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A Boy’s Sweet Life In Italy

Lucas at the Campo di Siena, at night

Today Lucas and I woke up at noon, shocked that we had slept so long. Jet lag is a cruel master. Like the Huns threatening a city, the caffeine headache was at the gates of my noggin, so we quickly dressed and hustled up the street to the nearest pastry shop. Alas, they did not serve Italian coffee there, but said they could make me an Americano with their coffee pot. Anything, Signora, anything!

Well. Italian-style coffee is the best in the world, but Italians doing American coffee is like Michiganders doing Tex-Mex. They just don’t have it in them.

We went after that to the museum of the Palazzo Publico [1], the city hall of Siena, which, when its construction was begun in the 13th century, meant it was the governing palace of the city-state known as the Republic of Siena. Upstairs there are wall murals and other treasures. The best-known is the Allegory of Good and Bad Government [2], a series of 14th century paintings meant to demonstrate how a city will prosper if governed virtuously, but will come to ruin if governed by vice. Here is the symbol of the Tyrant who governs a vicious city:

For me, it was impossible to look upon this without thinking about Donald Trump. One has learned to expect very little good from this man, but his disgusting tweeting about the facelift of a TV presenter was a new low. It is hard even now to believe that the United States faces so many challenges, but the man who leads it is obsessed with tweeting trash-talk about a TV personality. Character really is destiny. I wish to associate myself with what Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote about this nonsense today. [3] Excerpt:

And Trump has a sense of what [his populist supporters] do care about. Instead of working the phones, steadying nervous legislators, or using the bully pulpit for health reform, he spent some of the crucial time before a final Senate vote tweeting about how Mika Brzezinski rang in the new year by bleeding from her face at his private Florida club. Finally! A new lead image for Drudge.

At least for now, while they have an easily distracted man in the Oval Office, and a Congress that is committed to the usual Republican priorities — tax cuts! — the populist Right is happy enough to see the president use the vast power and prestige of his office to fight the media. It’s a vision of the presidency that’s little more than Sean Hannity’s job, with a few executive orders and judicial appointments on top. Trump is, as much as he can, setting aside the whole responsibility of governance in order to prioritize the Right’s feud with what it sees as the real throne of power, the media. Instead of capturing the media, the presidency channels the Right’s rage at it. Who could possibly care about the executive and legislative branches of the most powerful country on earth? That’s an afterthought when there are idiot elitists who disapprove of us on cable news!

We are in an incredibly decadent period in American life. I use “incredibly” as a meaningful modifier: it is hard to believe that we have descended so far, so fast. Here’s a post that deserves more time from me [4], but I know I won’t be able to give it as I’m on vacation, but I wanted to bring it to your attention anyway. It’s about the crisis of authority in our time. Excerpt:

Here, I believe, is the source of that feeling of unreality or “post-truth” so prevalent today. Having lost faith in authority, the public has migrated to the broken pieces of the narratives, shards of reality inaccessible to all but a chosen few. Scattered and orphaned, it has sought to cobble together a transcendent truth out of pure will and a very subjective longing for justice and redemption. Truth now has an inside and an outside. The initiated understand the symbolic code. Those outside the tribal patch, however, appear to speak nonsense: they are blatant liars, raving lunatics. Hence Selena Zito’s famous judgment that Trump’s followers take him “seriously but not literally,” while his antagonists reverse the terms of the equation.

The president, as I noted, has been the object of much of the talk about “post-truth” – and not without justification. While, so far, his actions in office have been surprisingly conventional, his rhetorical style is something else. When he speaks of voter fraud, of the size of his crowds, of the unemployment and murder rates, and on many other topics, Donald Trump can’t resist the urge to bend reality to his theme. The world, it appears, assumes whatever shape he wills. As might be expected, his opponents have condemned him as a deliberate liar. Let me put forward another thesis, one I consider more probable but no less problematic. The president may just be a creature of our shattered age: he speaks, symbolically and subjectively, to the chosen who take him seriously (but not literally), from inside a shard of Trumpian truth.

It’s only fair to say that this malady is most virulent among those who most deeply loathe President Trump. “Social justice warriors” have fortified their subjective sliver of the world into a “new religion,” according to Haidt. These young people, weaned on smart phones and the web, share an exaggerated narrative about oppression in the US, and wish to purify our society until only their transcendent truth is fit for polite talk. Deviant perspectives, even in history or literature, make them feel frightened and angry. The response is to hide in “safe spaces” or to shut down the offending speaker. Since Trump’s election, the “warriors” have resorted to violence to silence Republican and conservative opinions. In their actions I discern the possibility of a bleakly illiberal future, in which national narratives are thrown into the bonfire without regret, and the war-bands impose their claustrophobic visions by means of threat and fear.

More:

The recovery of truth requires the restoration of trusted authority. At the moment, that is nowhere in sight. The narratives that bind us together have broken to pieces. The elites who were keepers of these stories have lost the public’s confidence past any hope of redemption. They strike poses of mastery and control, yet deliver mostly failure and decadence. The public has judged them to be empty vessels, and many of them, in their secret moments, would probably agree. I don’t deal in prophecy, but I find it hard to see how this elite class can endure as a cohesive group into the middle age of the Millennial generation.

Let’s grant that the divorce gets finalized. What comes next?

Maybe chaos. Complex systems can fall into turbulence and remain in that condition permanently. The collapse of elite authority could ignite a rolling conflagration, in which every aspect of social and political life is turned into a battleground. That would be the nihilist’s hour. If it ever arrives, even the broken shards of narratives will appear too big, too inclusive for an atomized culture, and our supposed “age of post-truth” will be considered, in hindsight, as a time of supreme self-confidence and certainty.

Read the whole thing. [4] It is significant that Trump’s hardcore supporters do not care about virtue at all; they only care about defeating their perceived enemies. But then, so do Trump’s most ardent opponents. It is hard to know where the rest of us fit into this scheme, except that we do not have the momentum.

Maybe it’s just me, but it is piercing to watch White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her father, Mike Huckabee — both professed Christians — demean themselves [5] in service to a man like Trump. Huckabee père says his daughter didn’t defend Trump’s Mika tweet, but only Trump’s “right to fight back.” [6]Please. Nobody is fooled by this, except fools. A conservative Evangelical friend said to me a month or so ago that Trump was going to destroy the Evangelical Right, which hitched itself to his star with chains of iron. “I think Evangelicals have found their dream president,” [7] said Jerry Falwell Jr. a few weeks back.

Dream a little 140-character dream, y’all:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [10]

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [10]

It’s shameful and disgusting — and it provided the basis for talking with my son about how the medieval murals we saw on the wall today apply to our situation today. Human nature never changes. Only the names do. I was reminded of something a friend told me last week. He said his daughter, a new lawyer, told him that she wonders if that is what God would have her do with her life. He responded by saying that we need solid Christian lawyers now more than ever. “You will need to be around for the rebuilding,” he said.

I would only add to that the observation that many conservative Christians have the false idea that the enemy is outside the Church. It is not. It is manifestly not.

Enough of all that. We are on vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

We had lunch at a restaurant where Lucas ordered a simple bowl of pasta in olive oil, atop which he sprinkled fresh-grated Parmesan cheese. This boy is not an adventurous eater at all, and he’s anxious about eating unfamiliar foods in Italy. It was a delight to see his face light up. I had told him before we came here that in Italy, he was going to taste the most delicious pasta in the world. And now, he had.

“How did you know?!” he asked. Experience, I said.

Me, I had bruschetta, which induced a mystical experience.

After lunch, we met a foreign student studying at the university here. We told him what a privilege it must be to live in Italy. Yes, he said, it’s a beautiful place, but not the kind of place he would stay once he finishes his degree. Why not? I asked. Because everyday life here is hard. The bureaucracy will grind you down. It takes forever to get things done. Italians find it hard to embrace innovation, and don’t ever want to change, even when change is necessary.

“But that’s attractive to some of us Americans,” I said. “We live in a country where it seems like everything is constantly changing. That stability looks comforting to us.”

“Maybe so,” he said. “I’ve never been to America. I’m telling you, though, that Italy looks different when you live here. As a tourist, you only see the most beautiful parts.”

This reminded me of a passage from a 1948 essay by the young Truman Capote:

In London a young artist said to me, “How wonderful it must be for an American traveling in Europe the first time; you can never be a part of it, so none of the pain is yours, you will never have to endure it — yes, for you there is only the beauty.”

Not understanding what he meant, I resented this; but later, after some months in France and Italy, I saw that he was right: I was not a part of Europe, I never would be. Safe, I could leave when I wanted to, and for me there was only the honeyed, hallowed air of beauty. But it was not so wonderful as the young man had imagined: it was desperate to feel that one could never be a part of moments so moving, that always one would be isolated from this landscape and these people; and then gradually I realized I did not have to be a part of it: rather, it could be a part of me. The sudden garden, opera night, wild children snatching flowers and running up a darkening street, a wreath for the dead and nuns in noon light, music from the piazza, a Paris pianola and fireworks on La Grande Nuit, the heart-shaking surprise of mountain visions and water views (lakes like green wine in the chalice of volcanoes, the Mediterranean flickering at the bottoms of cliffs), forsaken far-off towers falling in twilight and candles igniting the jeweled corpse of St. Zeno of Verona — all a part of me, elements for the making of my own perspective.

That has been my experience in the 33 years I have been coming here. And it will be part of my children’s experience.

Then, we made our way back to the hotel, where we were picked up by Daniele Giannini, a Sienese fencing coach, and his assistant coach Adolfo Miawotoe. Lucas has been taking fencing lessons for a year, and has developed a passion for it. When we decided earlier this year to come to Siena for the July Palio, he said to me that he would love to visit a Sienese fencing gym if one exists. I found one on the Internet [12], and wrote to the information office to ask if it would be possible to meet when we are in Siena. Daniele, one of the coaches there, wrote back to say sure thing, just text him when we get to town. We did, and he came to pick us up.

He had with him Adolfo, who is from Togo. They drove us to the gym, and showed us around, then Adolfo gave Lucas a short lesson. Afterward, Daniele gave us t-shirts and hoodies from the Siena Fencing Club, which for Lucas might as well have been the Golden Fleece. Then we drove out to nearby Monteriggioni [13], a Tuscan hill town with a 14th-century fortress built by the Sienese to defend themselves against their mortal enemy Florence. In the Inferno, Dante references the fortress, with its ring of towers (which were even taller in Dante’s day):

For, as all around her ring of walls
Monteriggioni is crowned with towers,
so at the cliff-edge that surrounds the pit

loomed up like towers half the body bulk
of horrifying giants, those whom Jove
still threatens from the heavens when he thunders.

(Inferno, Canto XXXI, trans. Hollander)

In that canto, Dante is approaching the deepest pit of Hell. He sees a ring of giants guarding it, which he likens to the ring of towers guarding Monteriggioni. In the Inferno, the giants are signs of demonic pride and a will to dominate. Recall that Dante was made an exile from his native Florence because of the deadly politics of the city. The Commedia is in part the poet’s commentary on how the cities of Tuscany had destroyed the peace with their constant warfare and viciousness. Bad morals lead to bad government, which leads to war! Today, Lucas and I stood in the heart of the Monteriggioni fortress, built by the Republic of Siena as an outpost on its northern border, overlooking the road to Florence.

The fortress of Monteriggioni (DiegoMariottini/Shutterstock [14])

Here is Lucas walking out of the north entrance, the Florentine Gate. Look at the Tuscan countryside. Beyond that is Florence. A Sienese soldier stationed there would have seen Florentine soldiers marching southward. Today, Monteriggioni is a peaceful hilltop hamlet. Next week, it hosts its annual Medieval Festival [15], which I would love to see. Next year, maybe!

View from Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Back home, after a rest, we went out for pizza and gelato, and then a stroll up to the Duomo. On the walk back, we passed through the Campo so Lucas could behold the Palazzo Publico at night. What a sight!

As we neared our hotel, Lucas said, “You know what, Dad? The only thing that would make being here better would be if Mr. Marco was here to narrate it all for us.” He is talking about Marco Sermarini, who delighted him in San Benedetto del Tronto. Who could possibly argue with that conclusion? Certainly not me.

Marco Sermarini with one of his spiritual fathers, GKC

Lucas went on:

“I think that all cultured people should move to Siena — not that I consider myself cultured or anything,” he said.

“What do you mean by that?” I said. “What does it mean to be cultured?”

“To know what matters in life,” he said.

“What is it about Siena that makes you say it’s a place for cultured people?”

“It’s not just Siena; it’s Italy. I mean, everybody here is joyful. Everybody is happy to see you. It’s so beautiful. And the food is really good.”

I would say that this Italy trip has been a great one for the boy — and it’s all thanks to the good people who have shown him the best face of this great country.

UPDATE: I forgot to tell you this funny story. The sweet lady manning the cash register at the gift shop in the Palazzo Pubblico museum was impressed that we came all the way from the USA to see the Palio. I asked her which was her contrada.

“Torre,” she said.

Zounds! The archenemy of Onda! I withdrew in mock horror.

“Onda is mine,” I said, portentously.

She gasped theatrically, then put her hands up, as if I had flashed her.

“I was here two years ago for the July Palio,” I said, recalling the infamous victory of Torre over Onda. “Now I’m back for vengeance.”

“Well,” she said, all saucy, “maybe we will beat you again so you’ll have a reason to come back to Siena two years from now.”

We both had a good laugh. Lord, I love this city.

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78 Comments (Open | Close)

78 Comments To "A Boy’s Sweet Life In Italy"

#1 Comment By GB On July 2, 2017 @ 1:02 pm

“Do you think had the election gone the other way there would be a progressive version of Rod Dreher regularly denouncing Clinton’s character? Not if they wanted to remain welcome amongst progressives.”

This is a joke, right? The hardcore Bernie supporters — of which there were millions — would never ever extend HRC any shred of legitimacy.

It is an odd thing — when some people look at “the other side,” they seem so monolithic. It’s an illusion. Don’t be fooled.

The reality is that there are 10% extremists on either side sucking up all of the oxygen while the 80% of us in the middle wish they’d find their own country to screw up. Unfortunately for us, with a two party system, primaries, and gerrymandered districts, the nutcase 20% is choosing our government.

#2 Comment By Lllurker On July 2, 2017 @ 1:03 pm

So I’ve never been to Italy but I’m told that there is a branch of the family tree that emigrated from there.

As the story goes they hail from a smallish Northern town, and the whole family has always occupied the same house, going back numerous generations and hundreds of years. If I recall correctly it’s said to be a several story house within the town itself.

I was once told that typically three and sometimes even four generations will reside there together. (I always think of this when I hear folks deride the “kids these days” who are in their late 20’s and still living with their parents.) The family is not well-to-do.

I’m curious if any of you who know Italy have come across long-running multi-generational living arrangements like this?

#3 Comment By JonF On July 2, 2017 @ 1:31 pm

Re: Just so long as you never tolerate overcooked pasta.

Good grief, yes! Just say No to pasta al musho. (also equally bad: overcooked rice, with the texture, but none of the flavor, of tapioca)

#4 Comment By Sam M On July 2, 2017 @ 3:51 pm

JonF:

“Sam, what are you talking about? The occasional false rape accusation? How is that Obama’s fault?”

Holy cow. Where you been? Obama had nothing to do with fake rape accusations, but he had MUCH to do with changing the way charges of sexual assault at adjudicated on college campuses. His Title IX directives essentially built a bizarre kangaroo court system.

[16]

[17]

But I like your approach. A policy you enacted causing real and material damages to people? Shrug. Deal with it.

OK.

[18]

#5 Comment By VikingLS On July 2, 2017 @ 4:39 pm

“Just so long as you never tolerate overcooked pasta. Pasta can be a little too al dente for my taste also, but too far in the other direction … well now that oughtta be a felony.”

I’m afraid I’m very Anglo on pasta. I don’t like overcooked pasta, but I find al dente inedible.

#6 Comment By Fred Garvin On July 2, 2017 @ 4:46 pm

southern Italy was mainly Greek while northern Italy was Celtic (later Germanic) with Romans and Etruscans in the middle.
??
Are you suggesting that Celts and Germans are ethnically/culturally superior?

#7 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 2, 2017 @ 8:37 pm

Unfortunately for us, with a two party system, primaries, and gerrymandered districts, the nutcase 20% is choosing our government.

Yup. California has actually made great strides on this front. We need all states, and federal elections, to throw all candidates of all parties onto one ballot, and the top two run off. Better, do an order of preference ballot.

As for pasta, I like it best when I fry yesterday’s soft leftover spaghetti noodles
(as we used to call them in the upper midwest) with some garlic, until they get kind of crispy again.

…but all I see is more about Trump’s piggish behavior.

Well, he keeps giving us more piggish behavior, flagrantly, in public.

But I have caught Mika saying things that made me think: “just stop it Mika – don’t sink to this level”.

There’s no doubt room for her on whatever circle of hell is waiting for Trump. Maybe a “Huis Clos” arrangement — Sartre’s play about hell being a hotel where people who deserve each other spend eternity in a room together.

Oh and FYI, accusing the other party of being in league with the Devil does NOT make you someone people are going to want to “reconcile” with.

And let’s be honest, you don’t want a reconciliation, you want a surrender.

I suggest a third alternative: realignment. But it comes down to the same principle. There are a lot of people who held their nose and voted for Trump who are vital to the sort of realignment I hope for.

Had she been elected I suspect she would have made good on her threat to put a lot of miners out of work.

Clinton had little or nothing to do with miners out of work, nor does Trump. Mining jobs have been fading away for decades, which is why growing marijuana is so popular in eastern Kentucky.

No candidate, including Bernie Sanders, took the long view. Anyone remember the movie “Matewan”? First, there were people who carved out farms on those West Virginia hillsides. ‘Then, some people came and said we’re going to get you some money, and pretty soon we don’t have any land. Then, they said we’re going to get you some jobs, and they stick us down in their damn coal mines. Then you come to bring us the new day. We’ve had all the help we can take.’

Now, people are clinging to those jobs in those damn coal mines, more and more of them non-union, because the people with the money aren’t opening any other options. If money can transform a subsistence farming economy into a brutal, exploitive, mining economy, alleviated briefly by a modestly powerful union, when we get to the point where the coal is less needed and burning large amounts recognizably toxic, its time to direct some serious capital investment into some new industry in the region.

I remember a company called Great Plains Software. Don’t know what happened to it, they might have kept the name and moved to California. No reason we couldn’t develop West Virginia Solar, or any number of other new industries. But the “free market” won’t do it voluntarily, because venture capitalists generally don’t give a damn about all those hillbillies. (Some of whom are distant cousins of mine).

#8 Comment By Potato On July 2, 2017 @ 9:02 pm

The President of the United States should not give a rat’s rear end what some low-rated cable TV host has to say about him. But we have an overgrown child in the Oval Office. — RD]

Wait until you see the latest tweet, courtesy of the President of the United States, a little film of Trump assaulting some guy with a CNN emblem instead of a face. Really classy. I am beginning to thing there is something gravely wrong with the guy.

#9 Comment By Nate On July 2, 2017 @ 11:35 pm

@Michelle:

“What’s nauseating about the whole thing is the line up of women like Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and Elaine Chao to defend the obvious lies of a man-baby who hates women. Wonder how much evangelical Sarah got for her soul? Sure hope it was worth the degradation.”

Yes, surely any woman who supports the GOP President must be some sort of gender traitor. Not only that, she must have sold her sold to Satan.

After all this time talking about women’s liberation, it turns out that progressives actually *do* have a problem with women thinking for themselves – at least if they’re conservative. I guess you’ve peered into their hearts and figured out their motivations and personal opinions, too.

What a culture… a woman can have the unfettered right to choose to terminate her child’s life in the womb, but not to support the current president without being damned to hell. For what it’s worth, neither I nor ANY of the anti-abortion crowd I hang with have ever insinuated that a woman having one has given her life and soul over to evil for a price. But Sarah Huckabee? Now here come the vicious claws of the tolerant left.

#10 Comment By Jons On July 3, 2017 @ 2:24 am

VikingLS it is a mistake to assume I am a so-called “sjw”, in fact laughable. You are indulging in something only my most extreme political friends on both sides achieve, the assumption that anyone who disagrees with you on one thing means they are a radical political opposite from you. “You’re either with us or against us”– how did that work out for Bush2? Talk about painting with a broad brush.

Re. the Saudis– 15 of their nationals were the cause of 9/11. Bin Laden was from an influential Saudi family. Set aside they are an oppressive, undemocratic, autocratic petro-state. How on Gods green earth is it logical for us to sell them billion$ of weapons? So they can protect their ability to continue to create the enabling conditions for radical terrorism? Preventing Anne Coulter from speaking at Berkeley is simply not an equivalent threat by any measure!

Also, I’m afraid to ask- how did Hillary target miners? Before you respond, please look into the natural gas and solar markets.

#11 Comment By JonF On July 3, 2017 @ 6:57 am

Re: Are you suggesting that Celts and Germans are ethnically/culturally superior?

In 500 BC which people would you have said had the superior civilization?
In any event I am only pointing out that the different parts of Italy were not ethnically homogeneous right from the start. And of course a lot more happened in Italy over the centuries: Lombards, Byzantines, Franks, the Papacy, the Holy Roman Empire, Arabs, Normans, the Spanish. Indeed the fact that southern Italy was under Spanish rule for much of the modern era is sufficient to explain why its politics and economics resembles Latin America.

#12 Comment By JonF On July 3, 2017 @ 7:05 am

Re: But I like your approach. A policy you enacted causing real and material damages to people? Shrug. Deal with it.

You are putting far too much emphasis on top down things and far too little on cultural matters. Those false rape accusations would exist, in approximately similar numbers, had John McCain or Mitt Romney been president the last four or eight years. It’s all part of our cultural schizophrenia about sex, which is vastly larger than any presidency, and we will never find solutions emanating from DC. (You will probably brand me a pious old fogey is I say “Look for answers in the Gospel”)
And under “deal with it” there are multiple possible courses of action. One may deal with an unpleasant situation by taking action to change it, for example. What is not included is “poor little me” type whining.

#13 Comment By Sam M On July 3, 2017 @ 8:00 am

JonF:

“Those false rape accusations would exist, in approximately similar numbers”

Certainly they would. And always have. Where policy makes a difference is how officials treat such accusations. And Obama era changes had a dramatic impact on those things. But I guess the conservative whiners at Slate haven’t resigned themselves to that fact yet.

As for Italy, my mom is Italian. “Italy” in its proper form is about as big as a postage stamp, and consists of the exact spot in which you were born. Anyone born south of that is African. Anyone born north of that is German. Anyone who disagrees is probably French.

#14 Comment By Dave in Georgia On July 3, 2017 @ 8:17 am

In Siena for the Palio itself (yeah!) and you’re flashing on Trump? Time to chill out, Rod!

#15 Comment By VikingLS On July 3, 2017 @ 9:48 am

JonS

You’re the one framing this as “us vs them”, you have no right to call foul now. My point, which you seem to be taking pains to miss, is that BOTH sides are screwed up and it would better if we acknowledged that.

Okay, so you don’t personally identify with the SJWs, you just keep pushing the argument that they are relatively harmless and flatly refusing to address the actual repeated incidences of violence and criminality that they’ve pursued. That’s hardly a picture of politcal sophistication.

Reminding us that the 9/11 Hijackers were from Saudi, and telling us that Bin Laden was from a prominent Saudi family (which is not exactly true, he was the son of a wealthy Yemeni who got rich in Saudi) is basically implying that Saudis are terrorists by their nature. BTW do you have any idea which side the Saudi military is on in their version of the culture wars?

You all can claim that Clinton was talking about green energy if you want (sorry but in the region what they understood is that she was going to continue to increase EPA regulations until mining was essentially illegal), it doesn’t change the fact that in this election SOMEONE was going to suffer. I suspect you’re just upset about whom. I don’t know if you can’t grasp this point or you won’t.

Let me be perfectly clear about this. I understand why some people would have preferred Clinton. I can even understand why some people continue to fear people like evangelicals or Milo more than Antifa. Rod had your number on this in the first place. So long as it’s not you ox getting gored, you don’t care.

#16 Comment By VikingLS On July 3, 2017 @ 10:14 am

@Siarlys

The Cumberland mountains start less than a mile from my mother’s door. They used my grandfather’s hometown to film the Butcher’s Holler part of Coal Miner’s Daughter. I am more than familiar with the region and industry (which didn’t start with coal).

Coal is a dying industry in the long run, that doesn’t change the fact that putting even more miners out of work would have been bad for the remaining Appalachians.
West Virginia, at least the mountain part, is not a great region for solar. There has been some attempt in Eastern Kentucky to get into some high tech work, but that’s never going to provide the same income coal did.

The pot growing largely is picking up where moonshining left off. Steve Earl got that right.

The point I was making was that Jon S’s indignation that some people might suffer from Trump’s policies ignores the fact that OTHER people (though I suspect in many cases the exact same people) would have suffered under Clinton’s policies.

“I suggest a third alternative: realignment. But it comes down to the same principle. There are a lot of people who held their nose and voted for Trump who are vital to the sort of realignment I hope for.”

And in that case you need to be telling JonS off too, and anybody else who attempts to frame this as a good guys/bad guys story. I share your hope for some realignments (and in that cause I find Trump to be useful in his destructive effect on the establishment.) but that’s not going to happen with progressives acting the way they have been for the past seven months or so.

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 3, 2017 @ 2:18 pm

There are definitely more cogent criticisms to be made of Trump’s Huckabee than the trite notion that a woman who supports Trump is a traitor to her sex. LOTS of women voted for Trump, deal with it.

What is wrong is that Huckabee offers vapid, banal, off-the-cuff, factually challenged remarks that neither inform the American people nor do her boss any credit. But then, he really doesn’t give her much to work with. Anyone, of any sex, who upholds this guy is a glutton for punishment. But then, we knew that from The Apprentice.

#18 Comment By EngineerScotty On July 3, 2017 @ 3:40 pm

I remember a company called Great Plains Software. Don’t know what happened to it, they might have kept the name and moved to California. No reason we couldn’t develop West Virginia Solar, or any number of other new industries. But the “free market” won’t do it voluntarily, because venture capitalists generally don’t give a damn about all those hillbillies. (Some of whom are distant cousins of mine).

It’s largely the same reason that we don’t see web startups springing out of East St. Louis. Communities which are a) full of people struggling merely to get by, and b) which are generally regarded by those with money and power as irreparably damaged, and not worth investing a dime in. Which leads to a vicious cycle in which c) anyone with talent or ambition leaves and doesn’t come back, depriving the community of much-needed social capital, further aggravating a and b.

Which is why, as Siarlys notes, if such communities are to be rehabilitated, it will take a significant amount of (financial) capital, expropriated from the haves, over the course of a generation or two. (Along with some dogged police work to identify and eliminate the worst of the criminal class therein).

But of course, many people won’t want to spend a nickel on E. St. Louis, because it’s (in their mind) chock full of ni***rs. Many other people won’t want to spend a nickel in West Virginia, because it’s stuffed to the brim with (also in their mind) Trump-voting rednecks. So our political class will compromise, and let both places continue to decay, while the folks in Park Slope, Brooklyn and University Park, TX both congratulate each other on having gotten the f*** out of whatever one-horse towns they left behind.

#19 Comment By EngineerScotty On July 3, 2017 @ 3:50 pm

Good grief, yes! Just say No to pasta al musho. (also equally bad: overcooked rice, with the texture, but none of the flavor, of tapioca)

Nothing left to do but put it back in the pot, add even more water along with your favorite spices, meats, and vegetables, and make a nice congee.

#20 Comment By Lllurker On July 3, 2017 @ 4:42 pm

“What’s nauseating about the whole thing is the line up of women like Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and Elaine Chao to defend the obvious lies of a man-baby who hates women. Wonder how much evangelical Sarah got for her soul? Sure hope it was worth the degradation.”

Nate: “… Yes, surely any woman who supports the GOP President must be some sort of gender traitor. Not only that, she must have sold her sold to Satan.”

I’m not exactly clear on what the devil will trade for a soul these days, but regarding Huckabee-Sanders I’ve yet to see a lick of evidence that she might be headed to a better place. It’s all lies, lies and more lies. Artful lies and pathetic lies. You don’t see what she does as degrading? And all in the service of her pathologically lying overlord. Gaslighting is what they are actually doing.

And Trump most obviously is a man-baby who most obviously does despise women. If Trump is not all that, well then who is? It’s a description that fits him to a T.

I guess in one sense he is not sexist, because he apparently also despises most men (not named Trump) as well.

#21 Comment By Potato On July 3, 2017 @ 8:55 pm

So here you are ranting on about Trump’s awful tweets and nothing about the Vatican’s statement about poor little Charlie Gard.

This is the second mention I’ve seen her of Charlie Gard. I’m not certain what the relevance is. Charlie Gard was born with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, a rare and devastating condition for which there is no treatment. According to what the experts say, most of his brain has already been destroyed by the syndrome.

What the Pope (or anyone else) is supposed to do about this is a mystery to me. Nothing would be accomplished by subjecting this doomed infant to “experimental” treatments, and I read that the doctors in charge of those treatments have determined that he is not a candidate anyway.

Any difficulties with this event should be taken up with the One responsible, that is, God. God is the one Who produced or permitted this, and God is the only one Who could do anything about it. God has chosen not to intervene.

#22 Comment By Potato On July 3, 2017 @ 9:08 pm

It’s largely the same reason that we don’t see web startups springing out of East St. Louis. Communities which are a) full of people struggling merely to get by, and b) which are generally regarded by those with money and power as irreparably damaged, and not worth investing a dime in.

Hidden in here, but not very well hidden, is the idea that two young guys who have some idea to Make the Internet Great (or whatever it is they propose to do with their startup) have some kind of obligation to “invest” in economically depressed areas, and if they do not do that they are exhibiting their contempt for poor white people or poor black people or both, depending on location.

They’re probably just trying to get their soon-to-be-born business up and running as efficiently as possible so they can Redeem the Internet or whatever. They will pick the location they think most promising for this enterprise, which will probably not be East St. Lewis. They’ll come out here where I am, if indeed they are not here already, and if they are successful they will make the traffic even worse than it is already.

Does anyone have some kind of obligation to set up shop in the Ozarks? Why? People who have the talent and inclination to work in high tech should (and mostly do) relocate to Silicon Valley or one of its clones.

if such communities are to be rehabilitated, it will take a significant amount of (financial) capital, expropriated from the haves,

The “haves” are certain to resist any such expropriation. Which they should. People moved into Rust Belt locations in the first place because at one time there was work there. Now there isn’t, so just as they moved in, people will have to move out again and relocate somewhere that there is work. It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility to be expropriated from so that such people can stay put in an economic backwater indefinitely.

#23 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 3, 2017 @ 9:32 pm

Viking, you are being a bit thin-skinned today. I think I have probably expressed sharp disagreement with JonS from time to time, but this wasn’t a day I wanted to focus on a specific challenge to a specific commenter. I was writing in rather general terms. And I don’t doubt your street cred, or hill cred, or whatever. My union veteran great great grandfather was from the other end of the Cumberland plateau. My UMWA great grandfather was from the northern end of the Alleghenies. I’ve spent a few years in the Greenbriar Valley, and recall a now deceased friend who lamented, it took a hundred years to clear this land, and in twenty years its all grown back.

Coal should be banned, or phased out, for all kinds of reasons. But it should be a comprehensive plan, not a splattering of one-line political slogans. Neither Clinton nor Trump were being honest with anyone, nor were they taking responsibility for the consequences of their vapid musings. Both were mostly in love with the image of themselves in the White House.

I’m not exactly clear on what the devil will trade for a soul these days, but regarding Huckabee-Sanders I’ve yet to see a lick of evidence that she might be headed to a better place.

One common theme to most Christian denominations is that you are saved by the grace of God, in spite of your sinful nature and manifold transgressions. There are some quibbles about faith and good works. Huckabee-Sanders may well belong to a church that implicitly teaches, once you have been saved, all future sins you may commit are already forgiven in advance — perhaps a dubious line of human reasoning, but she could be relying on it.

#24 Comment By Jons On July 4, 2017 @ 12:10 am

VikingLS-

My “ox” is the majority of Americans, not a special interest. The greatest good for the greatest number over the greatest time.

Miners represent around 5,000 actual coal mining jobs (another 45k in support positions– HR, executives, office managers, etc). The solar industry added 250,000 jobs last year alone.

#25 Comment By VikingLS On July 4, 2017 @ 7:14 am

““Do you think had the election gone the other way there would be a progressive version of Rod Dreher regularly denouncing Clinton’s character? Not if they wanted to remain welcome amongst progressives.”

This is a joke, right? The hardcore Bernie supporters — of which there were millions — would never ever extend HRC any shred of legitimacy.”

Okay, and how many of those Sander supporters are bestselling authors who occasionally write for Time magazine?

Yes the Democrats have Sanders supporters and the GOP has Ron Paul types (which I am to a degree). That’s NOT what I’m talking about. It’s not even close to what I’m talking about.

During the election we had people like George Will, Bill Kristol, and Rod himself who were publicly highly critical of Trump. Who would be their counterparts on the left? Simply pointing out the existence of Bernie Bros doesn’t cut it.

#26 Comment By L617 On July 4, 2017 @ 4:23 pm

EngineerScotty: “It’s largely the same reason that we don’t see web startups springing out of East St. Louis. Communities which are a) full of people struggling merely to get by, and b) which are generally regarded by those with money and power as irreparably damaged, and not worth investing a dime in. Which leads to a vicious cycle in which c) anyone with talent or ambition leaves and doesn’t come back, depriving the community of much-needed social capital, further aggravating a and b.”

You imply malice here where I don’t see it. The simpler explanation why new industries aren’t flocking to places like East St. Louis is that industries tend to cluster in like-communities. A tech company needs: easy access to capital, a pool of highly talented recruits, a local government that is familiar with (and generous to help counterbalance) the obstacles a tech company faces, and other tech companies in the area they can poach from and collaborate with. So a tech company is going to choose the Bay Area (Stanford/Berkeley grads), or Boston (Harvard/MIT), or Austin (Univ of Texas) over ESL every day of the week. Tech companies aren’t bypassing ESL for the reasons you cite, it bypasses it because it’s just not their radar.

That doesn’t mean that cities like East St. Louis have to be left in the dust, but they need to be creative about finding their niche.

#27 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 4, 2017 @ 10:12 pm

Who would be their counterparts on the left? Simply pointing out the existence of Bernie Bros doesn’t cut it.

None of that is “left.” Hamiltonian perhaps. The point your data makes is that there are more resigned Republicans who oppose Trump and actually have access to a bully pulpit of some sort than there are resigned Democrats who have that rather limited influence.

Does anyone have some kind of obligation to set up shop in the Ozarks?

Yes, absolutely. But then, I’m the Bolshevik here, so I would say that, wouldn’t I.

A more accurate way to put it would be, at the point where your bright idea requires some venture capital, if I ran the zoo, a condition of getting the venture capital you need would be that you locate in the Ozarks, or East St. Louis, or on the Pine Ridge Lakota reservation, or in Portsmouth, Ohio. I’ve actually dreamed of, if I won the lottery I’d set up a research lab in Greenbriar County, West Virginia, because that place happens to be dear to my heart, and the biggest capital investment is a federal prison, but dear to my heart is different from public policy.

The essence of socialism is that capital is social, not private. We know from the disastrous experience of many attempts at socialism that there needs to be lots of room for individual initiative, but at some point, your idea requires someone else’s capital, or your profits are accumulated from the difference between what you pay your employees and what you charge your customers, and yes you DO have social obligations.

This is really not much different from offering medical students free tuition and a stipend to live on, with the condition that they devote the first ten years of their career to working in an underserved area. There are ways to Make The Internet Great Again, while boosting these local economies rather than adding to the the glut, bloat, and unconscionably artificial property values in the San Francisco Bay Area or Boston.

Part of it is that people who want the jobs at this exciting new project will move to the area where it is located, and that will change the local economy and culture just a bit. Then, there really are capable, intelligent people in the local population, who if they saw some hope and purpose to making an effort, could rise to the occasion and become a real asset to the company — and to their community. Further, as the company becomes profitable, its charity and “giving back” would naturally be directed toward its own local environment. All this would be good.

Its true, there would be grousing about these outsiders bringing their fancy ways, there would be incorrigibly lazy and stupid locals asking their former classmates “you think you’re better’n me?” and telling them they’re too big for their britches. (White folks do this quite as well as colored folks, they just can’t call it “acting white.”) But that’s something to work through, not a reason to give up.

One of the reasons I stopped subscribing to The Economist, besides the fact that they stopped offering it to me for the discounted rate of $12 a quarter, is the sheer LIBERALISM of pontificating that the only way to bring down red hot real estate prices in London was to abrogate the Green Belt that had been legislated to preserve open space fairly close up to the city. Damn those liberals — the ones who also want every woman over the age of 22 in the workforce just because its the most efficient use of them.

The proper response, in my seldom humble opinion, is to coerce, as gently and humanely as possible, the investment of capital in Newcastle and Birmingham and Cardiff, and choke off inflows of fresh capital to London. Gauge it so that there is sufficient capital activity to maintain what London already is, but relieve the pressure by directing new capital where it is far more badly needed. Win-win.

You have a problem with that?

#28 Comment By EngineerScotty On July 4, 2017 @ 10:13 pm

Hidden in here, but not very well hidden, is the idea that two young guys who have some idea to Make the Internet Great (or whatever it is they propose to do with their startup) have some kind of obligation to “invest” in economically depressed areas, and if they do not do that they are exhibiting their contempt for poor white people or poor black people or both, depending on location.

That would be taking my statement a bit too far… certainly, there are many rational reasons why a businessperson may not wish to invest in a long-time economically depressed area–a lack of relevant skills in the local labor market is far from the only reason why. And it would be rather unfair to shift the burden of rehabilitating such places to random businesspeople.

Indeed, and this is kind of my point, collective action is probably the best hope for such places. And even then, past attempts at helping have often gone wrong–many poor-but-functional black neighborhoods were bulldozed and replaced with projects several decades ago, on the stated grounds that such places were “blighted”. In practice, such things actions were often caused by greed or malice (many “urban renewal” projects in mid-20th-century Portland happened when whites wanted the real estate), but some were well-intentioned failures.

You imply malice here where I don’t see it. The simpler explanation why new industries aren’t flocking to places like East St. Louis is that industries tend to cluster in like-communities. A tech company needs: easy access to capital, a pool of highly talented recruits, a local government that is familiar with (and generous to help counterbalance) the obstacles a tech company faces, and other tech companies in the area they can poach from and collaborate with. So a tech company is going to choose the Bay Area (Stanford/Berkeley grads), or Boston (Harvard/MIT), or Austin (Univ of Texas) over ESL every day of the week. Tech companies aren’t bypassing ESL for the reasons you cite, it bypasses it because it’s just not their radar.

Not to be rude, but that misses the point. The reason that tech companies aren’t flocking to ESL is not because it lacks venture-capital networks or local academic talent–indeed, the greater St. Louis area has several fine universities and UIUC–one of the best tech schools in the land–is a two hours drive away.

The reason companies don’t flock there is that it’s a giant slum–with longstanding generational poverty, rampant official corruption, and high levels of social dysfunction. The place has trouble attracting basic services like grocery stores, let alone export employers that can provide a functioning capital base. It has a long way to go before worrying about its “niche”.

(And given that it is a giant slum largely populated with African-Americans, the political class in both Washington and Springfield has generally not cared about it, and has let it fester for a good long time).

Nowadays, many largely-white communities, which thrived in the days of full employment, particular after the second world war, are finding themselves in the same boat with their productive industries long gone, and the same sorts of social pathologies developing (rampant drug and alcohol abuse; malfunctioning politics and law enforcement; large-scale and organized crime; low levels of educational attainment, and development of a crabs-in-a-bucket subculture that resents both authority and anyone trying to better themselves).

Fixing such places will take a lot of time and a lot of money–far more than a job-retraining program or a targeted-investment program. Many people who have comfortable lives aren’t willing to spend either, and are full of reasons why such places are the architects of their own misery, and thus deserve to rot.