When trying to engage in political discourse, it seems Americans still have a lot to learn. Fortunately, former big city banker Chris Arnade is doing his part to help fix that problem by directly addressing an all-too-common stereotype: that middle America, land of the fly-over, is filled with "stupid people," as suggested by Twitter user Melinda Byerley.
"One thing middle America could do is realize that no educated person wants to live in a shithole with stupid people," she wrote in a screenshot posted to the social platform. "Especially violent, racist, and/or misogynistic ones."
Arnade, a former Wall Street banker who lived in New York City for 22 years, has since become a writer and photographer and has spent the last few years driving around the United States working on a series about addiction and poverty. During that time, he had the opportunity to meet and learn from a diverse group of Americans — many of them from the heartland.
In his own tweetstorm responding to Byerley, Arnade went on to describe being helped by minorities while fixing his car and going to a church with services in Spanish. He advocated for the decency of Americans — including the so-called "forgotten men and women" in middle America, who have fallen on tough times.
"I think there is this dialogue where we talk about other people being stupid," Arnade told A Plus. "Which is stunningly unhelpful. To call any group, no matter what they are, weak or dumb or lazy or stupid, that gets us nowhere."
Throughout his travels, Arnade has spent a lot of time with low-income Americans, including people battling addiction and poverty and people in communities that have been described as left behind. He said he continually saw a resiliency and decency in those people. Not only did he see them help each other out on a daily basis, but they also welcomed him — an outsider from New York — and engaged him during interviews.
"There is a lot of animosity politically between people who vote Republican and vote Democrat, and that animosity goes both ways," Arnade said. "But I think at a personal level, people can be extraordinarily generous if you give them a chance to be."
Arnade, who describes himself as a Democrat, offered some advice about how to handle political discourse.
"Try your best not to go into a situation and judge people without knowing their situation, without knowing what they're going through, without knowing what their frustrations are," he said. "I think that goes both ways: it's not just advice for people like Melinda in San Francisco, it's also advice for conservatives in small towns, they need to be open minded as well."
Cover photo: Shutterstock.
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