You’ll read this as either solidarity or as a five-minute challenge in empathy building

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I started begging people to say something, anything. When people responded at all it was to say something like, “I don’t think it’s my place,” or “I’m not really comfortable.” I was falling apart and my community was afraid of being uncomfortable….time and time again I ran into the wall of apathy that said, “this is where we stop. This is the limit of how much we can invest in your humanity.”

pub. 06/2017

No, the Confederate flag hasn’t always been a symbol of the South

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It wasn’t until 1948 that the Confederate flag re-emerged as a potent political symbol. The reason was the Dixiecrat revolt — when Strom Thurmond led a walkout of white Southerners from the Democratic National Convention to protest President Harry S. Truman’s push for civil rights. The Dixiecrats began to use the Confederate flag, which sparked further public interest in it.

pub. 06/2017

Labor in America: The blue past and red present of West Virginia

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Blair Mountain is the closest thing to Gettysburg that the American labor movement has. Its historic significance is immense. It also happens to sit in the poorest region of a state that is in desperate need of tourism dollars and economic development. Drive on Route 17 to the speck of a town called Blair, though, and all that you will find is a single historic marker for the battle, along with a trailer-sized post office, two churches, and a handful of houses. There is no museum. There is no trail. You cannot even wander up Blair Mountain yourself, because it is private property, owned by coal companies and patrolled by their private security. In fact, those coal companies have, since 2009, been waging a legal battle to prevent the Blair Mountain site from being added to the National Register of Historic Places, so that they can strip mine it instead of preserve it.

pub. 05/2017

Some of the top comments add other context not mentioned in the article, like talking about the deep racism in West Virginia and its effects on the election.

A theory that older folks are no longer seeing more pay in exchange for their professional experience, leading to dissatisfaction, nostalgia–and votes for the far right

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A coda to this piece.

The return to experience is a way to describe what you get in return for aging. It describes the increase in wages that workers normally see throughout their careers….

…“This decline in the return to experience closely matches the decline in attachment to the labor force,” Case and Deaton wrote. “Our data are consistent with a model in which the decline in real wages led to a reduction in labor force participation, with cascading effects on marriage, health, and mortality from deaths of despair.”…

…If returns to experience are in decline, if wisdom no longer pays off, then that might help suggest why a group of mostly older people who are not, as a group, disadvantaged might become convinced that the country has taken a turn for the worse.

pub. 04/2017

The casualties of xenophobia

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The President’s nationalistic rhetoric and scapegoating of racial others, not to mention his habitual reliance on unverified information, have sown panic among immigrants. I’ve often asked myself lately whether I’ve been right to suspect that people were looking at me differently on the street, at airports, or in elevators. Whenever a stranger has been kind to me, I have almost wanted to weep in gratitude. Unlike when I first arrived here, distance no longer offers any reprieve from these feelings. The Internet delivers ugly fragments of report and rumor throughout the day, and with them a sense of nearly constant intimacy with violence.

pub. 03/2017

Death by disappointment: The complex despair of working-class whites

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[T]he authors surmise that because it’s no longer possible for this demographic to improve their fortunes with a blue collar job, the disappearance of that steady employment has caused despair to rise over time….

…Distress and the “the failure of life to turn out as expected” frequently leads to alcohol and drug abuse, the researchers write. They also suggest that people also may try to compensate for this distress by overeating, which could lead to obesity and a rise in related chronic disease.

pub. 03/2017

Update 04/2017: The researchers have come up with a new theory.