At the beginning of this reading, we learn about Joe Bageant, who was a freelance writer from Winchester, Virginia. As a writer, he submitted his work to websites and published two books before he died and also served in the US Navy. Through submitting his work to websites, he said that it gave him his voice, but that it also gave him his readership. This reminded me a lot of the book Angry White Men and how men are turning to posting on websites to vent about different topics rather than speaking up about them. His writing focused on the class system in the US, with tens of millions of whites ignored by coastal liberals in New York, Washington, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. These writings also included things that people did not seem to see. Ken Smith, who writes the introduction, includes that he invited Joe to France to meet him and ended up making a website for him, which he neither liked or viewed. Smith stressed that when Joe died, it seemed like no one cared – including his community, which did not even write about his books being published when they were.
In the first chapter, we are met by Joe Bageant’s writing, which was written in 2004. He talks about his love/hate relationship with Winchester, VA, saying that it created a “moralizing, preachy, and essentially lazy bastard who likes to drink” (10). He then emphasizes that it has been a while since liberals have left safe in his town, feeling as if they need to talk in hushed tones when discussing politics as there are many people in the town who are either very far left or very far right. I thought that it was funny when he listed the three things that made someone a liberal. I think that a lot of people might think this or make that assumption of those three things. He then writes about Virginia being an anti-union state, and that people are only earning three quarts of the national average and have a love of personal firearms. At the end of the chapter, he stresses the need for “goddam Yankee liberals, gays, and other malignant types” (16) to get out and vote.
Chapter six focused on how “it ain’t easy being white,” and how Winchester, VA has a population of about 29,000 people with about 4,000 of those people are from Mexico, living in VA illegally. He writes that nearly every one of them is illegal, but nothing is done about it since they are providing cheap labor for the town’s elite plants and businesses. With this, he includes that this labor, though useful, has had crushing effects on the working class, white, wages. He then goes on to talk about how major, or world-changing events, have had little to no effect on the area, saying that 9/11 was just another televised event that hasn’t changed the country. He goes on to say that working-class Americans are isolated and insolated. This meaning that it tends to be based on location and now has become based on “ignorance, body fat, cheap spectacle, and electronics” (59). He includes that this class needs to become more educated as they never talk about current events and are nonpolitical. He also acknowledges that this group believes in white privilege, but gets little of the benefits of being white. He concludes this chapter by stressed that modern liberals are not as involved with class issues as they ought to be.
Chapter twenty focuses on the marketing of presidencies and how the Obama administration was marketed. He wrote that “successful politicians are…successfully marketed brands” (224). In this short chapter, he writes about wanting to get back to the true American identity, meaning buying more things and racking up more debt. At the ends, he writes that he will be getting a $250 check from the government only to have to pay it back the following spring.
In the final chapter of our reading, Bageant discusses how the American experience is becoming more narrow and provincial with little to no comprehension of the outside world. Americans are too busy being consumers, like discussing environmental disasters as only affecting the seafood and tourism/fishing industries. Because of this, Americans have not started to doubt the American dream, still thinking that each generation will have it better than the last. He writes that as Americans, we assume that there are no limits to natural resources and that we can do everything and anything. I think it was very interesting when he mentioned that the solution of a Republican candidate looks “more attractive by the day” (254). Another quote that I found to be interesting was, “Liberty…abounds in a totalitarian democracy…The slaves are free to elect their master, and that is enough to satisfy most folks in the land of the free” (256). I thought that this related very closely to last weeks reading/discussion.