Sunday, June 05, 2016

The boy who escaped Trump country

This is a great story about a remarkable young man escaping poverty in Appalachia and graduating from UVA:

When Daniel was in eighth grade (aged 14), he argued in front of the school board for his right to be taught extracurricular courses that would let him apply to college. The school principal had repeatedly turned him down. He won. "Nobody could understand why I would want to do that," he says. "I convinced them it was my right." Then he insisted on learning Spanish, even though there was just one qualified teacher in the county. They set up interactive television classes so he could learn remotely. He is now a Spanish interpreter for the state of Virginia. Then he wanted to learn Chinese. Today he speaks and writes fluent Mandarin. Last summer, he spent three months working for a Chinese law firm in Shanghai, dealing in intellectual property rights. Last weekend, he graduated with distinction from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Next stop is a postgraduate degree at an Ivy League university or Oxford. "I'm still thinking about where to apply," he says.

Most of Daniel's peers from high school found jobs at the hulking local Walmart, telemarketing from home or as welders on construction sites. One or two found work in the coalfields, or what is left of them. Others have fallen prey to the heroin epidemic. Many of the girls, including Oliver, got pregnant in their teens. "I knew one girl who got pregnant at 14," says Daniel, now 22. Like most others I saw in Buchanan, he has good teeth, though he has purged all trace of his Appalachian accent. To put it mildly, he has defied the odds.

PS—I love this kid's views on Trump (who, it's becoming increasingly clear, is a true madman and virulent racist):


Daniel was also the first person I met in Buchanan County who had not voted for Trump. In November, he will vote for Clinton — though without much enthusiasm. "Trump is just another drug," Daniel says. "People round here are addicted to escapism."


May 26, 2016 10:37 am

The boy who escaped Trump country

 'The Donald' received his highest share of the vote in Buchanan County, a place of shuttered mines and collapsing property prices. Edward Luce meets some of Trump's most passionate supporters — and a 22-year-old swimming against the tide

Their forebears made the Atlantic crossing from Ulster, Scotland, either side of Hadrian's Wall, and other badlands of the emerging British state. They kept moving west. A few made it past the Blue Ridge mountains to Ohio, Missouri and the Great Plains beyond. A larger number put down their roots in Appalachia to forge a living out of "the peace of the silent hills", as an old song put it. "Gold is where you find it. Old ways and old days. In the Smokies . . . " The only real gold in these hills was of the black variety — seams of coal buried deep in its ravines, shallow on its mountain tops, and in the sides of cliffs and rock faces. For more than a century, King Coal reigned over the valleys of south-west Virginia, West Virginia, western Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Then Barack Obama took office. Few from these parts voted for him. Though coal was already in decline, the regional depression tightened its grip in the wake of Obama's tough new carbon emission controls. In the past seven years, more than half the region's mines have closed. Most of the rest are operating well below capacity. With the closures went hope. Property prices collapsed. An opioid epidemic spread like brush fire. Mere mention of Obama's name prompts scorn. If anything, Hillary Clinton elicits even worse. "We are going to put a lot of coal miners and coal owners out of business," Clinton said in March. Of all the candidates on either side, only Donald Trump promised a miracle. "We're going to bring the coal industry back 100 per cent," he vowed with his trademark precision at a West Virginia rally. "You're going to be proud again to be miners."


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