Joe Bageant Essays

Joe Bageant Essays-55
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.I know everyone’s last name, whose daddy was who, and who boinked whom when we were in high school.

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There are 32 million functionally illiterate adults, one in seven, who can’t read, write, and calculate for their own and their community’s development. If they could read George Orwell’s Animal Farm, none of them would see it as anything other than a story about animals.

Bageant says this illiteracy means that most of the folks in Winchester Virginia don’t know who Tom Delay is and don’t watch the national news unless the U. They have no idea what acronyms like IBM, FEMA, or HUD mean and can’t separate industry from government, advertisements and infomercials from the news.

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.

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.My part of Winchester, the North End, contains the most hard-core of the town’s working-class neighborhoods, where you are more likely to find the ,000-a-year laborer and the ,000-a-year fast-food worker.I grew up here, my dad worked at a gas station here, and my mom worked at a since demolished textile mill whose rattling looms were the round-the-clock backdrop of our lives.The working class here in what they are now calling the “heartland” (all the stuff between the big cities) exists on a continuum ranging from complete insecurity to the not-quite-complete insecurity of having a decent but endangered job.It is a continuum extending from the apathy of the poorest to the hard-edged anger of those with more to lose.The hairy fundamentalist Christian hordes, the redneck blue-collar legions, and other cultural Visigoths stirred behind distant battlements.In university towns across the country, in San Francisco, Seattle, and Boulder, in that bluest of blue strongholds, New York City, and in every self-contained, oblivious corner of liberal America where a man or woman can buy a copy of The Nation without special-ordering it, Democrats sank into the deepest kind of Prozac-proof depression.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.He paints vivid portraits of the locals he knows and cares about, the feudal economics that keep them poor, how Christian fundamentalism is woven into their lives, and why they vote against their own interests.Best of all, the language is brilliant and fun to read.

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