We know who we are, and we are not what this election has turned us into. We grew up in hollers, close and tight with our extended families, where daylight perished around 5pm even in the summer, and where we can hear the dogs barking from the opposite hillside and the four-wheelers revving down on the road, and where Granny is always cooking enough food to feed an army. We care about our neighbors and help those with less than what we’ve got, even though we don’t have a lot ourselves.
It seems out of touch to be able to live in the same place for generations, have luxuries like four-wheelers, have food enough to feed an army, and then believe that you don’t have a lot. This cognitive dissonance likely lies at the heart of support for Trump.
Appalachia is about 84% white. Maybe they do care for their neighbors, or, more precisely, about 84% of their neighbors. But, they definitely don’t want new neighbors, especially if those neighbors speak a different language or look different. These honest country folk who “don’t have a lot” definitely don’t want to share one iota of what they have with a Syrian refugee who literally has nothing. No home, no family, nowhere to go, nothing to eat, and no hope.
This is why they vote for Trump, because they believe his walls and his Muslim bans and his white-power rhetoric are exactly what will let the next generation run up and down the same hillsides on their four-wheelers, because they absolutely do not care about those other neighbors.
They do not know or care that 3 billion people in the world are trying to survive off of less than $2.50/day, or that 80% of humanity lives on less than $10/day. They do not know what it really means to “not have much.” They do not know about the extreme exploitation of people across the globe that got that four-wheeler to them or that allowed Granny to cook up massive surpluses of food while millions elsewhere starve, and they don’t want to know. They would rather just blame China for stealing their jobs and vote for one of the guys who sent said jobs to China.
I ask you: is it really just fear? I think it is something more sinister than that. To quote one of the great prophets of our time, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” But, in most of the world, we’ve already reached suffering. We’re well past fear. Trump appeals through hate, not fear. I cannot romanticize Appalachia if it has produced the type of hate-mongers with whom Trump’s white power, us-vs-them message resonates.