By Hannah Adams
I grew up in Letcher, Kentucky. It’s a small town in Appalachia — you know, coal country. I guess you could call us one of those “working class” places you hear so much about lately. But the more I hear talk about “rural” communities like ours, the less I feel like the rest of the country understands us at all.
People seem to think we’re living in the past. Like we’re all hillbillies on food stamps. Or close-minded conservatives who only value coal. But that’s not the truth. The biggest difference between where I live and most of America is that in a small town like this, we can’t afford to stay divided.
Like any community, we have our political disagreements. The presidential election results were a surprise to all of us. Local Trump supporters and haters alike never expected him to pull through. But even though there are people in my town who aren’t happy about Trump becoming president, no one is going break out the protest signs or set stuff on fire. In a city, if you tick someone off you can retreat to your bubble of people who can agree with you. But here, you can’t retreat back to your comfort zone.
We run into each other in the aisles of grocery stores. All the kids go to one big high school. And even though a lot of younger people aren’t crazy about coal, they’re guaranteed to have a relative that worked in the mines. So even though all the tensions that are dividing our country exist here, they happen in very close quarters.
For example, there’s a guy in my town who went to a pro-Trump inauguration party with his family, and then an anti-Trump gathering with friends that night. At school, there are kids who are pro-Trump and anti-Trump, but we don’t get into screaming fights in class. The biggest “demonstration” on Inauguration day was at a local radio station, where the DJs decided to play protest songs.
We know yelling back and forth will only result in hurt feelings. So when politics do come up here, here’s how we handle it. We listen. We respect each other. Because at the end of the day, we can’t afford not to.
I’m Hannah Adams in Letcher, Kentucky.
This story was produced in collaboration with The Holler, in Hazard, Kentucky.