Driving Through Dying Blue Towns

It starts when you get off the highway and take whichever exit gets you to your folks’ house. Did you live in-town or in an ’80s suburb development? Maybe you were lucky to live in the good part of town, so do you fight the lights on Main Street or take the secret back route? The houses are still all there, maybe your high school has a few extra buildings, and it is so clean and quiet. You roll the windows down to smell the fresh air. Where are the children?

Lawn signs whisk by. The reliably blue area only has blue on blue elections. Good old Mr. Democrat is still in politics, a reliable, local face for the establishment Democrats, but there is a challenger from the Bernie wing who at twenty-five has your friends on Facebook’s approval and wants you to “expect more”. More what? Your home town is a perfect little hideaway from the rest of the world. Then you put on the news and realize something is not quite right. The local news A-block now has crime stories, not moose-on-the-loose laughers. The governor speaks the truth, but it is in an uncouth manner so the good liberals can voice disapproval of him for stating the obvious. How did heroin get here? Where are the children?

A meal in the booming mid-sized city nearby reveals new restaurants and a hot real estate market, exacerbating what made you and your friends leave and pushing families out to new suburbs and exurbs. Why do 1,700 square-foot homes cost $350,000 in this town? Where do these people work? You start noticing that city is pulling in older folks who want to enjoy the city amenities in retirement and young, childless creative class strivers. This is called the blue city model, and everyone tries to copy New York City at a smaller scale. Definitely no children there.

Maybe it is graduation day. Sitting in the stands at your old school, maybe a kid named Schmidt, Abbott, or Holcomb is giving the valedictorian address. Now it is one of the foreign students paying exorbitant fees or with parents who paid $300,000 in cash for a home for a public high school just so they can hopscotch to an Ivy. The scared Chinese kleptocrats fleeing Xi’s corruption clean-up looked for an area with “good schools” and an Ivy pipeline. Your town fit the bill even if their home purchase resembled throwing a dart at a map. Guess you and your fellow top 10 strivers broke down Ivy doors ten or twenty-five years ago not for your neighbors, but for rich foreigners to walk through.

The Chinese kid speaks grammatically perfect, accented English. The student’s speech is generic and could be given at any American school. “I learned so much. People are people no matter the country. I felt so included, now excuse me while I go to Harvard and the local girl who came in second was denied and attends Swarthmore.” No roots, no shared history, but the retired well-to-do couples enjoying the real estate equity boost cheer it on. Defenders of the town’s inclusion say it subsidizes so much for the school system because enrollments are declining statewide. Escorts can dress in last season’s haute couture, too, but a whore is a whore. Once again, where are the children?

Maybe you’re in town for your grandmother’s funeral. Driving through the area, you count Catholic churches. There used to be five with different enough masses that one was the fast mass, while the other sang too much. Maybe a town had two different Irish churches and an Italian one. Now they are consolidated with many empty pews, and the services are mostly attended by parishioners who will be lucky to see 2025. Very few children there.

Pick up something at Stop ‘n’ Shop for your parents and look for children. A grocery store in New England could be rebranded “Purgatory” due to customer demographics. You are lucky to spot a mother and child, which is a stark contrast to your area’s grocery stores that have designated mother with kids parking spaces. I passed the frozen foods section where my friends’ mother, a woman who watched me play sports through my childhood and took homecoming photos of my date and I, was killed by a member of the latest sexual minority we are told to celebrate. That murderer was receiving hormones that alter one’s mind, despite prior stays in mental institutions. Oddly, the woman who was transitioning into a man who demanded papers use proper male pronouns decided “zhe” was a woman for prison assignment.

Your politically blue hometown saw jobs leave and nothing really take its place. Friends who had parents in just the right industries (finance, real estate, defense, higher ed and medicine) seemed to avoid the double story fate of others. The double story is where you come home and one of your parents said that a friend was arrested, divorced or died, but they do not know details. You catch drinks with friends or see your sibling and hear the real story.

A double story can induce laughter. The buxom cutie you dated in high school has two kids, still looks good, and lives in-town per your dad, but per your brother, she has two kids by two men and hits the local bar the first weekend of the month when the EBT comes through and child support direct deposits. The double stories can get darker. Oxys turned into a heroin habit; OD, divorce, prison, etc. The newest double story friend told you fifteen years ago that all he wanted was a job at the paper mill, a little camp by a lake, and a fishing license. The paper mill closed down ten years ago. He died in 2014. He left behind no children.

Driving back to your parents’ home through the ghostly quiet streets, it hits you. We did it to ourselves. Maybe the anger at the local lack of awareness is a rush, and you need a moment. Reflect on the beach? You can’t even park, walk out and enjoy the silence. It’s gone. In its place are vacation homes for rich out of towners, but hey, it subsidized the public bathrooms there. Selling one’s soul can happen morsel by morsel and at the rate one chooses. We do it to ourselves.

Decades ago, many blue states voted on legislation pushing, manufacturing, natural resource, and paper companies out of their states. Those same voters felt righteous supporting environmental causes funded by elites and specific industrial interests to continuously ratchet up environmental regulations until all those manufacturing jobs were off-shored. Thousands, if not millions, of jobs left those states, and welfare from the federal government and service economy jobs took their place. Those blue collar jobs did not require mountains of non-dischargeable student loans and could provide for a family. Not everyone was cut out to be a PhD in physics, but many could become a draftsman or a reliable worker in the lumberyard. If your hometown had even worse luck, those social services pulled in an underclass that changed the streets at night within a decade. If those newcomers have children, you do not want your kid in school with them.

The siren song of secularization helped us leave the world of religion behind, especially the shame of sin, but at what social cost? No fault divorce and rampant illegitimacy destroyed our families. Those institutions created social bonds that no government program can replicate even if you “expect more”. Europe and Japan throw government money at increasing birth rates and fail to boost them. When the people fall in love with the hedonism and narcissism of modernity, they stop thinking of the future. Kids get in the way of vacations, cat gifs, and hobbies. What responsibility does one have to unborn generations when you barely know your past? There are no children.

New England, now like other areas they mocked for the meth epidemic decades ago, believed the materialist, consumerist promise of modernity could replace the old bonds of kith and kin. Now those blue areas like New England are falling victim to the same social erosion. Heroin is not a drug of people looking for a new or better high. It is a drug of despair, an escape, an agent to numb any and all feeling. Everyone knows there is no happy ending to a heroin story.

This is happening all over America in small towns. Suicide rates are up, as well. Symptoms of this hopelessness are elsewhere and far more visible, but no commentator would dare be honest about it. People do not flock to see an elderly communist give rambling speeches on socialism, which fails everywhere, unless they have no hope for the future. They cannot consider a bright future, so please, oh please, just give me a piece of the pie. A people do not flock to a casino magnate that says, “I’ll protect you because no one else will,” unless they have truly given up on the ability of national institutions protecting them. They truly do not think anyone cares.

Answers will not come from credentialed experts at Harvard or The New York Times. Their prescriptions got us into this madness. These little towns in blue states supposedly living the progressive dream, and other areas outside the dominant metropolises, will have to look in the mirror and build anew. Social media does not replace the social cohesion and technology that our bowling leagues, the harvest festival, churches and little leagues created. It is our choice, but it is a matter of voluntarily starting or being forced to do so in crisis. If we choose wisely, the children will return.

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  1. Laguna Beach Fogey June 19, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    I first started noticing the rot in rural Upstate New York in the 1980s. Many of the young people, of course, the smart ones, escaped south to FL, GA, or TX, or moved out West.

  2. Failures of will are a vicious circle. Before communities can be restored, people have to change. Before people can change for the better, they have to want to change. But they don’t want to change, or want to enough- since if they did, they would have changed already, and the problem would have already solved itself. Suasion is useless against this circle, because it’s logically closed. It’s like telling a sick person that he has to get better.

  3. Kaiser Dishelm June 19, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Excellent article. It hits home, but this isn’t isolated to Blue states. Red states are demoralized, too.

    I’m in Texas, and rural kids are dope-addled, hooked on pills, high time preference. Murder, suicide, drug addiction, illegitimacy, and divorce are problems in my rural Texan family. My grandfather was a real patriarch, one of my heroes, killed by a kid who was driving while high. I have friends with similar family stories.

    They aren’t even attempting to live the progressive dream, but progress is hungry, and its appetite doesn’t stop at the Red River. The influx of foreigners from North and South hasn’t helped, but they can’t be blamed entirely for our rot. I think the Cathedral would have its way with us regardless.

    1. Thoughts of a Foreigner June 20, 2016 at 6:13 am


      I am an old-school ultra-liberal foreigner and I want to offer my advice on how to fix your country. The fix is easy and common sense. Almost everyone under 30 knows what it is. It is these 4 easy steps:

      1. Legalise all drugs thus ending the drug epidemic, balancing the budget.
      2. Close the borders and deport all illegal immigrants. Helps to balance the budget, reduce crime and so on.
      3. Stop fighting Israels wars and taking money from corrupt Arabs. This will increase the budget and geopolitical risks for a short while but You can replace Israel with a rearmed Japan (120 million hardworkers versus 10-15 million parasites who steal military secrets) and Arabs with Eastern European allies such as Poland
      4. Return manufacturing to the continental United States (yes, even with robots this matters – manufacturing is more about control of supply chains in geopolitics than just manufacturing jobs).

      People have stopped having faith – both as Americans and as foreigners – in the American dream because America has been broken by being made a bitch for Israel and the Arabs. Fix that and you fix everything. But start with easy things like the drug war at first.

      Everything I offer is doable, practical and not really out of the mainstream – not specifically conservative nor liberal. But it saddens me that even members of the alternative media, let alone mainstream media, can not help but suppress this reasonable solution.

      I guess my comment will be considered hateful. But I just want to see America prosper. Because I used to admire this place. I see no other way back to dignity and a life worth living for Americans.

      I want working class to have freedom of speech and dignity.

      1. Japan — no kids. Israel — lots and lots of kids. Where are you from, “foreigner”? Are you Japanese? Then have babies, and shut up. Are you European or a Putin-stooge? Israel could easily defeat any combination of European countries, and certainly Russia, without US help, nukes aside. The average Israeli could also beat you, personally, into a pulp. US aid only cripples Israel, and the Israeli right knows it. The US has never fought a single war for Israel. Israel gives the US far more, in intelligence, weapons design, weapons testing, and militarily relevant hi-tech research, than it gets from the US.

        1. Hadley Bishop June 20, 2016 at 9:34 am

          I’m going to leave this comment up because I think it’s hilarious.

  4. I think that I literally live in this town.

    How build a traditional family in this situation: learn web development and get a 100% remote job. There’s a monthly “Ask HN: Who’s hiring?” thread at news.ycombinator.com.

  5. George Wallace was right. Yankee morons should have listened to him. He was the last, best hope. A continuing problem is the northerners who pack their carpetbags and flee the hell they created in the north, only to immediately recreate the situation in NC, FL, TN. TX, etc. Just stay in Rome and fiddle.

    1. Kaiser Dishelm June 20, 2016 at 2:04 am

      MD, this is where cities come into play. In my area, a huge influx of Northerners/Californians/foreigners are destroying the ability of young stable families to afford housing in safe areas of the city. The old answer of “move to the ‘burbs” doesn’t work anymore, because high property taxes (double digit increases this year!) in the city are flooding the ‘burbs with every kind of dalit imaginable. The urban properties they wrecked and left are being bought by flippers with dirt-cheap loans (thanks, Fed) and sold for exorbitant amounts only Yankees think are reasonable.

      The result is suburban middle class families, stuck with increasing diversity (thanks, HUD) and crime can’t afford to escape. We need to lay down roots, but every incentive is against it. HLvM, indeed.

      1. As a millennial whose thinking about getting married and starting a family soon I’m trying to research places to “lay down roots,” but it’s hard to find a place that will work. Everything seems like it’s constantly churning and demographically/financially unstable. I’ve spent the majority of my life in America in two different cities and neither appears very suitable. The places my family members live are terrible options.

        1. Christian,

          You’re just creating excuses not to marry and have children, which perfectly fine in today’s environment. You really can’t limit your options to just two towns, and the towns of your family members. I’d also say don’t trust your family members on advice about their towns, cause they all have their own motivations for the advice given.

          Continue your travels in China and possibly Europe. You may meet a woman outside your race you may want to settle down with and have children, who can do a better job than most westernized women can do today.

          Start with some research of the areas you’d like to live in, then become nomadic and experience the towns for yourself. My father did this several years ago before we moved from a metropolis to a small town. My father did this without any input from his family members, or even my mother. Why? Cause he was a man.

        2. The Azores.

          No, I’m not kidding in the least.

  6. Read two books: “Dreamland” by Sam Quinones and “American Pain” by John Temple. Here’s a quote by Temple from an article he wrote:

    “In 1993, the DEA allowed pharmaceutical companies to manufacture 3,520 kilograms of oxycodone. In 2015, the DEA authorized production of 137,500 kilograms of oxycodone. That’s a 39-fold increase in 22 years, the equivalent of turning two Buicks into four Boeing 737s. Either Americans are in 39 times more pain than we were 20 years ago, or something else is wrong.”

    This is Big Pharma getting into the sweet profits of the heroin business with government permission. And it’s been purposely aimed at poor whites, dehumanized by the system, in flyover country. Had they aimed it at blacks (it’ll get there) there would have been a stink early on, thus threatening regulation and a cut in their dope profits. The fact that they’ve kept this trade out of black areas proves that they know that they’re basically catering to addicts, that they’re pushing, because after all if it was a matter of legitimate medical pain relief how can they deny that healing to the black community? Nobody speaks for poor, rural whites in this country, nobody, so they knew they could get away with it.

    The second leg of the government’s opiate war on rural whites is open borders that allow Mexican black tar heroin dealers to ply their poison with impunity. They consciously target white communities (again read Quinones). The penalty most of them get is deportation, and of course that means nothing. Both aspects of this plague are policy, driven by racism. Those of you who oppose the fence are complicit in this mass death. Open borders are primarily driven by a hatred of white people, the fact that it makes it easy to flood the nation with heroin and cause further misery and death among the targets is just a bonus.

    1. SecretForumLurker June 20, 2016 at 9:45 am

      Pretty sure if you read Landry’s heroin articles here at his essay at Taki’s, he has covered these points. Whites made a perfect target also because they had jobs to perform to continuously buy into the market.

    2. Interesting info. Big pharma is making a killing, literally.

  7. “No roots, no shared history, but the retired well-to-do couples enjoying the real estate equity boost cheer it on.”

    We call these people the Handover Team.

  8. My parents grew up in small rural towns in Ohio. From what they tell me, those towns seemed vibrant. I visit them nowadays sometimes just to imagine how my parents grew up, and find them filled with white trash, newly arrived minorities, and strip malls. They don’t seem anything like what I imagined from my parent’s stories. It’s a social tragedy.

    1. Yeah, this is a common occurrence. I hear stories from my parents and their friends about growing up white working class in American cities. Doesn’t sound so bad, but you go to those places now and it’s a black-Mexican gangland with a few old white couples here and there. What the hell happened?

  9. Great post.

    The thriving red-state mining town I grew up in has been shredded by globalism. The downtown’s once thriving businesses, all gone due to the arrival of Walmart, in the mid-1980s, which was worse for the town than the mines closing.

    In the intervening years, the state has turned “purple. ”

    It’s a grind, but one must stay positive, or at least positive enough to do the work & stay healthy.

    1. It seems stupid (and counterproductive) to blame Walmart for misgovernment. Besides, even the poorest parts of the USA are still richer than most of the world today. Though many erroneously focus on economics, problem obviously isn’t economic, but spiritual in nature. Seriously, whatever you think would better the economic position of people won’t work, because what they need isn’t more stuff – they’re already richer than 99.99…% of people in history (people in Middle Ages were incomprehensibly poor, yet mentally sound, and mostly happy).

  10. Ryan,

    Can you share some thoughts on good places to live for raising families?

    It sounds like you’ve settled in an area that has mother-with-kids parking spaces at the grocery store, in stark contrast to the dying New England towns.

    That sounds pretty good. What are the criteria for good places like that?

  11. I agree with Rico. We need some thoughts on what places are worth looking to relocate to.

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