“They want us to be shepards to these kids. But no one wants to talk about the fact that many of them are raised by wolves”- J.D Vance. Maw Maw with a 44 caliber pistol under her waste, A mother that desires your piss so she can pass a drug test, and a sister who forges your mother’s signature. That was the life of the young J.D Vance as he portrayed his growth in the award winning novel, Hillbilly Elegy, whom tackles America’s problem and breaks barriers of stereotypes in a every dividing nation of inequality. A book themed about upward mobility and personal agency through his rise of social classes, telling his through hilarious stories.
Stereotypes suggests the labels of “white trash” and “destined to fail” for people like J.D Vance. For people who see their own mother pulling a gun on them, for people who see cannabis growing on their lawns.
Growing up, J.D has no ‘real’ mother. He had nobody to tuck him in and say “I love you”. Although it seems quite insignificant to us as the journée typique of our parents- We’ve gotten used to it. So has J.D. Nurtured by hate, drugs, and a ‘mountain dew mouth’. Infact, his sole model Maw Maw, advocated for many of this violent behavior: “You never start the fight, but you always end the fight if someone else starts it(66)”. Nevertheless, what all of this fighting taught him was loyalty. He knew has was in a crap situation, hence, he needed the help from all the “straight minded people” he could get. However, the blends of loyalty to his family and his will to fight produced vengeance. For example, when he as a mere 10 year old. His sister, Lindsay, had her first boyfriend. However, that was cut short and he saw her heartbroken. Hence, one day he bumped into his sister’s ex on the street. And despite the 40 pounds and 5 years he had on J.D, he charged him. “For the first two times he pushed me down easily. (66) ”The third time I charged him: “ he had enough and proceeded to beat the **** out of me (66)”. Infact, Maw Maw didn’t just go around and tell J.D to to beat up people, she did it herself. As a women well above 65, she still has guts to take a gun and point it at people to search their cars. This bizarre thing happened when they we’re walking out of church and J.D wasn’t among them simply because he had to use the bathroom. Maw Maw and Paw Paw grew suspicious, they went to point of: “Paw Paw ran to the car, and grabbed a .44 magnum for himself and a special .38 for Maw Maw (106)” (.44 and .38 were guns). Then the duo of 70+ year olds proceeded to: “search cars like they were ********* DEA agents”. This to J.D means that his sole role model and life coach advocates for him to do the same.
If I was in that situation, my parents would scold me for being dumb since I picked on a 15 year old while being elementary- not Vance’s. When he ran for her house with a bloody body and a crooked face, his Maw Maw said “You did real good (67)” and proceeded to use the first aid kit. Such shaped Hillbilly children of the ‘Iron Rust Belt’, they knew of vengeance for the sake of loyalty. All this begs on simple question: Why doesn’t anybody call the police? After all,
It was “quite common” to see your child being beat up looking like he’s disabled. The answer was simple: “Hillbilly loyalty”. Although vengeance existed to the spectrum of murder they knew they were all suffering. Thus, it would be a betrayal like sinful act to let others suffer more by pressing charges.
“She was our mother too (172)” Those we’re the words of Lindsay- the sister of J.D. Upon the death of Maw Maw and since the beginnings of J.D: He had no real mother. Infact, it was typical for him to move every 6 months at best because his mother kept getting divorced. Although such rituals have plagued his upbringing, he did eventually however get tired of such. Thus, he decided to live with his original dad, Ken. At Ken’s house, he was in a foreign situation. Not because there was Crack growing in the backyard and that his step brothers smoked it. Instead, it was because Ken and his wife never fought. He felt out of place. For a child nurtured by the scenery of violence from his mother and Maw Maw. Maw Maw once told Paw Paw (granddad) to never get drunk again or he’ll die. However, one day he came back drunk. Hence, she stuck to her promise, pouring gasoline over his body than she proceeded to light him in flames- he was saved by his child, who came in with a hose. Thus, to the extent our stereotypes- picture drug addicts in slum areas- it has extended beyond that. The poor not only took/ not took drugs, nevertheless, it remained as a fragment of their life, that continues to plague the adults of tomorrow. When you see your parents blend together with violence and fighting, that naturally makes you think that such acts are justified and fall in the framework of righteousness. Thus, they pursue such acts which we deem to be harassment. They’re stuck not because they’re dumb, rather it’s because of the nurturing they get.
To most of the few million individuals on the iron rust belt, they’re stuck in a “poverty trap” that’s hard to escape. We know it’s hard, they know it’s hard, our president knows it’s hard. Commonly speaking, when people fail, they have incentives to blame others- That’s universal. These hillbillies are no different. As for the example J.D gave in Hillbilly Elegy, it simply was as follows. Once at the local pub, he encounters a man who quit his job because he’s “too lazy to wake up in the morning”. He later goes on Twitter and rants about how the “obama economy” has ruined his life. J.D vance was able to look at this angle not with the premier goal to reduce his shame and build glory upon him by scapegoating others. He instead opted for a bigger worldview, hence, he was able to make justified decisions. Studying hard eventually, than going to the marines, then coming back not to be subjected to suffering like many others, but to thrive. He attended Ohio state and juggled 4 jobs in a rigorous schedule and he never complained. After 2 years he has already acquired his bachelor’s degree despite it being a 4-year program and he had all the extra juggling on him. After which, he goes to Yale. He really did go from rags to riches, 6 step dads to 6 figures in annual income. As J.D stands at the helm and figure of achieving the American Dream- All can succeed in an endeavor of hard work and failing well.
In the end, J.D was no genius in his own words. He simply remarks himself as: “I have a nice job, a happy marriage, a comfortable home, and two lively dogs(1)”. That fits him in the same bracket of tens of millions of other Americans. However, what J.D could face that the people who are stuck in poverty cannot is simply truth. People aren’t idiots when they say they make no mistakes, instead, they just don’t wanna confess. Everybody has those cringy moments that you flinch every time you recall it. It’s not a matter of gold coating yourself, it’s simply a matter of failing fell. J.D failed and did stupid things like many other kids, smoking pot, breaking his nose a few dozen times. And even when he was at Yale he wrote stupid essays that got torn by his mentors. That sounds like the lows of the rest of us. However, J.D doesn’t make excuses even though they exist. He doesn’t slam Obama and not vote for him because he was black. He called him a genius. “He is a good father when most of us aren’t(191)… His wife tell us we shouldn’t be feeding our kids certain foods (191)… We hate her for it not because we think she wrong but because we know she’s right (191)”. The Hillbillies aren’t idiots who don’t relies their mistakes. It’s a matter of acceptance and having the will to accept that you treated your children badly, hence, motivating you to treat them better. Motivating you to go out and get paying job so you can see your children on weekends instead of smoking off your burdens. So you can be a proud father for one your children look up to.
In conclusion, J.D’s story is not one about luck or even hard work. It’s about having a brain and keeping a flame of willpower upon which motivates you to wake up every morning and work a stressful job. Hard work doesn’t give you success as Vance said- There’s plenty of people to work hard like his grandad at Armco but only earn $11 an hour. Working smart and having the ability to fail well. Every time you screw up, you know how to not screw up in the future. You take risks so achieve that extra more, because the parts of a job we’re confident with doesn’t earn us money. Being a laywer and citing the constitution doesn’t win you law battles, what does it that you have the ability to turn the evidence of others against them- because there’s always somebody who works harder than you, who has more evidence than you do. All in all, J.D’s Hillbilly Elegy comes at a time when we have Trump in office. These people voted Trump not because they’re idiots but because Trump addressed the iron rust belt and opposed globalization. Hillbilly Elegy not only cracks us up at his stories, but digs in to why income inequalities exist, why some are more “fortunate than others”. All in all, J.D tells us not to hope for the best in your current situation, but rather to take risks like he did and hop on opportunities. He joined the Marines even though he was weak, he applied for Yale even though he had no faith but still worked his butt off on his essays. This message is clear: we all hope for upward mobility, personal agency, and stability. We don’t do this from ambition or hard work. You can only work hard and be good if your confident, when you’re confident you’re not stretching your ability. Thus, not achieving your rise. Instead: Be bold, take risks, fall down and come back up thinking that it hurt just only to brush yourself clean and carry on with an idea of how not to do that again. Although this seems quite insignificant for those of us who achieved success. But the fact of the matter even putting aside all his advice stated previous is still important. Ironically, we hate Trump, Trump loses his election in the Upper and Higher classes of individuals. But what is at stake here, is that it tells us why people vote for Trump. This inspired me personally to view these hillbillies beyond the tags we place upon them as drug addicts and failures. It’s beyond that. We know its hard for them to get rich because income inequalities exist so they live on welfare. What we don’t know is a justified view of their political views who seems anti sematic towards races. Hillbilly elegy justifies that for us. Hillbilly elegy also connected to be to realize: “The poor are plagued in a welfare trap not for their stupidity, but because the system and tables and turned against them.” It also tells the hardworking people who are well of in a white collared job to work harder because you can and will always achieve more. It tells not to blame them for wasting our tax dollars when we can’t buy something, it instead tells us why affirmative action needs to exist- which is heavily voted against in richer societies. Hillbilly Elegy not only reveals the truth about our stereotypes, it justifies their actions, and tells us to blame ourselves and achieve more and help others. Hillbilly Loyalty seems unlawful, but instead it’s a compassion we lack when 40 million lawsuits are fired every year.