Friday, August 5, 2016

White Trash

Bern and I lived in a trailer for a year or so when I left Harvard and found out I couldn't teach school in Morgantown, WV because of my long hair and beard. We were on foodstamps for a year or so too. My grandmother and aunt lived in trailers for years. Grandmaw got commodity cheese and other things from the Welfare Department. But it was in my aunt Georgie's trailer that my cousin Mejol locked me in her room with a Bob Dylan album and a copy of Catcher in the Rye and wouldn't let me out until I'd absorbed them both.

When I was at Harvard Divinity School (paid for by the Rockerfellow foundation) I discovered that the more "Appalachian hick" I sounded, the more people thought I was brilliant.

I am, for the most part, 'white trash'. My mother and two of her sisters had college degrees. My Aunt Elsie even, God bless her, had a Ph.D. before she was finished. But I was in the first generation of my father's family to go to college.

Hard working people on the Jones and Bradley side. Decent and kind. But what would be called, today, 'white trash'.

There's a new book out about my social class. It even has the words "white trash" in the sub-title. I hope to get it and read it soon.

I live in Connecticut, for Christ's sake, but I still know my roots. I know my blood comes from Appalachia, deep in the mountains, far from the main-stream, for from the madding crowds, far from the elite.

I come from that strata of America that Donald Trump has found and fueled their anger.

And I don't understand because I left West Virginia before "Coal as King" was no more and heroin was nothing more than a female hero.

I got out. Many didn't.

I've been back to see how tragically life has left so many behind.

They are Trump People.

They have no hope. They weren't one of the lucky ones like me.

"White trash" isn't a negative term to me. I embrace it. And I long to embrace my brothers and sisters left behind whose anger drive them to Trump.

I want to give them another path. And I don't know how.

I know their anger and despair. It is not mine.

And my greatest pain is not knowing how to welcome them into the America I know.

They are not there. And Trump will not lead them there. And they should, ought to be, deserve to be there with me.

They do.

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.