Excursion 9, Part 3 (Shack Attack)

In which our intrepid hero experiences the concord of (New) Lexington…

In America, there is a great gulf between rich and poor.  Even greater than the gulf in income, I think, is the gulf in empathy and understanding.  Most middle class and an even greater number of wealthy people have no personal experience in what it is like to experience poverty—statistics clearly show that social mobility in the United States is not very high (in fact, among developed countries, the U.S. has one of the lowest rates of social mobility).  I myself am in a somewhat unusual position.  Twice in my life I have experienced extended periods of poverty, while currently I have a comfortable middle class income.  Moreover, because of the university I did my undergraduate work at and because of the job I currently hold, I have met or been friends with many people far wealthier than me, including a couple of billionaires.

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Excursion 9, Part 2 (Every Knee Shall Bow)

In which our intrepid hero encounters various signs of religious inclinations…

It goes without saying that religion is a touchy subject, as many deeply held beliefs can be.  My own perspective on religion is slightly unusual.  I was raised Catholic in a city with a significant Catholic population.  However, I still remember from my childhood being passed anti-Catholic comic books published by Jack Chick and being told by one Baptist that I was going to go to Hell for being a Catholic.  I became aware of religious prejudice at an early age.  However, religion did not “take” with me.  By the time I was an adult I had become an atheist.  Yet I always had a great many friends and relatives from a variety of religions whose opinions and perspectives I greatly respected.  Later, as I began professionally to get into the arena of studying (and combating) extremism, I became even more familiar both with religious prejudices as well as prejudices against people because of their religion.   And for more than a dozen years I have been working for a civil rights organization dedicated to fighting against such prejudices.

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Excursion 9, Part 1 (South by Southeast)

In which our intrepid hero discovers people making hay while the sun shines…

Southeast Ohio has always appealed to me.  Geographically, it is one of the most interesting and diverse parts of Ohio.  It is also of cultural interest: Southeast Ohio in many ways is the heart of Appalachian Ohio (though strictly speaking, it is only one of three regions in the state that are technically considered Appalachian Ohio).  Appalachian Ohio is sparsely populated (the largest city in all three regions is Youngstown, Ohio, and the next largest city has fewer than 50,000 inhabitants) and economically depressed (especially Southeast Ohio; most of its counties are considered economically “at-risk” or even “distressed”).   Appalachian Ohio was originally settled by the same demographic groups of people who settled western Virginia and eastern Kentucky and as a result shares most of the elements of Appalachian culture with the Appalachians of other states.

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