A critical look at the NYT Best Seller recently released as a Ron Howard film.
I like to read. That was one of the many gifts my father left with me. (That and good looks, charm, wit, and a humble nature 🙂 One day I came upon a copy of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ by some Vance fellow. I felt like I recognized the name from somewhere, but I couldn’t place it.
The book said N.Y. Times Bestseller, for all that’s worth, but it had a catchy title and I had read all the spy novels and Nat Geo’s on the shelf, all that was left were soft porn romance crap and this offering from JD. So, like the dying man in the desert I took what I could get.
“Hillbilly Elegy” is basically an attempt to explain the sweeping political shift of working class white people away from the Democrats, and to the Republicans, especially in 2016, the year ‘Hillbilly’ was published.
A lot was riding on a few swing states and there was a palpable shift in the working-class white mentality Vis a Vis the Democrats. It was The Year of The Orange Bad Man, and everybody wanted to know… why did this traditionally blue-collar population, with all the coal mines, steel mills and unions, shift so significantly to the Right?
Nobody seemed to be able to figure it out. Which was odd, since those of us who live here understand it perfectly well. It’s so obvious that it irritates us even further that some of you still don’t get it. Idiots on the two coasts seem to think it’s because they, fly over us. Egomaniacs.
So, Mr. Vance tries valiantly to explain the hillbilly mind through a narrative of his own life experience. It’s a story about growing up and then getting out of the poor white Appalachian ‘lower’ class.
He describes, in reference to poor white Appalachians, “a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.” What that means in Appalachian English, is that the welfare state begun in the 1960’s under President LBJ to address the poverty gap in America had—by the time Vance was growing up in the 1970’s—already begun to bear rotten fruit.
This in the form of poor Americans who were dis-incentivized by government handouts (welfare checks) to take responsibility for their own lives. It was easier, he seems to reason, to go on the Government dime than to try and work hard and rise above it.
A familiar argument coming from the Right. He went on to say that these poor trailer dwellers were essentially lazy and pessimistic which is why it was so appealing to take the handout rather than work. And-a, oh yea, they’re “druggies” too. His label not mine. (Who, in the entire history of fuck says druggies?)
Anyway, some people will see this as a gross oversimplification of his book. I read the book, it’s not. Those people are lying because they share Vance’s ideology. In fact, it’s just the opposite. His weak argument, whored up with fuzzy anecdotal stories of growing up in Ohio, is, as they say in Punxsutawney, ‘about as deep as a flapjack.’
“A Street that was once the Pride of Middletown today serves as a meeting spot for druggies and dealers. Main Street is now the place you avoid after dark” Writes Vance.
A general malaise descended over the nation in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate and drew a pale over the country. America in the 70’s was divided between two main camps, depressed and high. The sun wouldn’t break through until Reagan’s wit and twinkling eye saved the country from suicide.
So, being politically minded and a student of history, thanks to my dad, and since I’m from this fairy-tale land of Appalachia (None of us call it that) and I am, genealogically speaking, a hillbilly, I started to examine this strange new interest into me and my people.
It seems all it took was for us to do the unexpected and suddenly everyone started to pay attention to us. The second we stopped voting democrat we became important. Take note my Black brethren.
What I learned was that Vance had struck a nerve with his book back in 2016. He was a favorite of the Right for a while afterwards and he also managed to draw fire from the lefties, admittedly that part’s no great accomplishment since they are offended by absolutely everything on earth.
So it was no surprise and even predictable when Elizabeth Catte came way outta Leftist field with her brilliantly titled “What you are getting wrong about Appalachia” in response to “Hillbilly” and somehow, in that annoying lefty pseudointellectual reverse reality, bizarro thing they all do, she found a way to transubstantiate Vance’s book about poor white people into a racist attack on poor other than white people. Like nobody saw that coming.
In an interview for New Republic, she was asked,” SJ: Why do you think Appalachia so quickly became a stand-in for Trump Country at large?” Her answer was, “…it was this narrative of economic anxiety. That’s what really compelled people (reporters) to come to Appalachia to find the most extreme form of poverty that they could imagine (Most extreme form of poverty, really? Compared to what?)—to make this narrative work, to say that these people who are supporting Donald Trump aren’t doing it because they’re racist.”
Academics call this nifty little trick sophistry; I call it lying. Even if it is unintended, which it’s not, the assertion that “They” meaning all the white people in 420 counties covering parts of 12 States and Commonwealths who voted for Donald Duck are racists, motivated by racism because they are obviously racist due to the racism that racism causes… is simply a load of contrived bullshit and I’m dizzy.
Liz employs the same superficial reductive argument as Vance does only her canard is good old fashioned, home-grown racism. Not that cheap imitation Chinese crap that gives out with the proper application of Franklins. No, we’re talking about eternally smoldering, systemic, biologically inherited, saying you’re not racist means you’re a racist… racism.
As American as Colin Kaepernick wearing a dress while eating an apple pie and kneeling during the National Anthem; then sauntering of the field to relieve himself in the wrong bathroom. These days every good liberal’s talking points is equipped with a nuclear “You’re a Racist!” bomb, and not much else.
Catte seems to be arguing that the narrative Trump and his Brown Shirts are pushing when they attribute the shift in loyalties among white working-class people to the hollowed out economy, loss of manufacturing and mining coal, is clearly a cover for wide spread racism.
Yes, we hillbillies don’t mind losing our jobs, losing our homes, watching our kids move away (like these two heroes did) and slowly drinking ourselves to death while our culture disintegrates all around us, but we will be damned if this creepy pant-suit waring spooky eyed white woman gets in the white house; which somehow means we’re all racists. BTW, who won Pennsylvania in 2012? Oh wait, that’s right, we hate Mormons too.
She goes on to argue that this narrative of cultural laziness and apathy regarding their own economic security, combined with the undermining effect of public welfare, (which is, of course, used exclusively to purchase drugs) is really just the Right’s opinion of poor Black communities in disguise.
In other words, Catte claims that what Vance is really saying is, if poor White people aren’t doing well because of welfare and laziness then Blacks aren’t victims of racism cause “lookie!” the poor Whites are suffering too. Meaning Blacks are creating their own problems not white people who, clearly are all racists.
Therefore, it follows that right leaning writers and journalists like Vance made their way to Appalachia not to do journalism, but rather to find stories to back up, according to Catte, this bullshit poor white people are suffering narrative. This, obviously, in an attempt to cover up the biblical truth that the real reason these poor white people Roseanne’d us was…all together now,
Because Hillary was a shitty candidate and an even shittier human being that even democrats couldn’t stand?
Oooo, close but NO! Can I have dead liberal horses for a thousand Alex? A daily double! And the question is, “What is Racism?!” Ding, ding, ding.
She’s not alone, on election night (and ever since) pundits on TV were weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth exclaiming, Whitelash! Which, in case you didn’t know, was their way of saying that because we had a Black man as President for 8 years all these White people voted for a White man because they’re are racists. You have YouTube, look it up.
Six hours earlier you were predicting Cruella would walk away with it. Now you’re convinced that these people, who voted for Barak “hide the white women” Obama, not once but twice, have suddenly become racist. Why? Because they refused to support the absolute worst candidate for president since who the fuck knows and decided in favor of the barely lesser of two obvious evils?
Isn’t it possible that because you idiots gave us a choice between Donald Fucking Trump and Bill’s Biggest Regret that we went with the guy who was most likely to burn this ridiculous system to the ground and had nothing to do with racism?
So, it was Whitelash. Except there were only white people in the race and one of them hated children and puppies and you know…sunlight, and the other one was Donald Trump. It wasn’t easy to vote for him. Many didn’t want too but, what the fuck, you didn’t really think we’re going to vote for that creepy hag-lady did you?
If Barak Hussein Obama had been on the democratic ticket in 2016, he would have won in a walk. BHO would’ve pimp-slapped that pumpkin headed jackass and everyone knows it. Trump knows it! So where’s the racism again? And can you guys on the left try and limit yourselves to one racist comeback at a time, please?
Racism can’t possibly be the reason for absolutely everything all the time. It’s just statistically impossible. I mean c’mon man. Obama never would ‘a won in the first place without all those white women voting for him! Ooooooo, sorry Michelle.
That was something Catte got right, Vance was preoccupied with Scotch-Irish white people. Not only did he not mention brown people, but he missed a bunch of others too. There were tons of Krauts, Pollocks, and Hunkies. I should know, I see them every year at the reunion.
So according to these two pompous pedantic white people, those living in Appalachia are either racist, or... congenitally lazy and high AF. Unless of course they were in the minority and voted for the wicked witch of the world in which case they were enlightened multicultural humanitarians.
My how the worm has turned. I hear the laughter of Black people. I suppose we deserve it, but Blacks are the only ones allowed to laugh at that. Certainly not these two pasty-ass white bread honkey-crrrackerrrs. (Hard R!)
Dear White people: stop defending Black people’s issues, it’s condescending, and you suck at it. Black people can handle their own business.
I can only assume the “Hillbillies” in Vance’s book and the “you’re” in the title of Catte’s book refer to each other because they sure as shit don’t know me. The problem with these books is that neither of them are sincere. The author’s primary interest is in ideology rather than philosophy.
They both make valid points, but only in the service of their goal which is not to inform or help, but rather to pursued and condemn. To begin to solve problems like poverty, poor education, economic development, or racism, we have to properly define the problem, something ideology can never do.
These two books were immediately dismissible on the basis of prejudice. Anyone who read them, without knowing in one chapter, that at the end of their wordy tricks, what they would conclude would support their respective political presuppositions, is just plain dumb… or lying.
Both of them claim to be writing thru the lens of life experience, which is not the kind of subjectivity I’m suggesting. What I mean is that in spite of, and often willfully ignoring evidence to the contrary, their writing will support an idea rather than the truth. The left will always tell one bullshit version of the story and the Right will tell another, and neither will be true.
We’re so used to lying in this country that often, we seem to neither consciously recognize when we are doing it nor, when we’re having it done to us. And the rest of the time we’re lying on purpose or content to be lied to. Ba-a-a-a-a. Americans no longer trust any of you, nor should they. CNN lies, FOX lies, and MSNBC is populated by some of the most annoying people on the planet.
Smug, sanctimonious, and full of shit. Somebody hit morning Joe in the face with a flat shovel. What is with your hair! What has that blond succubus done to you? Oh Joe, say it ain’t so… Remember the Scarborough Report, before he lost what was left of his mind?
When pondering the Presidential election it is worth noting the mindset of the academy as well as the proletariat. The answers to our problems as a society are somewhat more complicated than the talking heads on TV make them out to be, as are the solutions.
If we are going to have any chance as a society of fixing some of them we will need to educate ourselves on the issues, because those whose responsibility it traditionally was to educate the public are gone now. They have been replaced by the worst kind of people. Ideologs who will say and do anything for ratings, no matter what the consequences for the country.
Jefferson wrote, “…consent of the governed…” Would that he had written ‘Informed consent” We are at risk of becoming a nation of sheep. So vote in America’s elections, but take responsibility for your vote, don’t blindly believe what you are being told. Challenge the “facts” of the news media, lean on them. If they are sound you should not fear to test your own preconceptions. Look to your children, look them in they eyes and answer this. Would you rather win, or be right? They are not always the same thing.