Distressed opponents of Trump and Brexit have found a comfort blanket. La La Land, an over-hyped Hollywood musical, offers timely escapism from the horrible real world. Yellow frocks are flying off the rails! Harmless fun, perhaps, but this is the thin end of a cultural wedge.
Ever since the voters of non-metropolitan Britain and the flyover states of the US made their shocking decision, the ink has been flowing at the desks of the commentariat, who try to tell us what went wrong. I have just finished the much-lauded autobiographical account Hillbilly Elegy, by JD Vance, and was disappointed. This is the fault not of the author, who wrote his fascinating story without pretence, but the extrapolations by leftward reviewers in mainstream media. The book’s cover is emblazoned with quotes such as ‘A great insight into Trump and Brexit’ (Independent), which was never the author’s intent. ‘You will not read a more important book about America’ (Economist) forgets recent classics such as Deep South by Paul Theroux.
With this surprise hit, Vance won’t be complaining. His tale of a Kentucky family who moved to better-paid work in Middletown, Ohio, describes a community in the doldrums. His mother was a drug addict, a series of men came and went, and much of his childhood was spent with his rough though loving grandparents. The book was jumped on by liberal commentators, for it allows them to blame a democratic disaster on uneducated, bigoted whites. Here are the ‘deplorables’, their depravities revealed in a case study by one of their own.
Vance is no liberal, and an illuminating anecdote was from a lecture room at Ohio State University. Having completed a stint in Iraq with the US Marines, who had worked hard to engage with local people in rebuilding their country, Vance heard the kind of ignorant assumption that passes as intelligence:
‘I listened as a nineteen-year-old classmate with a hideous beard spouted off about the Iraq War. He explained that those fighting the war were typically less intelligent than those (like him) who went to college. It showed, he argued, in the wanton way soldiers butchered and disrespected civilians.’
The cultural backlash will surely gain momentum as we lead to the EU exit door, and Trump overturns liberal mantras. While many people who voted Remain are willing to move on, either through Stoicism or realising that the outcome is not so bad after all, a sizeable number just cannot adapt to the changing political scene.
The losers continue to harass us. I don’t get angered by their scurrilous remarks, feeling much happier in my shoes than theirs. But although I’ve heard it all before, I am still amazed by how little identification (never mind pride) many educated people have in their own country. Last week I was walking home from the station and passed a young female acquaintance. She beckoned me, saying ‘I can’t believe this is happening’. She was watching the Trump inauguration on her smartphone, concluding that ‘the world is falling apart’. Think of it as a forest fire, I suggested: the trees will grow back stronger. She wasn’t having that. Knowing I’d supported Brexit, she asked why I’d want to destroy workers’ rights, and ‘all the human rights we get from Europe’.
We should be wary of Godwin’s Law, but I couldn’t stop myself from replying that ‘human rights are no more European than the Nazis’. A better response, before our paths diverged, would have been to ask the relevance of workers’ rights to the legions of unemployed youth throughout the Mediterranean nations. And a question that should be posed to the hundred thousand women who marched against Donald Trump in London is: what did his predecessors do, or what would their beloved Hillary have done, to ease the plight of the working class portrayed by JD Vance?
Let them take refuge in La La Land. While Trump digs coal, and gives back dignity to the common people.
(Image: Norman Maynard)