“In the Land of Self-Defeat,” is a telling narrative of a rural community in Arkansas that is likely not that dissimilar from other eroding rural communities in America. The author, Monica Potts, a native of the Arkansas community about which she writes, connects the dots of a people who have lost all but the thinnest shred of hope to their overwhelming support of the man who lost the popular vote by three-million and still somehow ended up in the White House.
The story and its granular detail are gripping, as we see a people who largely have seen much better times in the past in industries that are now dramatically diminished. Think manufacturing, coal. These industries at one time provided a livelihood for individuals who had limited education, thus limited options. Some in these communities wanted a different way, so they sought a better education and left for cities. Meanwhile, this particular Arkansas community was then left with inordinately high rates of under-employment, substance abuse and ill health. Into this mix of a defeated people, enters a petulant “born with silver spoon in mouth” child who is, for whatever reason, bitter and angry and afraid of that which is unfamiliar to him. Rural America, with huge older white majorities, thus found their vehicle to vent. Of course, and unfortunately so, this regressive and reactionary approach to the world of 2019 seeds even more destruction in their own communities. It has produced an environment where every man for himself is quite acceptable, even though it has produced close to a catastrophic implosion of the community they once knew.
Rural America’s bunker mentality is understandable in emotional and spiritual terms. Their lives are in pain and in despair. But this Rural America, by itself, would never have been enough to have the bankruptcy expert lose by just three-million votes. No, there had to be a large number of other whites who voted similarly.
Anecdotally, I am always taken aback by upper middle class and wealthy white males who somehow feel aggrieved in a country that has provided so much to them. Their myopia doesn’t allow them to see how many obstacles have systemically been put in the way of their fellow Americans. So, yes, these wealthy white males can take pride in their accomplishments. But it certainly should be tempered by humility and gratitude. But too many times it is accompanied by a callousness toward others. No better example of this is their support of an individual who consistently rips innocent people apart, both by (untruthful) word and action. By placing tribal riches beyond that of common decency, these wealthy white males have proven to be the cancer on the Constitution and the essential DNA of America.
In time, the shifting demographics of the country will cripple the over-sized power this malignant group holds today. That said, so much of the country’s DNA has been mocked and degraded over the past three years, there is no guarantee it will necessarily ever be restored. Quite the legacy.