J.D. Vance

Where even God doesn't help: The Washington Post chronicles the despair of rural poor

Where even God doesn't help: The Washington Post chronicles the despair of rural poor

After President Donald Trump’s victory last year, not a few journalists traveled to the hinterland to find out just where were those disenchanted white folks who voted Republican. Who were these people and was it possible to get inside their heads?

The Washington Post has come out with three lengthy pieces about these folks, one of which was set in Grundy, Va., a town I stayed in six years ago when I was researching serpent-handling Pentecostals (which also ran in the Post). This section of Appalachia is where a lot of these believers live. The photo with this story is one I took in a town in Tazewell County, Va., just down the road from Grundy and where one in six working-age residents are on disability.

Would this series, I wondered, mention the faith that sustains many of these residents, who have little else in life to live for? The answer, I found, was yes and no.

The first part of the series, set in Alabama, focused on the stunning percentage of adults who are on disability across the country.

Across large swaths of the country, disability has become a force that has reshaped scores of mostly white, almost exclusively rural communities, where as many as one-third of working-age adults live on monthly disability checks, according to a Washington Post analysis of Social Security Administration statistics…
The decision to apply, in many cases, is a decision to effectively abandon working altogether. For the severely disabled, this choice is, in essence, made for them. But for others, it’s murkier. Aches accumulate. Years pile up. Job prospects diminish.

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Who penned this satire gem? Democrats in U.S. Senate or editors at The Politico?

Who penned this satire gem? Democrats in U.S. Senate or editors at The Politico?

All of us have social-media buttons that our friends know how to push to get us to click this or that link, to forward this or that item, to pull out of our email haze and to PAY ATTENTION.

For me, one of the most magic phrases in the world is "Not The Onion." This is especially true when the item is sent by GetReligion co-founder Doug LeBlanc, whose sense of humor has a similar laugh-to-keep-from-crying twist as my own.

But in this case, when I saw the headline, I had my doubts.

This was supposed to be a short story from The Politico. But the whole tone of the thing was just so dry and understated and, well, surreal. How could this not be from The Onion or even the Babylon Bee?

Are you ready? Here is what has to be the first nomination for the Not The Onion headline of 2017:

Democrats hold lessons on how to talk to real people

Alas, there is no second line to this masterpiece of a headline. After all, it would be hard to top the excellence of that first line.

I also liked the fact that the story was so short and that it ignored so many obvious "real people" topics. Yes, like religion and culture. It was like no one in the room had ever even heard of books such as "What's the Matter with Kansas?" or "Hillbilly Elegy."

Once again, life is all about politics and money and that is that. Here is the brilliantly boring opening of the piece:

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