Joe Bageant Essays

Joe Bageant Essays-71
Here, nearly everyone over 50 has serious health problems, credit ratings rarely top 500, and alcohol, Jesus, and overeating are the three preferred avenues of escape.These days the neighborhood looks as if it was painted by Edward Hopper, then bleakly populated with gangstas, old men with 40-ounce malt liquor bottles, hardworking single moms, and kids on cheap, busted plastic tricycles.

Here, nearly everyone over 50 has serious health problems, credit ratings rarely top 500, and alcohol, Jesus, and overeating are the three preferred avenues of escape.These days the neighborhood looks as if it was painted by Edward Hopper, then bleakly populated with gangstas, old men with 40-ounce malt liquor bottles, hardworking single moms, and kids on cheap, busted plastic tricycles.I felt like I understood more about why people voted for Trump after reading this book than the academic nicey-nice bend-over-backwards to be sensitive “Strangers in their own land” by Arlie Hochschild or “Hillbilly Elegy”.

It is an unacknowledged parallel world to that of educated urban liberals—the world that blindsided them in November 2004 and the one they will need to come to understand if they are ever to be politically relevant again.

in 1999, when, after a 30-year absence, I decided to move back to my hometown and saw the creeping (and creepy) way the lives of my working-class family members, my neighborhood, and my community had been devalued and degraded by the forces against which left-leaning people have always railed—the same forces my family and town so solidly backed in the voting booths.

One thing the thinking left and urban liberals have not done is tread the soil of the Goth—subject themselves to the unwashed working-class America, to that churchgoing, hunting and fishing, Bud Light–drinking, provincial America.

To the people who cannot, and do not care to, locate Iraq or France on a map—assuming they even own an atlas. Here in my hometown, Winchester, Virginia, it is impossible to avoid the America that carried George W. Winchester is one of those southern places where the question of whether Stonewall Jackson had jock itch at the Battle of Chancellorsville still rages right alongside evolution, gun control, abortion, and whether Dale Earnhardt Jr. The area is solidly fundamentalist Christian and neoconservative, steeped in the gloomy ultra-Protestant assumption that man is an evil, worthless thing from birth and goes downhill from there.

[ Joe Bageant grew up in poor, conservative Winchester Virginia, which is like tens of thousands of other small towns in America.

He is one of the few who escaped and got a college education.And you’re gonna do it for a working-man’s wage—for about ,000 a year if you’re a cashier, ,000 if you’re one of those team assemblers.Yet this place from which and about which I am writing could be any of thousands of communities across the United States.Another good book about how the politics of resentment came to be what it is today is Nick Reding’s “Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town”. On the morning of November 2, 2004, millions of Democrats arose to a new order.Smoke from neoconservative campfires hung over all points southward and westward.I smoked my first cigarette here and married a poor white girl from down the street.My forebears are buried here, and all my ghosts are here—the ghosts of 250 years of ancestors, the ghosts of old love affairs, and the ghost of my youth.Being born lower class in working America makes some of us, probably most of us, class conscious for life.Consequently, a good deal of this book is about class in America, especially the class from which I sprang, the bottom third of Americans constituting the unacknowledged working-class poor: conservative, politically misinformed or oblivious, and patriotic to their own detriment.So when he retired there in 1999, he knew hundreds of people.Bageant gives readers a visceral, gut-level understanding of what life is like in “red” Republican bible-belt territory.

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