probability that she would shut down coal mining before a check showed up in their bank accounts to keep their houses. After all, that has been the case since the start of the environmental movement against MTR and all of the outcry about human-caused global climate change. Regulations first, economic development later.

      People also know that the systems of corruption prevent funds from making it to their communities. Look at the decades of coal severance taxes, of ARC funding, all that ends up in porkbarrel spending. Folks knew that she was just saying what she could to get elected. They couldn’t see her as anything but corrupt, especially with what she and the Democratic party did to Sanders.

      Speaking of which, I’ve had many people back home tell me that Trump was not their first choice. Sanders was.

      If progressive Americans want to become less frustrated with backlash, they need to take some time and learn how to talk to people they may not normally affiliate with, like coal miners, well drillers, and others in the rural conservative working classes. Build dialogs rather than come at people with policy ideas and pie-in-the-sky solutions without immediate tangible benefits. Appalachian people have been promised and lied to so long, how else would you expect people to react?

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  2. Your honest and astute assessment of elitism is so important, Nick. I witnessed the power of classism and racism directly when I attended a private college for my first two years with mostly Euro-American women from economically privileged backgrounds. I was certainly out of place there with a Euro-American working-class father who had a 9th-grade education and an Ojibwe mother who graduated from a university as a Registered Nurse. Nonetheless, I remain truly grateful for the many valuable lessons during those years. The most profound and humbling, though, came from the youth I met when I volunteered as a tutor in Chicago’s poorer Black and Latino neighborhoods, or the families I met when I volunteered in Appalachia and on the Menominee reservation. They all taught me what it means to be human, to care about others, to share what one has with others who are less fortunate, to be kind and to laugh despite adversity. Few other students from my college volunteered, and most of those who did saw themselves as “great white saviors.”

    Even though I knew the last election would be close, I couldn’t vote in good conscience for either of the 2 top contending candidates. Neither one understood or cared about “marginalized communities.” Neither took time to listen respectfully to members of poor communities. Neither used their relatively privileged position to raise awareness about the contributions made and issues faced by rural folks, migrant workers, poor urban neighborhoods, or Native American reservations. Neither proposed policies that would even incrementally move us forward toward the elimination of elitism and inequality…

    Thank you for the courage to speak honestly.

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  3. I thought this was very truthful and I totally agree with your assessment on many people in Appalachia/Rural America would have voted for Bernie. Most people don’t know this but I believe he even carried Wise County in the Democratic Primary. I think people in Rural America respect some sort of authenticity wether it be good or bad. The people felt Hillary really had none and that Bernie did. When Bernie was denied the fair chance. A large amount of the people chose Trump as the lesser of two evils. I do fear though that our region does cast votes that cut there noses off despite their faces without truly doing any reading or researching of the topics/polices at hand.

    Liked by 1 person

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