My son has recently completed the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail from New Mexico to Canada, a walking trip of over 4,000 kilometres and spent over 4 months in the United States. He and I share a fascination with US Politics and both have been completely nonplussed by the rise of Donald Trump and his win in the Presidential race two years ago.
He recommended this book to me as one that goes some way to explain the disillusionment of the working poor with the Democrats and why they flocked to Donald Trump’s camp.
J. D. Vance grew up in Middletown Ohio, in a hillbilly family with drug addiction, alcoholism and violence as constants in his family life. His father was gone and his mother was erratic and neglectful and there was a tribal nature to his community – you aligned your behaviour (violence is an accepted and expected response and the only way to garner respect) or you were not accepted. Choice was what other people had and were not seen to figure in the outcomes life threw at you. His memoir is about escaping Middletown but also going someway to explaining why working class white poor families voted for Trump in their droves. Why do they feel left out of the American dream, what knowledge, networks, education and finally individual responsibility and choices play in anyone’s ability to succeed?
This is a memoir, a commentary on dysfunctional families and resilience, and a political commentary for the US. It is fascinating, worrying and points out ways in which improvements could be made based on his own choices and how having a constant in his grandparents were key to his success.
Well worth your time to read to gain a greater understanding of the global swing to the right of politics by those affected the most by automation and globalisation.
Also available as a downloadable audiobook: