Paying Lip Service to the Forgotten

For many people that I know and that I see around this country, the idea that a person like Donald Trump could be this close to the presidency is simply baffling.  A place we find it hard to empathize.  I am a person who always tries to remain optimistic.  The more pessimistic about things, the more I try to find that silver lining, that thread of understanding, and try to open the door to a more enlightened and positive mindset.  It is very difficult to do this about Trump and those who support him.  However in that journey I came across a couple of media pieces that have help.  One is this video piece done by The Guardian in the UK.  It is very well done and closely examines McDowell county in West Virginia and speaks to the desperation that many people are facing and why they would hang their hopes on someone like Trump.

The main thing that I want to discuss is this article from Cracked.Com.  Every once and awhile I’ll across a thought provoking article from this satirical site and this is one of them.  There are many points that I agree with, and few points that are hard to swallow, and I had to remind myself that I did have to open my heart a little bit more than I had.  There are also some important points that I disagree with, or rather omitted points that I think provide for a more fair approach to the subject.

Rural vs Urban voting
                        Rural vs Urban voting

The main thrust of the piece is that when you look at a map of blue vs. red, the state map that we often look at during elections gives us a false idea for how that break down happen.  The map in the article clearly shows that blue vs red is really urban vs. rural.  The fact that blue has been taking precedence nationally I think is fairly indicative of that demographic shift to an urban dominated country.  My state of Pennsylvania is a good example of how the urban centers of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia dominate the voting population even though most counties tend to be very conservative.  There are very many counties like the one investigated in WV in The Guardian video, and poverty and drug use is high.  As the Cracked article points out, rural America is a forgotten group of people and grows smaller and thus is paid less attention to over time.  Our country was once much more agrarian, many rural counties had factories or mines and all these things allowed small town and rural America to thrive.  This however is not the world we live in anymore.  As the article points out, even for the most part pop culture has left rural societies out of the conversation.  We forget where food comes from.  We are concerned about the mistreatment of urban minorities, but show little concern for the extreme poverty that many who live in rural areas or small towns live in.  The deterioration of their livelihood with no plan put into place for how to give these people a chance to better their situation.

Republican politicians often talk about two Americas, and in some way they are right.  They often talk about the good hard working folks in “any town” USA, and they are right.  How many times do democratic politicians even really actively campaigned in rural areas and made their concerns part of their platform?  I will concede that to many liberals, the needs and lives of rural America are forgotten or ignored.  I included.  We may find their attitudes deplorable, but let us also, at the very least consider how deplorable their lives have become over the past 40 years as jobs have moved overseas and that most of our food is produced by big companies and industrial farming.  And here comes Trump, who addresses the “common man” who says he’s going to bring coal jobs back (even though they aren’t coming back), who says he’s going to lower everybody’s taxes, who says that he’s going to bring companies from overseas back (he’s not), and make America great again.

My criticism with the article I linked is that (and maybe this is a problem with the media) we aren’t getting people who come to the fore, supporting Trump, and really making nuanced arguments about the difficulties in rural America.  What we have is a slick NYC businessman as far from rural as you can get being supported by people who rail against immigrants (even though they themselves were immigrants), who want religious law to influence government law (no abortion, end marriage equality), who shout patriotism without substance, who want to build gigantic walls that would only further their economic challenges, and who literally find their candidate’s offensive views on women to literally be no problem at all.

I think the article makes some great points and I think that in the end if we are going to survive as a nation than “WE the people” has to mean something.  We all have to do a better job at reaching across the aisle.  And this is one of my posts that is much as a call to action to me as anyone else.  I struggle sometimes when I see someone come on TV speaking hate and intolerance, but I don’t want to become a person who writes that person off as a loss cause.  So if there is this other America that is disenfranchised and needs are help than I am happy to do so, but that doesn’t mean I am going to turn my back on women, on racial minorities, religious minorities, on LGBQT people to do so.  Both sides have to want to heal the divide and that means that we have to start seeing everybody as important whether it is racial vs urban, all races, creeds, sexual orientation.  There are a lot of problems that we all have in common.  Let’s start there, and I think you’ll find that if we worked out those things first, a lot of the other things wouldn’t matter so much.

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36 thoughts on “Paying Lip Service to the Forgotten

  1. As soon as things slow down a little bit I’m planning to read Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis. It sounds a good bit like the video and article you’ve shared from a very personal perspective.

    For those people who are “hillbillies” and from rural America, not unlike my own family, it’s about a way of life, really. They don’t want to have to leave their own ideas of the American Dream behind. They want to hold onto their roots but feel the ground beneath their feet eroding. Donald Trump is promising them he’s going to stop that erosion and make their dreams come true without having to make changes to their own ideas. He’s giving them [false] hope.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Well said. That’s exactly what’s happening. The question is, can any of us really expect to hang on to our roots? For awhile perhaps…but over the course decades…a century…it’s just not possible. Maybe things change faster now than it did in the past…I don’t know…certainly technology does. Perhaps it’s hard for all humans on average to let go. The thing is the American dream is still quite possible when we do it together…it just gets to include more people…the ones that had been left out of the American Dream in the past. That is something we should all be fighting for.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed this video you shared a lot. Its so good to see the human, struggling but proud and honorable, side to this political fairy tale we are being sold. Because there is so much there that I can relate to; those people are me; in a different place, in a different time. I feel really moved by that.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Excellent post!

    I saw (and posted) that video on Facebook. Of course, I have no idea how many viewed it, but I hope several. It can’t help but grab you if you have any humanity in you at all.

    As the cracked.com article writer said, To those ignored, suffering people, Donald Trump is a brick chucked through the window of the elites. “Are you assholes listening now?”

    What I find most disturbing are the individuals tRump has brought into the open. I think most of us have known these people existed (i’m personally familiar with some), but for the most part, they pretty much shared their biased and prejudicial opinions among themselves. Now, however, the Donald has given them permission to display their hostilities for all to see. (And by damn! No body is going to take away my Second Amendment rights!)

    Probably the most important thing you wrote is this: Both sides have to want to heal the divide … . Sadly, I’m not sure any of us living now are going to see this happen.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Maybe it won’t Nan, but I still firmly believe that if we support leaders who are interested to talking to all Americans, not just the ones who vote for them we can change the culture. Compassionate leadership who really wants to serve the country can work together…Bernie Sanders was really trying to do this I felt and so it’s sad that we are back to regular old politics in the US of A.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. YOU will support leaders who are interested in talking to all Americans … and I will do the same … and many in our blog circle will do so as well … but it seems we aren’t enough. I voted for Bernie, but unfortunately by the time it came for my vote to be counted, he’d already “lost” (I live in Oregon).

        I dunno’, Swarn. I think many of us have high hopes for a better America, but I’m just not sure there’s enough of us that are truly invested in this hope to make a difference. I truly hope I’m wrong.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Well I’m not saying you are wrong, but I’m also not satisfied with, “If you can’t beat’em join’em”! lol I don’t know there is nothing else to do but keep trying. I am going to try and write about this more if I can.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. “The map in the article clearly shows that blue vs red is really urban vs. rural.” – This is also a big divide in the UK with country folk feeling very differently about politics to the urban dwellers, yet here, the economic situation is the exact opposite – those who can afford to live in the countryside tend to be well off, those in the packed urban areas poor.

    I have an American friend who is definitely voting for Trump and this is because she’s not been helped by Obama so far as her health care goes and feels its only the poor black people who benefit by his health care system. Now I could go on about that for some time, but the upshot is you either have health care that helps everyone and everyone who can pays into the pot, and that way no-one die on the streets, which is at present the case with the National Health Service over here (just to clarify UK citizens pay National Insurance which is supposed to cover their health care and comes out of every pay cheque, but those who lean towards the right want to privatise it all and leave the poor to rot).

    My friend is an intelligent, good woman. She lives in Florida and has encountered a great deal of crime from those who live in the nearby poorer neighbourhoods in the form of vandalism and burglary and believes that Trump will help to make her world safer whilst Obama most definitely will not, and it seems that she is willing to overlook any of the horrific facts about Trump in order to attain this idyllic life. And many people are the same no matter who they vote for, it’s all about if it will help them and theirs, not some other group of people, not the majority even. It’s what people are willing to overlook that’s the most frightening part.

    In the UK Nigel Farage was the leader of UKIP and his popularity hinged entirely on the problems faced due to the immigration policies, and those I know who were behind him were almost hypnotised by his promises in that area, regardless of whether they were ever actually going to come to fruition. It felt really quite frenzied this fear that had and is instilled within people due to the media whipping up the terror that is immigrants and asylum seekers too, all of which are lumped into one large bag with the same shovel. Nigel has gone on to support and counsel Donald Trump during the run up to this present election in the U.S. Common sense and empathy flees in the face of fear I find sadly.

    The article makes some excellent points as you say, and it is clear that no matter which country you live in, you can be sure its the poorer folks who are ignored, or demonised, or both. The sad truth is that their so called potential saviours are nothing more than the personification of the Wizard of Oz.

    “What we have is a slick NYC businessman as far from rural as you can get being supported by people who rail against immigrants (even though they themselves were immigrants), who want religious law to influence government law (no abortion, end marriage equality), who shout patriotism without substance, who want to build gigantic walls that would only further their economic challenges, and who literally find their candidate’s offensive views on women to literally be no problem at all. “ – That’s it in a nutshell yes. Excellent article as ever Swarn.

    – esme upon the Cloud

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you Esme. That’s interesting about the rural vs urban difference. I expect that has more to do with population density. I mean many rich people here will either live right downtown, or on the outskirt of a city with a big home. In the UK I suspect you are never far from a city which is likely where you make most of your money. My impression of Europe is that having space of your own is much more of a status symbol than downtown penthouse or something. But perhaps I am wrong about that. Either way as you say, the result is the same. The poor are forgotten or abused. There are so many poor in this big country that are all races and creeds that it’s sad we’ve let the powers that be divide us, when we all have much more in common. But I guess that’s how the powers that be remain in power, by keeping us at each other’s throats.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Swarn, your posts just keep being awesome! I hope you remember us little people when you make it big 🙂

    Kinda the same way (if) Trump gets elected the poor will hope they are not forgotton by their hero in tarnished armor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you SD. LOL I don’t know, I really just rambled on about two other pieces of journalism. When something moves me, inspires me, I just like to write about it. Hoping I make a little sense along the way. lol

      Like

  6. A sobering piece, Swarn. I really don’t have the words to adequately express how I feel right now, at the hour before midnight, figuratively speaking. I feel numb, probably because I, too, feel the hopelessness, and don’t know what can be done to turn things around. Well I do — based on multiple studies I’ve read, that if we eliminate inequality and poverty, we eliminate many if not most of the other social ills. But that just doesn’t seem to be an urgent goal among most leaders in our country.

    What stuck out the most in the video (around the 8 minute marker) was when they were talking about honesty, and the guy doing the doc says that that kind of honesty might be admirable, but it’s risky in a place like McDowell. I couldn’t agree more.

    There’s something strangely ironic about a group of people who find honestly to be one of their most cherished values, yet plan to vote for a pathological liar.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. … if we eliminate inequality and poverty, we eliminate many if not most of the other social ills. But that just doesn’t seem to be an urgent goal among most leaders in our country. The truth in a nutshell.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. There’s something strangely ironic about a group of people who find honestly to be one of their most cherished values, yet plan to vote for a pathological liar.

      I couldn’t agree more. Jon Stewart used to say often on the Daily Show that it feels like too often we are having the wrong conversation. The pieces I present in this post represent a conversation that we’re not having. That politicians aren’t having. Honesty might be risky, but at the same time I wonder how much honesty they actually ever get. It seems like their only choices are dishonesty and being ignored. I also wonder if people like this are simply just not aware how deceitful people can be. If you’re honest hard-working folk who are around honesty all the time, maybe some simply don’t expect that they can be lied to so deeply. I don’t know.

      Something I forgot to mention in this post about the video is that in the beginning they talk about how the state has let them down. I think this is also important is that some states, especially southern ones have state governments which are mini tyrannies as you know. Because of states rights, the federal government may have little influence on any county in any state. If the state wants to keep its people in poverty they can and often do in order to maintain their power.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “I think this is also important is that some states, especially southern ones have state governments which are mini tyrannies as you know.”

        This is so spot on. I posted an insightful article today on FB about how the American Dream is killing us. It’s a bit lengthy, but it compliments some of the things you mentioned, and also shares about an attitude in this country, that if bad things happen to you, i.e., poverty, you deserved it — about how Americans (U.S.) have lost empathy. The American Dream has set people up for failure, and that seems to be a taboo subject, because, you know, America is so effing great, that if it’s not working for you, it’s your effing fault.

        Like

        1. … if bad things happen to you, you deserved it.
          … if it’s not working for you, it’s you effing fault.

          These attitudes seem to be so very prevalent among a certain group of people in America today … and it really disturbs me. The utter distaste for the poor, the homeless, anyone who doesn’t fit the standards of the “good life” is becoming more and more a “sign of the times.” Even the so-called “religious” tend to look down on the less fortunate … unless, of course, they’ve been “saved.”

          Empathy seems to be a lost art. And one of the individuals running for POTUS has pushed it even deeper down the rabbit’s hole.

          Liked by 2 people

  7. Thankyou Swarn, I admire your optimism, my friend. Still, I think that in order to ‘heal the divide’, as you put it, then it seems to me you need comprehensive social welfare; you need decent living wages for the lowest earners; you need collective bargaining; you need to regulate the forces of Capitalism so as to mitigate cartels and ensure workers rights, as well as to undo monopoly Capitalism; you need to have public ownership of public goods – such as money supply, energy, water, transport, and even to compete in the food supply chain. But these are all Socialist tenets, and Socialism’s such a dirty word in the U.S., it would seem. To heal that divide you also need to take the money out of politics and hence allow a multi-party system to exist, ideally with a ranked voting system. So I can’t share your optimism currently, I’m afraid, because under this two-party system, and if you vote for Hillary, or if you vote for Trump, then if you’re poor, you’re screwed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment Hariod. I’ll keep an eye out for your comments ending up in spam. I was having the same problem on KIA’s blog a couple of months ago

      I agree with you in your socialist views. While I do tend to be an optimistic person I didn’t intend to sound like I think everything is going to be alright. What I tend to do is try to outline what we need to do, to make everything alright. All the things that you say need to be done are correct but I don’t think they will happen unless the conversation changes from one that’s less divisive. And that’s a responsibility that lies with all of us. Myself included. But honestly I don’t actually have a lot of optimism at this point, but that also doesn’t mean I’m going to throw my hands up on the air and say there is no hope. And again I don’t disagree that we need better and more humane leadership than what we are being offered, but I ask you what influence any current third party candidate would have without any strong presence in the legislative branch or even at the state level…. Especially in states that need it the most. It seems to me that if someone like Stein or Johnson were really serious about change their movement would be about much more than just the presidency, and that they would field a large number of serious candidates throughout all levels of government.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hariod, as usual, you have summed up my own fragmented thoughts on the matter. I also like Victoria’s and Esme’s points. I hesitate to begin commenting, because it feels like I will never be able to draw any conclusions in this little box here. It’s all such a nightmare, especially as one who was quite politically active back in the 70’s and 80’s. It just feels as though we have to keep covering the same ground; that any small victories we achieve for equality and to elevate the standard of living for the poor and disenfranchised are only temporary.

      When in Ireland recently, almost everyone I truly connected with had a version of this statement, “Have you all lost your bloody minds over there? Electing a reality TV host as your President?” I pray we collectively have more sense than that, in the end – but you know, as long as money and power are in the driver’s seat, nothing will ever change. I had such high hopes for Sanders whose actions and personal history have been consistently on the side of the working class. But alas, We the People were once again defeated. The Decision had already been made for us. It’s disheartening, but that doesn’t mean I can jump on the crazy bus and elect a megalomaniac. I guess we’ll see soon if America has truly lost its collective mind. Aloha, Swarn.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. OMGawd! This is truly the question of the century: “Have you all lost your bloody minds over there? Electing a reality TV host as your President?”

        Even with all the “crap” that’s been brought forth about tRump, this is the question that should have been asked over and over again. Nothing else sums it up nearly as well.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Mahalo Bela.

        I fear it may end in tears whichever way the dice fall. Hillary being indicted or following through with her no-fly zone in Syria. Trump perpetuating his Neofascism, and possibly also getting indicted.

        I read an interesting article yesterday about a computer server D.T. has in Trump Tower (it’s a long piece, I’m merely referencing it below), and how that server solely communicates with Alfa Bank in Russia.

        Quote therein from Paul Vixie, highly respected internet pioneer: “The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion. The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project.”

        Quote from Donald Trump: ““I mean I have nothing to do with Russia.”

        Quote from article: ““At election-related moments, the traffic peaked.”

        http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/cover_story/2016/10/was_a_server_registered_to_the_trump_organization_communicating_with_russia.html

        It’s a bloody mess, let’s face it.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Post-Election Soul Searching: What We’ve Forgotten – Cloak Unfurled

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