Climbing Out of a Deep Hole

Hillbilly Elegy was on my Amazon wishlist for the paperback, which is scheduled for publication on May 30, 2017. But I kept hearing so many good things about it, especially that it was the Rosetta Stone to the last election, that I ordered the hard cover immediately and read it in short order.
The author, J.D. Vance, put me in the wrong frame of mind in his introduction when he wrote about working at the local tite factory to get money to go to Yale Law School. Why, he took on as much overtime as he could. Right there I loved the man’s work ethic. It’s one of his fellow workers who turned me off.

According to Vance, after the worker, 19, was hired, the manager offered his pregnant girlfriend a job as a clerical worker. As Vance put: “Both of them were terrible workers.” She missed every third day and he took long bathroom breaks. Eventually, both were fired, but the twist was that the male thought he had been wronged, not that he had wronged his employer.

I was only on page 7 and I already couldn’t figure out why anyone the author writes about would vote for Donald Trump. Clearly, the fired employees should have been loyal Democrats, what with the stereotype that that Democrats are the party that provides handouts to slackers. But as the book progresses, we learn that the unemployed and the shiftless believed Trump would restore the past.

Vance began life in Kentucky but his mother and one of her husbands/boyfriends moved him and his sister to Ohio. Fortunately, his maternal grandparents also made the move to a house nearby and technically they raised Vance. (He dedicates the book to them, and when you’re done reading, you realize why his mother, a drug addict, is not front and center. In the acknowledgements, she appears in a series of names as “Mom.” I had to look three times to find her.)

The short story is that Vance overcame the hillbilly culture, graduated from high school, was accepted at Ohio State, but joined the Marines instead, then after a four-year hitch went to OSU and then Yale Law School. What’s wrong with that story?

Simple. A lot of people don’t make it. And Vance recognizes that there by for the grace of his grandmother, some teachers (public and Ivy League), the Marine Corps, he might not have made it either. This is where the book shifts from a memoir to a thoughtful disquisition on life, on the haves and the have-nots, the ones who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and those who don’t even have boots.

Vance says that the government can’t fix the problems, and so you would not be surprised to learn that he is a Republican, although I don’t think his thinking is necessarily aligned with the modern Republican party, the party of the haves. He’s right that government can’t fix the problems, but given his public education and Marine service, he should realize that government can provide opportunities for those who want to get ahead.

All in all, a well told tale, although why those people voted for Trump is still beyond me.


Questionable commercials

Who doesn’t sit before a TV set and rant about something on the screen? This is my latest.

I’ve been ranting about two commercials lately and wondering if the companies behind them have thought them through.

Let’s start with Xfinity, my cable provider, which is running a commercial that begins with grandparents learning they are out of it because they don’t have wireless, etc., and the grandchildren are reluctantly visiting for the holidays.

So the grandparents quickly contact Xfinity and get up to speed in less than a minute. Family arrives and grandfather uses the remote to say “Merry Christmas, you filthy animals,” meaning the grandchildren.

What grandparent would ever say that to a grandchild? We hug our grandchildren when they visit and make sure they have all the passwords they need.

Whatever Xfinity Xecutive approved that commercial should be looking for a new job.

The other questionable commercial comes to us courtesy of Dodge. Two Dodge Durangos with evergreen trees tied to their roofs race through an urban street and then they stop at a red light. There we see that all of the trees’ needles are gone, an indication of how fast the cars were going.

But, wait, it gets better.

As we know from the start, the cars contain families and the commercial is overlaid with holiday music.

So Dodge is not only pushing unsafe driving, but with families in Durangos during the holidays.

Another executive who should be out of work.