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On defending Trump voters...
When a rich dude is telling you to hate a poor dude, you know he’s scared of both of you getting together.
Words from John
I’d like to issue a correction. In my fundraising zealotry, I asserted that funds will be raised twice per month when I meant to say every other month.
Don’t worry, the three-day inundation of fundraising emails where I prostrate myself for your dollar to keep these internet missives alive will occur on a less frequent basis than you may have been led to believe.
Speaking of fundraising, it went really well. Twenty-eight souls became sustaining members of The Holler last week and we crossed 5,000 members total. I am *so* horny about this. Thank you so much.
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P.S. Thanks to the paid subscribers, I’m able to travel to Akron, OH on Monday to cover a looming teacher’s strike. Stay tuned.
Race and Politics in an Appalachian Dive Bar
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One of the satisfying things about being a leftist dive bartender in Appalachia is that you get a perspective on politics from working here that you might not have because you can look at the national news and pretty easily conclude that 80 million, plus or minus a few people, are in their house plotting to... end... people that don't look like them.
Then you work in here and interact with members of those 80 million and realize that they're just people who are very quick to fight over small stupid things and have really bad information about politics. You know, you can be smart and have bad information.
So it's easy to look at my town and bar from the outside and be like, "if I go in there as a non-white person, I may be murdered" and you might be murdered! But it won't be for like... who you are (probably, hopefully). It will be for looking at someone for too long. Ya know?
Anytime you come within a hair’s breadth of defending people that voted for Donald Trump, you’re sure to get blowback. Most of it is in good faith and warranted. Racism has no defense or excuse.
There’s an important distinction to be made about where the racism comes from. Racism from decades of ignorance is different than that from calculated hate. Each requires a different response. Let’s say… political education for the former and a grave for the latter.
The Ohio Valley (eastern Ohio, western West Virginia), where I grew up, has suffered decades of political and economic neglect. It was hard to tell when the 2008 recession hit because folks around here had been living in recession since the steel mills closed in the eighties.
Political elites that engineered economic trauma here (read NAFTA) were quick to pin blame on the usual scapegoats - immigrants, welfare queens, blue-haired college students, etc.
Fast-forward thirty years and the Valley congressional district (OH-6) stands alone for moving the farthest right in the shortest amount of time.
What else would you expect? Political elites thrust families into generational poverty that’s festered for decades now. Billionaires constructed a right-wing propaganda network that’s 24/7 on every device. The opposition party retreated to upwardly mobile suburbs a long, long time ago. Pain and anger from generational poverty is grist for the right-wing media mill that’s been spinning it into toxic yarn, unopposed, for four decades.
Most people have an arm’s length familiarity with politics at best. It’s no surprise, to me at least, that they cast their lot with the only game in town. And right now, out here, the only game in town is the right-wing clown show. To be anything else is to stick out like an erection in sweatpants. The social proof is strong.
But the class consciousness of the West Virginia mine wars that united miners of all races in the early 1900s exists just below the surface today. That same class consciousness is why this area was a stronghold for union working-class Democrats for years. To win an election here today, you must have an R by your name. Not so long ago it was reversed.
You’ll notice a funny thing in my bar. All kinds drink here. Black, white, and transgender. Most people get along fine. The fights are about other stuff. You can bank on it being stupid and trivial.
When race enters the political conversation, there’s a common denominator. Someone will say “I don’t have a problem with [insert race or gender] around here, it’s everyone else in [insert location]…” I heard the same thing when I was organizing in Iowa meat-packing communities. White conservatives would be outraged at the deportation of someone they knew personally. It wasn’t them they had a problem with, it was everyone else on TV - aka boogeymen fabricated by right-wing media for political gain.
That kind of racism can only exist in a culture of ignorance. The ignorance must be removed before it metastasizes anymore. That can only be done by political education and class consciousness.
But I don’t say this heady shit in the bar. It’s usually something like “when a rich dude is telling you to hate a poor dude, you know he’s scared of both of you getting together.” I’m glad to say that still sells around here.