Trump won the vote in Appalachia because people are tired of being looked down upon. Considering the work of powerful industry interests, a century’s worth of negative stereotyping, and culturally insensitive protests against coal—a source of people’s pride, heritage, and income—it’s not difficult to understand how. My family has lived in Appalachia for nine generations,... Continue Reading →
I do not subscribe to the labels being thrown out these days. I do not consider myself an environmentalist, a liberal, nor do I consider myself a conservative either. I am an Appalachian family man who cares about his kids more than the coal companies do. I'm not naive enough to believe that companies who... Continue Reading →
The following is an excerpt from a reflection I wrote December 2015. It was a warm afternoon when we arrived in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Our Blue Toyota Corolla was overflowing with camping gear, the large Thule setting us apart as travelers, not locals. We’d never been in Mississippi, but as soon as we crossed... Continue Reading →
People ask me "Why do Appalachians vote against their own best interests?" Some are friends who are honestly trying to understand the situation from a point of concern. I know that they seek the cause for the discrepancy, rather than assume coal mining families are incapable of making intelligent political decisions. The question still stings... Continue Reading →
When I was a teenager, I went to a meeting of the new Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter in my hometown. I quickly became caught up in the ideals of the SCV and hoped desperately that I could find a Confederate soldier within my lineage so I could join. I was not racist thanks to... Continue Reading →
According to reports from the Energy Information Administration, coal production will be on the rise due to increases in electrical generation from coal fired power plants and coal exports. This means that coal companies, who have come out ahead by shirking their financial responsibilities in bankruptcy court, will be primed to make yet another... Continue Reading →
I’ve had multiple people asking my thoughts on Hillbilly Elegy. Between the article below by R. Mike Burr which I have reblogged here, and another article by Ivy Brashear titled “Why Media Must Stop Misrepresenting Appalachia” there is not much for me to add. They have thoroughly iterated my sentiments about the book and it’s faux hillbilly author, J.D. Vance.
The danger that I see is that Hillbilly Elegy has garnered too much publicity for a remarkably shallow insight into Appalachia’s issues. Not only do I blame the media and public at large for taking this book to heart, I blame Vance for taking on the role of “explainer-in-chief of Appalachian issues.”
Sadly, the literature that does explore the depths of corruption and economic exploitation in the region, problems that have created the intense poverty and all the symptoms you would expect of it, seldom receive the level of media attention necessary to educate the public. If one wants to understand what has happened in Appalachia so as to begin a dialogue about a just transition I would suggest…
Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945 – Ron D. Eller
High Mountains Rising – edited by Richard A. Straw and H. Tyler Blothen
Night Comes to the Cumberlands – Harry M. Caudill
As one of a smallish group of liberal Appalachian ex-pats, I have always considered myself an ambassador for my place of birth. I have tried to respond graciously to less than good-natured jokes about familial relations and general backwardness in the Appalachian region, and highlight the pride I still take in the work ethic and common decency of my family and community.
Lately, every inquiry has been framed around J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: whether I have read it or whether conditions for “my people” are as dire as described in the book. Vance’s memoir might have eventually faded from relevance, as there is little glamour to be found in the cored and denuded hills of the region. Then desperate Appalachians came in out droves to back Donald Trump’s improbable run to the White House.
While it is debatable what profit the Appalachian will reap from a Trump presidency, Vance…
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A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Daniel Flatley from Bloomberg News. He was working on a story aimed at understanding why coal miners were not retraining into healthcare careers as the healthcare industry grew in Appalachia. I tried my best to answer his questions and give a broader understanding of miner retraining... Continue Reading →
Disclaimer: This isn't a left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative, democrat vs. republican debate. Just keep reading. We all know the stereotype, the clueless boss who has no idea how to do a damn thing. You go to them with a problem and they instantly point you in a different direction, bumbling along like you... Continue Reading →