“. . . Many of my pro-Trump neighbors are frustrated and angry, but they are not naïve. They bear a hard-earned sophistication regarding the reliability of political promises. Federal subsidies have kept a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, but they are no substitute for good jobs. Ignoring or eliminating environmental and workplace safety regulations and suppressing taxes on the corporations that own the minerals and run the companies have not created prosperity for the bulk of the community, either.
Sexism and racism have played a significant role in the voting habits of some of my neighbors. So has anger. So have conservative religious beliefs. But that isn’t just in Appalachia. That’s what’s happened in America. As a nation, we are capable of great violence against those we have discounted, disagree with or feel we can afford to ignore. It is very discouraging when we do. It is painful.
What pains me and many of my neighbors in the mountains the most are divisive political posturing and partisan wrangling divorced from the realities of our economic struggles. Between the coal economy crash in 2012 and Mr. Trump’s election in 2016, coalfield communities began to look for economic life after coal. We began to look at our other assets and what else our people might do. We still are looking, but that is more difficult to do when we are pitted against one another.
We all crave honorable work at a living wage. We want success tied to the success of the community. We want to be safe. We are weary of fear. We are exhausted by hate. We in Appalachia join our fellow Americans in asking: Who will encourage our best selves? Who will enable our joy? Who will release the energy hiding in our hearts?”
Robert Gipe is the author of the novel “Weedeater” and a contributor to “Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to ‘Hillbilly Elegy.’”