Lancaster,Ohio as viewed from Mount Pleasant. Photo by: Tim Kiser, Wikimedia Commons

The Heartbreaking Reality Of ‘Glass House’, Lancaster Based Best Seller

Journalist turned author Brian Alexander grew up in Lancaster, Ohio. It was, according to him, an idyllic childhood. The kind of childhood everyone thinks about when they picture small-town America. But all of that changed in 1987 when the Anchor Glass company was purchased by the Newell Corporation.

Throughout his book, Alexander highlights the impacts of massive job loss in a small community. They didn’t just suffer economically. It affected their social structure in Lancaster as well. Although the city has begun to recover, it has still been hit hard by problems that plague most rural areas in America. Opioid abuse, lower household incomes and D level education systems have all resulted in a shift from a strong middle-class town to one where 1 out of 5 people lives in poverty.

But the problems Lancaster and other towns like it face can’t be solely blamed on businesses being bought out. In an interview with NPR last month, Alexander explained, “When you can pay a foreign worker a third or less of what you’re paying a unionized flint glass worker in Lancaster, that’s an element, but it’s far from the only one. We seem to have this shrugging-shoulders belief that this is all some sort of natural evolution, like how the dinosaurs died. But what I’m trying to argue in the book is that some of this, at least in part, results from a series of conscious decisions [by] politicians, economists, business people, financiers.”

Income inequality became a huge talking point this past election season. Initially voiced by Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the words resonated through communities that have been devastated throughout America. After Secretary Clinton won the Democratic Primary, it was an idea quickly adopted into the democratic platform. Living wages and closing the gap of income inequality was something that people truly cared about. Even then Candidate Donald Trump declared himself a “blue collar billionaire” and claimed he would lower taxes on low-income citizens.

And Trump’s words resonated with the community of Lancaster. On election day, Donald Trump won Fairfield County with 60.8% of the vote, to Hillary Clinton’s 34%.

It’s too early to tell how much of an economic impact the Donald Trump presidency will have on Lancaster and other places like it. Alexander’s book may be the start of a new genre, one that looks into the deepest, darkest crevices throughout America, and attempts to shine a light on the things that get buried there. Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic and Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis also take a look at the darker points of rural Ohio, and by extension, the entire country.

 

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