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December 20, 2014

The White Ghetto

Driving through these hills and hollows,
you aren’t in the Appalachia of Elmore Leonard’s Justified or squatting with Lyndon Johnson on Tom Fletcher’s front porch in Martin County, a scene famously photographed by Walter Bennett of Time, the image that launched the so-called War on Poverty. The music isn’t “Shady Grove,” it’s Kanye West. There is still coal mining — which, at $25 an hour or more, provides one of the more desirable occupations outside of government work — but the jobs are moving west, and Harlan County, like many coal-country communities, has lost nearly half of its population over the past 30 years.
There is here a strain of fervid and sometimes apocalyptic Christianity, and visions of the Rapture must have a certain appeal for people who already have been left behind. Like its black urban counterparts, the Big White Ghetto suffers from a whole trainload of social problems, but the most significant among them may be adverse selection: Those who have the required work skills, the academic ability, or the simple desperate native enterprising grit to do so get the hell out as fast as they can, and they have been doing that for decades. As they go, businesses disappear, institutions fall into decline, social networks erode, and there is little or nothing left over for those who remain. It’s a classic economic death spiral: The quality of the available jobs is not enough to keep good workers, and the quality of the available workers is not enough to attract good jobs. These little towns located at remote wide spots in helical mountain roads are hard enough to get to if you have a good reason to be here. If you don’t have a good reason, you aren’t going to think of one.
-- Kevin Williamson, National Review Online

Posted by gerardvanderleun at December 20, 2014 10:34 AM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

"These little towns located at remote wide spots in helical mountain roads are hard enough to get to if you have a good reason to be here. If you don’t have a good reason, you aren’t going to think of one. "

Back in the early '70's while working as a photojournalist, I traveled all over the country making photos of just about everything. Those last two sentences are so true. If you didn't have a good reason for being up in the hills of eastern Kentucky you had a fair to middlin' chance of getting shot. I used to rent cars from another southern state and bought clothes from stores down that way.

Posted by: Vermont Woodchuck [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2014 11:31 AM

The Appalachian Redoubt will still be standing, in fact won't even stumble when the rest of our country comes unglued.

We have areas like that down around my place, Borderland and miles of desert. Native Americans and Hispanics living there don't like strangers. You have to know someone who will vouch for you if you want to roam around there. I do and I have done.

Posted by: chasmatic [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2014 10:37 PM

This guy Williamson is a screenwriter of schlock movies. He exploits Appalachia by repeating every cliché and half-truth he can get. He's never lived there so he doesn't know what he's talking about. He may be right about one thing: he wouldn't last long talking like a sausage.

When the more "developed" population groups are reduced to mobs and famine, riots and thuggery, the residents of Appalachia will be getting along just fine, business as usual. When the lights go off all across the nation and the oil runs out the country folk will get along OK. This goes for regions other than Appalachia. There are a lot of folks like them in different parts of the country. People that live a daily life, very well if I do say, without connection to the outside world. They have what all the doomers and preppers are scrambling to get and hoard. They can gather and prepare and can most anything without electricity or even running water. Not to say they live in primitive conditions but they are able to at a moment's notice.

Who are the dumb ones here?

Posted by: chasmatic [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 21, 2014 7:33 PM

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