Joe Bageant grew up redneck in Winchester Virginia, escaped to the city, became a “godless commie,” moved back thirty years later, and wrote this book about it.
It’s subtitled “Dispatches from America’s Class War.” He looks at the people that he grew up with, and most are in debt way beyond their means, have serious health problems, and have been grinding away for 30-40 years at a no-future job that pays next to nothing. The redneck class helped put George Bush in the White House, but have gotten screwed to the walls by the Republicans and elites all their lives. So how, Bageant asks, did this happen?
Because the Democratic Party stopped caring about them, that’s why. That left a void the Republican Party promptly filled. Yes Virginia, there was a time the Democratic Party stood for the working class, for minorities and the poor, for unions, but those days are long gone. Bageant thinks the Democrats cluelessly and stupidly stopped trying to appeal to poor whites. Me, I think it was quite deliberate. But the result was the same.
If progressives want to organize among rednecks and hillbillies, first off and most important Bageant says, get a clue about guns. Try to understand that guns have been part of that culture for, oh, 250 years, that accidents are rare because they respect and are careful with guns, and that gun ownership is Constitutionally guaranteed.
With Micheal Savage and Ann Coulter openly calling for liberals to be put in concentration camps, with the CIA now licensed to secretly detain American citizens indefinitely, and with the current administration effectively legalizing torture, the proper question to ask an NRA member may be, “What kind of assault rifle do you think I can get for three hundred bucks, and how many rounds of ammo does it take to stop a two-hundred-pound born-again Homeland Security zombie from putting me in a camp?” Which would you prefer, 40 million gun-owning Americans on your side or theirs?
Think about it, progressives.
Much of the book is character sketches of real people. He describes their often grueling lives, endless low-paid work, simmering anger, and uses that to show how badly they are exploited. Mortgage rackets leave them indebted beyond their means with a doublewide that loses half its value the day after the papers are signed. Lack of adequate health insurance means medical bills are often ruinous. Substandard education insures that most are illiterate or close to it. They are the serfs who do crap jobs for the rest of us.
They are also Joe Bageant’s people. His politics are way different, but he understands them, and they are his friends, his cousins, his brother, the people he grew up with. He can explain them to those of us on the outside.
Whatever you think of the leash girl of Abu Ghraib, Lynndie England never had a chance. Abu Ghraib, or maybe something even worse (an RPG up the shorts for instance) was always her destiny.
Money is always the best whip to use on the laboring classes. Thirteen hundred a month, a signing bonus, and free room and board sure beats the hell out of yanking guts through a chicken’s ass.
To get real change in this country will require a mass movement. It’s happened in other countries, it can happen here. The Left would gain many supporters and some serious clues by doing outreach to poor whites, and by listening to what they have to say.