Like the Arms of God

Dotted with coal stacks and steel mills, the Ohio River Valley holds more than ten states in it’s official designation. Primarily culturally Appalachian, the region is home to what’s now known as the rust belt, and stakes claim to most of the United States’ coal industry. The Ohio River Valley was once a powerhouse in manufacturing, extractive industries and steel production, among others. Starting in the 1960’s and especially accelerating in the early 1990’s, in regards to the loosening of traditionally protectionist trade policy, many of the towns in this region have been in a state of steady perpetual decline. While some cities have found success and a greater chance at recovery than their rural counterparts, socioeconomic factors often limit the opportunity for populations across the region. Alongside the lack of economic opportunity, the opiate crisis has taken a continually exponential number of lives, threatening an entire generation of the heartland’s population. While the opiate epidemic certainly doesn’t discriminate between class and status, the problem is easier to confront in communities with access to a larger number of resources. Coinciding with the fallout of manufacturing, the expansion of white collar work and concentration of wealth on the eastern and western coasts of the United States has fostered greater immobility to those living in the interior, which is to say that it is difficult, though not impossible, for people born into low-income environments to acquire the tools necessary to succeed in today’s world. This was historically less problematic as blue collar work provided a high quality of life and allowed future generations the choice to continue their education, move, or stay in their hometown, with both options affording a rather high standard of living for their families. With the lack of steady blue collar work, those options have become fewer and fewer.

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