Former Wall Street Banker Stands Up For Middle America And People's Fundamental Decency

An unexpected character stood up for rural America.

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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