I realize I still need to wrap this series up and tie it all together. I need a coda, if you will. First, I will briefly summarize the whole series of columns, distilling it down into a single paragraph.
From the beginning of the Modern Era (which historians identify as the 16th century), which was also the beginning of a global economy with the discovery (by Europeans) of the New World, efforts have been made by the “big shots” to force the poor and working classes out of any semblance of self-sufficiency and make them, instead, part of the economic system. Their role in that system, assigned by the people making the rules, has been to become laborers, working as hard as they can be made to work for as little payment as possible. This has often been done by making sure hunger and want run rampant among them, so they have to scramble to stay alive. Any efforts to maintain autonomy in the face of that economic system, such as by Native Americans or rural Appalachians, has led to such groups being “othered” and dispossessed, ostensibly “for their own good.” Racism has long been a tool, as well, pitting the poor and working classes against each other to prevent them from uniting to seek their mutual benefit. I gave several examples, from the Rainbow Coalition to indigenous culture, to demonstrate that unity CAN be achieved, and can work, which is why the powers-that-be try so hard to prevent it.
I have acknowledged that the Democratic Party has its issues. One of which, in my opinion, is that they are way too attached to Wall Street. But that does not mean they are “just as bad” as the modern Republican Party (which has spiraled way downward from what it used to be). That is a false equivalency. The GOP stokes up the fears of its base, to the point of paranoia (ratcheted into overdrive by the administration of Donald Trump). Distracting white poor, working class, and middle-class voters with horror stories about black people, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and “wokeness,” they seek - just like the Civil War-era plantation owners - to solidify their own power and privilege by hoodwinking that white working class into fighting for them, when they would discard them in a heartbeat once they no longer needed them. That has been clearly demonstrated. And it is especially true of the South and Appalachia. Have you not seen the way Trump and his ilk have talked down to and made fun of you out one side of their mouths, even as they stroke your egos out the other?
Studies have shown - and those paying attention are not surprised to learn - that trickle-down economics does not work. It never has worked. By the way, in the 19th century it was known as the horse-and-sparrow theory - don’t waste time feeding sparrows, give all the seed to your horse and the sparrows can pick out what they need to survive from his poop. Yet people still believe it when conservative politicians tell them “lower taxes on the rich, and you will all benefit!” We know who benefits - and that’s what it is all about. History shows that, over the past century, when taxes on the wealthy were at their highest, the middle and working classes prospered the most because income inequality was leveled. All the smoke-and-mirrors around “wokeness” and social issues serve only to stir up the base… to elect politicians who will lower taxes on the rich (even more) and lessen regulations on businesses, and make things even harder for the working class. If you know your Shakespeare, it is the voice of Iago, manipulating you to your downfall (“Aye, sire, but what about her emails?”).
Remember your Appalachian heritage. Remember the “redneck” coal miners who stood up against the man. Don’t let the big shots use you until they use you up.
--Troy D. Smith, a White County native, is a novelist and a history professor at Tennessee Tech. His words do not necessarily represent TTU.
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