Wonderful piece by Brian Groh in the Times about his home town, Lawrenceburg, Indiana. In 2008 an overflow crowd came out to hear Bill Clinton proclaim that under an Obama administration, the economy would boom and their town would come back:
But things didn’t improve. The latest census reports median household income in Lawrenceburg as $30,735, with a little over 32 percent of us in poverty. And in 2014, according to The New York Times, our small county (which is over 97 percent white) sent more people to prison than San Francisco. In January, our hospital cited a “higher number of uninsured patients” as a reason it needed to “right-size” its work force by laying off 31 employees and eliminating behavioral health services.Obviously I don't think Trump has any kind to solution to these problems, and the KKK certainly doesn't. But democracy is not safe as long as millions of people feel that the system is failing and ignoring them. I would say that one constant of my life, from the 1970s to now, has been this sense of loss across a wide swathe of America, leading to widespread anger and frustration. Almost everybody running for office in America says he or she stands for change, taking it for granted that to defend the status quo is a losing message.
And there are darker omens. Last fall, my teenage nephew came running into the house, wide-eyed, saying he’d found a human skull in the woods. I followed him until, panting at the bottom of a ravine, I saw the skull trapped in a thicket of sticks and leaves, missing several of its front teeth. The police arrived, and for the rest of the night, I watched from my bedroom window as flashlights swept over the long grass, through the woods, until they were finally swallowed by darkness.
It was an overdose, an officer told me later, the victim most likely another casualty of the nation’s opioid epidemic. (In 2017, in this county, there were 80 opioid prescriptions for every 100 residents.) The young man seemed to have died higher up on the hill, where they found more of his remains. The rain must have washed his skull down the slope.
The skull felt like a portent, but also a turning point. Months later, I noticed a vendor at a roadside stand selling Trump flags. “Trump 2020: Keep America Great,” one read. Another read “Trump 2020: No More [Expletive].” It was more than half a year away from the election, and I remember thinking: Why flags? A flag was something people fought under, and for; something people carried to war. By the summer, another vendor popped up selling flags with even bolder slogans like “Trump 2020: [Expletive] Your Feelings,” “Liberty or Die,” “Make Liberals Cry Again.” The economy was in the dumps but the flag business was booming.
And not just Trump flags. In the past few months, I have seen three Confederate flags hoisted in neighbors’ yards, where previously I’d seen none. Just a few weeks ago, two masked men appeared outside our high school, holding a large KKK flag and fliers, apparently scouting for young recruits.
At times, all of this has felt like a horror movie, where it starts off happily enough — in a sun-drenched, idyllic farmhouse — and then the darkness slowly takes over. The change has occurred so slowly that at times, I hardly noticed it, until one day I barely recognized my hometown.