Thanks to a fatal car crash on Interstate 70, I took a detour last week through Trump country. I equally commiserate with and loathe these people. Being ½ hillbilly myself, I’ve suppressed many comments at family gatherings about politics in general and Mr. Trump specifically. I realize that this makes me part of the problem but I like hanging out with my kin and not every single one of them is filled with nationalistic white pride.
My Mother’s Father was a mechanic, he owned a service station in a small Ohio town. My Dad’s Dad was a Welsh coal miner who settled in Cleveland. He wasn’t a hillbilly in the US but did have 15 kids, and that earns some whisky tango street cred for sure. Both Grandpa’s raised God fearing white kids who all grew up to value hard work. Congrats, Grandpas!
My dad’s family, due in part to their ridiculous numbers landed all over the socioeconomic map, from convicted murders to County Judges, my dad’s family produced it all. My mom’s family remained mostly steadfastly upwardly mobile. There is one noticeable trend, most of the people who stayed in small towns didn’t expand their world view too much. These are not “sitting in front of Fox news people”. These people are simply very involved with their families and not much else.
Not to disparage family time. In fact, I would rather go camping with these particular Hillbillies than anyone else. They can talk about gardening, and pop culture ,70’s rock and fishing. Some of my cousins like to travel and read books even!
My mom promoted reading a lot. She watched PBS shows and liked NPR and birdwatching. She also taught me that if we went on walks at night we could look into the neighbors homes and see what they had. She doesn’t mind that I read the New Yorker but there is a part of her that feels that I’m less than honest for subscribing. “Why are you reading that? You don’t live in New York.”
Hillbillies don’t like a few things, foreign cars, people who try to be different and anyone rising above their raising. After all if you really are smart, you would be rich. And if you’re rich, no way would you associate with dirty butt poor people. In my whole 49 years, I’ve never met a 1%er. So those hillbillies ain’t wrong about everything.
People who can live in the country or small towns really have my admiration just because they are doing something that I could never do. There is no way I could deal without a 24 hour Walgreens very close by at all times just in case I need anything. I want the beautiful anonymity that comes with having four McDonalds to choose where to get my iced coffee within a 5 mile radius. That’s right, I don’t go to no Starbucks.
I was able to get my McDonald’s Iced coffee in Trump land. There’s something almost cute about a Gadsden flag on a $40,000 house or a “Blame the Russians” sign on a gas station in rural Ohio. But it isn’t cute when you realize that these folks are serious.
The world really has changed since my Grandparents landed in Ohio. The manufacturing plants closed. Fracking companies are a legitimate source of income for some land owners. And now you can be rejected in high school by every gender combination. No wonder those Ohioans have an opioid crisis.
Still, there is no way in hell I’m engaging my families about Trump. I like their potato salad too much and they are the only people left on the planet who play pinochle. I’ll just tell my story like “hey, I’ve got a disabled kid who needs Medicaid” or “this Taqueria is way better than Taco Bell” and slowly they may change their minds about the world. Just to make sure, I’ll attach a lot of pictures.