Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Addendum: Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy

I haven't done this before but I wanted to offer an addendum to my recent book review of J.D. Vance's book Hillbilly Elegy.

In reading my review, Vance's book and the reviews of others you might come away with a completely pessimistic and negative view of these people we call hillbillies, sitting in their "hollers", complaining about the tough hand life has dealt them and shooting heroin. There is a lot of that. There are also some very real cow patty sammiches that they have been served outside of their own control.

Many blue collar jobs have been shipped overseas. Many industries and companies have been given preferential treatment because of political contributions. In many ways the game has been rigged against them. Union bosses have gotten rich pushing destructive demands on companies that just encourage them to take their jobs elsewhere. The Republican party has been raking in their votes with empty promises that are set aside as soon as they get in office. Working class people in Youngstown, Ohio are not really all that concerned about lowering the capital gains rate, which is a worthwhile idea, they just want their kids to be able to get jobs in their own home town. By insisting that every kid go a a four year college instead of encouraging them to consider trade schools, our society has created a brain drain where kids who can make it at a university leave and don't come back and those that can't are left looking for jobs at Taco Bell. Right or wrong they see a government that ignores them in favor of other people in poverty while cultural elites on the coasts sneer and look down their noses at the only subculture one is allowed to make fun of, accusing them of inherent racism and "white privilege" which sounds pretty laughable to a kid growing up in one of the homes described in Hillbilly Elegy.

None of that excuses the loser who knocks up a girl and then either sits on the couch while she works two jobs to support them or just flat out leaves. What it does mean is that there are real issues that are out of the control of a lot of these people, or at least they have been convinced is out of their control, and hopelessness is a lot easier to deal with when you are abusing prescription drugs or smoking pot. What J.D. Vance does so well in this book is take this entire population out of the shadows and the cliches and expose them as real people. If nothing else he deserves kudos for that.

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