By: J. D. Vance
Harper (June 28, 2016)
Few make it out of extreme poverty and bad situations. J.D. Vance did. Whether it was luck, the right influences at the right time, or what, Vance made it all the way to the military, college, and then Yale Law School. The problem is that the working class white culture of Appalachia that he left behind is still there, and there are no easy fixes to the cultural issues that plague it. Through his own story, Vance lets us observe first hand the problems on both a macro and micro level.
Two of my favorite quotes:
“I couldn’t believe that mild-mannered Papaw, whom I adored as a child, was such a violent drunk. His behavior was due at least partly to Mamaw’s disposition. She was a violent nondrunk.”
“As a culture, we had no heroes. Certainly not any politician—Barack Obama was then the most admired man in America (and likely still is), but even when the country was enraptured by his rise, most Middletonians viewed him suspiciously. George W. Bush had few fans in 2008. Many loved Bill Clinton, but many more saw him as the symbol of American moral decay, and Ronald Reagan was long dead. We loved the military but had no George S. Patton figure in the modern army. I doubt my neighbors could even name a high-ranking military officer. The space program, long a source of pride, had gone the way of the dodo, and with it the celebrity astronauts. Nothing united us with the core fabric of American society. We felt trapped in two seemingly unwinnable wars, in which a disproportionate share of the fighters came from our neighborhood, and in an economy that failed to deliver the most basic promise of the American Dream—a steady wage.”