In March we took a road trip through some of the Deep South US States. A few images stick in my mind.
Exploring the Louisiana flatlands down towards the Gulf, south of Lake Charles – Lafayette. This is clearly hurricane alley. There is evident poverty. Many plots of land have an aged RV next to the shack, ready for quick getaway. Some just comprise an RV in a shelter.
In Birmingham, Alabama the great industrial centre built by blacks for white money is no more, just a few museums, like the Sloss steel mill.
In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the famous choo choo runs no more and its very fine station is closed.
Fort Payne in Alabama was built in the 1830s to intern and relocate Cherokee Indians. In the 1880s, due to the railroad, it was a booming iron and steel town until the minerals ran out. The opera house is still there. In the early 1900s a hosiery industry started and by the 1990s Fort Payne was ‘sock capital of the world’. Globalisation put an end to that, and the place now feels like it is struggling.
Winona in Mississippi is another a town which owes its existence to the railroad. It now seems more dead than alive, with many shuttered buildings.
Vicksburg, Mississippi was the site of a major battle of the Civil War in 1863, and grew on the back of the trading boats plying the River Mississippi. Vicksburg has a history of suppression of first Indians and then blacks.
It is now a tourist town, with an apparently prosperous posh residential area. But Main Street looks faded, with many closed shops. Drunks or druggies patrol the edges of the civilised area.
I see all these as symptoms that the great American Dream is not working. Struggling towns and communities, due to jobs destroyed or moved elsewhere, particularly due to globalisation. Donald Trump offered change from this failed system, which has been engineered by both Republicans and Democrats. It is not surprising that people voted for him despite reservations on his character.
There is no evidence yet that politicians other than the Bernie Sanders left wing Democrats offer any solutions.
Featured image is the now-static Chattanooga Choochoo.
Picture of Fort Payne Opera House courtesy Jerry & Roy Klotz, via Wikimedia Commons.