In some ways the area seems so backwards; a guy with the legal name "Stingray", trashy houses and trailers all over. The closest mall is an hour drive. The only local entertainment is heading to walmart or the single screen movie theater.
Yet there's an intangible charm to the area. A beautiful landscape, an absolute kindness and compassion to even unknown strangers.
>I get the same kind of questions about addiction. People don’t understand what would push someone to drugs like methamphetamine or heroin. [...] That’s what every single addict I’ve ever known really wanted: just a second to breathe.
> Yet there's an intangible charm to the area. A beautiful landscape, an absolute kindness and compassion to even unknown strangers.
Perhaps when all you have is each other, not only are you "forced" to realize that you rely on each other, it allows you to rely on others and be relied on.
Modern suburbs and cities with their abundance of impersonal support allow us, maybe even force us, to be recluses in a crowd.
Being a major driver for people moving to cities, of course: you can't get what you want out in the sticks. Sometimes it's access to something concrete like a specific job or such, but other times it's because you don't "fit in" (e.g. you're gay in an intolerant area, or aren't interested in the local religion monopoly).
Hopefully those who stick around find it to their liking.
I've recently started spending a lot of time in a more rural part of California. I drive through areas that have "trashy houses" and "trailers", but as you mention there is also some very beautiful landscapes.
I've also found the people to be generally much nicer / kind to those they may not know than all my years in the Bay Area. But, the area does have it's warts as well.
Yes - rural people can be nice, helpful, friendly, wise, experienced, and unpretentious.
Rural people can also be short-sighted, rude, intolerant, gleefully embrace ignorance, and every bit as pretentious as a city-slicker.
This is because whether it's city, suburban, or rural, we're all still people. And here's the kicker: All things being equal, people are people, and some are jerks and others saints. But things AREN'T equal. I've lived in trailers, and I've owned a house - I can't tell you about your neighbors in those situations, but I can tell you about the areas.
I won't speculate the reasons here, but rural areas (more in the American South than other places I've been, but still in general) have more than their share of bitter, racist, sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, self-righteous people. This is demonstrable in a variety of statistical ways by look at different states/counties.
When reviewing the Voting Rights Act, Chief Justice Roberts asked "Is it the government's submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than the citizens in the North?". I've been there. It totally is. And the more rural, often the more racist (etc).
When you look at states where they are removing actual science from the textbooks, where are they? When you find the populations of people that want to "go with their gut" in the face of any evidence, where are they concentrated?
Of course, you can't paint with broad strokes - for me to condemn everyone in a low-population density area is just as wrong as calling them all saintly. There are many people, many towns, many areas, where what I'm talking about is less common than in many cities.
But my experience says the embrace of ignorance to be more likely there. I don't look down on someone for coming from or being in a rural area. I don't admire someone for coming to or being in a city. But the sort of "noble savage" picture that I'm seeing painted here utterly disregards the very real problems and social ills that many of these areas have.
Tell me your in/from a rural area and I don't care. Tell me you're poor, it doesn't impact my impression of your worth as a person. But don't be an asshat and surround yourself with other asshats and then complain about the reputation you're getting.
That's an interesting thought, but to be fair this is an issue with just about anyone.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103116...
The author isn't attempting to romanticize these people; he even goes so far as to call these people helpless. From the outside in, you have to wonder, why there is such an opioid epidemic in WV, why these people live in small dumpy metal boxes... The author's grandfather continued to love a woman who shot him. The author's father grew up in a one room shack afraid to fall asleep because rats would gnaw off his feet, was forced to hunt for survival at the age of five or six and eventually had to live with his Aunt. Despite that, his father would not talk ill about his father; he loved him.
The whole point is to help people from the outside looking in understand. It's easy to say these people are ignorant, these people are naive, but to fail to even see things from their perspective is just as bad as them failing to see things from yours.
Maybe you should read upon the Weimar republic- it seemed so open minded and avantgardist in the citys. But when the mood turned, the very avant-garde turned out to be the best turn-coats of them all, abandoning all they hold tear (except of there love for new tech) and leaving the other, the weak and the feeble hanging out to dry. If that situation would be mapped to valley today- the failing designer sitting in the office nearby- could be the next great chieftain, the marketing guy at the water cooler the next Goebbels. In a city, everyone is by default more separate and lonely, thus allowing for any -ism to grow rapidly once formed- into not only a disgusting ideology, but also a add-hoc family/community replacement, which is hysterically defended against any attempt to dissolve it with reason.
If you're saying they CAN be that way, then I agree, as I said in my post. Humans that suck are everywhere, and all of us have flaws. My point is that it's often (not always) WORSE in the rural areas.
OTOH, you didn't qualify your statement at all - you said they "are just two-faced [etc]" - and that sounds like someone ignoring all nuance to the issue.
In the countryside, people just dont switch there roles constantly on a hourly basis. You are who you are, with near no authority to punish you for saying what you think.
On your farm, you dont have to worry about your boss, your church, your neighbors, the street, the block and that shows.
So people say what they think, and everyone knows what it is and is not. You can actually, quite lively debate, racism with a racist (Recommend reading Jared Diamond and lots of history books ahead).
I know some people living in citys, and you can bet all you got that these, while today singing liberal Songs, when they would hear the mob yell for a stake, would look at all the others, and if they sees a majority, put all there former friends on a serving wagon. In your face racism and hypocrisy much preferred thank you. That way it can be addressed.
One of the things i also noticed is, that some countryside personal - in particular truckers, turn into deep thinkers, philosophers even. Routine either dumbs you down or sends the mind for a walk.
Finally, to put some perspective to the first statement- in some city's (Berlin e.g.), the neighborhoods begin to form what is basically small villages again, with the towns drunk, the village schizo and everyone looking out for one another. Such things are awesome- and very rural.
Take any high-tech city like Boston, San Jose, Mountain View, Seattle, and so on. Check what percentage of blacks work alongside whites. Now do the same in a place like Greensboro, NC or Petersburg, VA. Tell me which is more integrated.
It was an interesting read, and showed that there is some value into looking at the specifics of people's prejudices.
My google-fu didn't find anything that felt like it was the article I read, but it did turn up a few articles on the same basic topic. Here's one: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/clive-bundy-the-spanis...
This stuck out to me the most in the white people being racist towards black people, in GA the white black split is 60.8 to 30.6, whereas in Washington it is 78.7 to 3.5.
But here's one anecdote to demonstrate what I'm talking about: My wife grew up in Hampton, VA, and when she was a teenager they painted over the "whites only" signs at the community pool. The rule hadn't been enforced in a long time, but everyone was fine with it being there. A generation+ was raised with a glaring symbol that some people were considered lesser, and being told that it's no big deal. Her grandmother once wandered a store for 15 mins trying to find a black employee to get something down off a shelf, rather than have any of the white employees do manual labor. (And yes, my grandparents had a lot of overt racism too...but they learned to tone it down whereas her grandmother didn't). Her father had views that are reprehensible and would sound a bit harsh coming from a KKK member. The stories about sexism are less horrifying, but far from good.
Racism is everywhere, racism is bad. But if we want to improve things, we can't pretend that everyone is equally racist - we need to acknowledge and try to correct. The reason I have hope for humanity is not that we're perfect, or even good, but that we RECOGNIZE these behaviors as bad. Slavery? Still happens, including in affluent nations, but we consider it a wrong, which is a necessary first step to getting rid of it. Ditto racism, sexism, homophobia, etc - the human species has a lot of work to do, but we've made progress. I don't want to lose that because people ignore the higher rates of overt and blatant racism in ANY area by saying "well, it's true other places too". That's false equivilancy.
I agree that there is still large amounts of overt racism in the south that affects many people.
Racism, sexism, etc are absolutely everywhere, but that doesn't mean they are there at the same rates, and ignoring that won't help us make it any better.
It was fun to visit for a day, but a relief to go home to my safe residential neighborhood a few hours later.
It is easy to see how the trailer park environment affected the kids who had to grow up there. Child abuse of all varieties was common. This, in turn, fostered violent and irrational outbursts from the males and promiscuity in the females. I remember that there were mattresses strewn about in the woods surrounding the trailer park, and an informal scheduling process for semi-private use.
You, of course, can't apply the generalization of my anecdotal experience to every trailer park or to every family living in a specific trailer park. That said, I think that the article is a little too idyllic. There seems to be a much higher concentration of social problems - domestic disputes, child abuse, substance abuse - in trailer parks than in the surrounding areas.
I think the mindset speaks to exactly the sort hubris that could most directly threaten our species.
But if you're broken down by the side of the road, or your car gets stuck in the ditch, they're some of the first people who'll stop and help you out.
I was picked up by a wonderful family in a falling-apart station wagon, the little kids looked at me with big eyes and the mom was very kind but seemed to be hiding her bad teeth. I thanked them for the help and the dad said it was fine, he knew that nobody wants to stop to help out. It was true - all the nice cars just drove by.
I spent my first 5 years of life there.
Never knew anything was wrong with it until people who've never been to one told me.
Ah, to be a child...
As a five year old, that was cool.
They have cars, and a place of shelter that they own. They have family. I scrape by paying rent and put food on the plate, and ride a bicycle to work every day. I still can't afford to learn to drive. Parents won't support me, although I spend 3 months of savings to buy a plane ticket to see them each year, using the 8 days of holiday I'm offered. Most of my friends and colleagues earn half of what I do. The idea that someone could earn 30,000 USD in Alaska in only a few months sounds unbelievable to me. The trailer lifestyle would be an upgrade from working for a tech company in Asia.
I grew up with/near rural people, and will probably retire to the country, and I'll tell you four anecdotes that are genuinely specifically rural, although not necessarily poor:
1) Rural folk understand balance sheet vs income statement like urbanites don't. There are a lot of people who suffer from being land poor, where they own the land but struggle to finance day to day operations on and for that land. Life can be complicated when your septic tank breaks and all you have for income is SS and it would take 15 years of SS payments to pay someone else for a new septic system even if you had no other expenses for those 15 years ... also consider prop tax for example. If you own the land there is no building superintendent and the closest urban contractor is a 2 hour truck charge drive away, so you make do as best you and your neighbors can. There's a lot of rural paper millionaires who can't afford to fix their rusty truck.
2) Rural folk, unless they live in the upper midwest and therefore speak newscaster English accent, are generally not terribly interested in your opinion of their accent or the stereotype you think it implies. You think you're holier than thou because you're not from rural Louisiana, how nice, but sorry we don't care at all. Sort of like the stereotype of poorly socialized rural folk trying to save your soul, that's how we look at poorly socialized urbanites trying to "save us" from the wilderness that is our home. How cute, you came here to tell us we're doing it wrong, that's so funny, come back when you grow up.
3) Some rural folk are very lonely because you have to spend a significant amount of money on gas to drive a couple dozen miles to do anything. The phone is nice, but as you know a fraction of the population has an uncontrollable urge for physical presence. Those folks, especially the old ones, have a rough time, especially when their local peers die off and they literally can't afford to visit whoever is left. There is a filtration effect such that the survivors are the type who can be alone without being lonely, but as its a spectrum there will be lonely people, although not as many as if urbanites were air dropped into the wilderness. Almost stereotypical for a new teen driver, who's parents can afford it, to be assigned to drive old uncle whatshisname all over the place. Unlike urbanites this leads to rural youth learning much younger that old people have wisdom, or at least respectably interesting stories.
4) Rural areas are beautiful. Urbanites don't understand because they live without beauty, somehow. No one ever daydreamed about seeing the grease trap at McDonalds back by the overflowing dumpster on a crisp winter morning. Or watching the daily migration of the homeless as the wind blows trash past them down the street. Or inhaling diesel bus fumes on a hot summer afternoon. Living in beauty is in itself an addiction that is hard to shake, hard as a chemical addiction, leaving urbanites very confused about why ruralites don't want to move into town and live in a nice gray soviet style apartment building where they can't even see the sun and the closest green plant is miles away. Sorta like asking, "so... why not just stop shooting heroin" its not quite that simple to break an addiction... If you live essentially in a national park your whole life its very difficult to get people like that to leave.
I have one pointer: please don't condescend to "urbanites".
> You think you're holier than thou because you're not from rural Louisiana, how nice, but sorry we don't care at all.
You've internalized how some people have spoken to your relatives or you. The vast majority of non-rural people you have spoken to don't do this. Don't lump them in with that behavior. This anecdote is only meaningful to the most bigoted anti-country-folk person.
> Unlike urbanites this leads to rural youth learning much younger that old people have wisdom, or at least respectably interesting stories.
Again, there's no reason to believe that kids in Brooklyn or Staten Island that spent time with their grandma or uncle while their mom was at work don't appreciate the elderly. I think you have an idea of city folk that is shaped by young, unattached 20-somethings or upper-income transplant families without extended family. I don't think that's representative of cities made of mostly different people. You may have surrounded yourself in a bubble during your time in the city.
> Urbanites don't understand because they live without beauty, somehow. No one ever daydreamed about seeing the grease trap at McDonalds back by the overflowing dumpster on a crisp winter morning. Or watching the daily migration of the homeless as the wind blows trash past them down the street. Or inhaling diesel bus fumes on a hot summer afternoon.
This is where you go for crass insults. Sure, it's easy to find ugly places in a city. It's harder to find them in the country. But to claim that city folk just love Soviet architecture and don't appreciate green plants is just absurd. You can't deny that looking at a skyline from a distance is beautiful. You can't deny that most cities do incorporate greenery in their planning, that almost all have a picturesque river/lake/ocean view.
I would rather live in a rural area with space to breathe and unspoiled beauty. I think the rest of your post illustrated your point pretty well.
I live on a small farm, on a hilltop with an amazing view. After 10+ years, I barely ever notice the view unless it's something spectacular like sundogs on a clear, -10F morning, or the sun rising above a blanket of early summer fog. I only think about the location when the howling winter wind keeps us awake for hours or the hail batters the roof and windows during a summer thunderstorm.
But vistors see it differently. The first comment after walking in the front door and facing the big window is "your view is beautiful."
Even though I rarely notice it, I know I'm so addicted to the casual natural beauty around me that I could never leave. It's kind of a scary thought that I can probably never be happy living in a city again.
The other thing that I miss dearly is being able to see the stars. You can't get away from the ever-present orange street light haze around here, and it never actually gets dark. There's nothing like those cold, cold, clear still nights in the middle of the winter, with the moonlight on the snow and a Milky Way that you can actually see.
I don't have much experience with the southern rural culture, and maybe that's really what you're addressing, but I feel it's as part of your post implies: everything is on a spectrum.
SF from Twin Peaks is pretty nice, too. And I rather like midtown Manhattan on that one approach to LGA that takes one up the east river at just a few thousand feet, especially at night when all the lights are on. You can actually see Times Square in 3d binocular stereo.
What's alarming, to me, is that many of those same friends are back in trailer parks, or slumlord-run apartments, today. The trend today is pushing people down and out of the middle class and back into poverty. Poor folks could scrabble their way out of poverty through the 70s to early 90s, even though we don't regard all of that time as a "good economy", my recollection was that the average family was coming up, rather than falling down. That doesn't seem to be working anymore.
The numbers seem to agree with this: the American middle class is shrinking. Some are climbing up into the upper class, but I suspect that's mostly people who never knew poverty. I think past poverty has a gravity that pulls folks back down, if anything goes awry.
Health problems have been a leading indicator among my old friends. When people get sick in America, it can be an economic disaster. Less so with ACA, but it's still too much if you're barely hanging onto your house, your car, etc.
I live in RV parks quite a bit these days, as I live in an RV and travel kinda full-time (in a leisurely manner, after many years of constant travel), and I meet a lot of people who are "choosing" to live a more minimal lifestyle in an RV. But, the reality is, they often don't have the option to live in a house; at least not one they own. The Tiny House movement seems to be a lot of the same: people who can't afford a traditional suburban home, but still have dreams of home ownership. I see the Tiny House "movement" being criticized a lot as "fetishizing poverty", but I think that misses the point that a lot of the people choosing to live in Tiny Houses aren't fetishizing being poor...they're just poor. They come from middle class backgrounds, so people just don't recognize it as poverty.
I worry that the economic divide in the US is a disaster waiting to happen for the country as a whole, but it's already causing significant pain among the people who come from a poor background and don't have family safety net to help lift them back up, when things go wrong. They just keep falling, and trailer parks, RV parks, slumlord-run apartments, etc., is where they end up. And, getting back out again is harder than it's been in a long time.
One other thing I'd add is for a lot of these ppl the "expenses breakdown" is different from the typical suburban population. They don't place too much emphasis on the actual house being up to par with their "class" - but if you'd add up all the "toys" they own and spend significant sums of cash on - GUNS, ATVs, tractors, snowmobiles, boats, bikes, GUNS, hunting and fishing gear, GUNS etc - if you add all this up we're talking being able to afford a much better house.
I'm curious why the emphasis on guns... Have you looked at the relative prices of these "toys"? You can buy a helluva an arsenal for the price of one ATV or tractor or snowmobile or boat or motorcycle. Shooting shit is actually one of the cheaper recreational pastimes in rural areas, especially now that the run on .22 LR ammunition is pretty much over.
And they do add up - an "average" household from the likes I'm talking about would typically have 2-3 diff caliber hunting rifles, maybe a bow, a 12 and a 20 shotgun, a 22 (typically one per member of the household - rugers for the kids, henrys for the grown ups :) ), not always but almost always an AR or Mini14 or an AK.
Then there are the handguns - there would be at least one but most of the time there would be an assortment - a 9mil, something more high powered like a 40 cal glock or a .357 revolver, maybe a Kimber 1911 but that one is optional :)
All of that adds up, especially with ammo. Which, after the shortages few years back ppl are still stocking up. Not like they used to, but more like - go buy a fishing lure and if the price is right pick up $100+ worth of ammo.
But, the folks I'm speaking of don't own the land their house is parked on, even if they own the house itself. It's a difference of degree rather than kind, I guess, but a pretty big one nonetheless.