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After thirty years spent scratching together a middle-class life out of a dirt-poor childhood, Joe Bageant moved back to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, where he realized that his family and neighbors were the very people who carried George W. Bush to victory. That was ironic, because Winchester, like countless American small towns, is fast becoming the bedrock of a After thirty years spent scratching together a middle-class life out of a dirt-poor childhood, Joe Bageant moved back to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, where he realized that his family and neighbors were the very people who carried George W. Bush to victory. That was ironic, because Winchester, like countless American small towns, is fast becoming the bedrock of a permanent underclass. Two in five of the people in his old neighborhood do not have high school diplomas. Nearly everyone over fifty has serious health problems, and many have no health care. Credit ratings are low or nonexistent, and alcohol, overeating, and Jesus are the preferred avenues of escape. A raucous mix of storytelling and political commentary, Deer Hunting with Jesus is Bageant's report on what he learned by coming home. He writes of his childhood friends who work at factory jobs that are constantly on the verge of being outsourced; the mortgage and credit card rackets that saddle the working poor with debt, i.e., white trashonomics; the ubiquitous gun culture”and why the left doesn't get it; Scots Irish culture and how it played out in the young life of Lynddie England; and the blinkered magical thinking of the Christian right. (Bageant's brother is a Baptist pastor who casts out demons.) What it adds up to, he asserts, is an unacknowledged class war. By turns brutal, tender, incendiary, and seriously funny, this book is a call to arms for fellow progressives with little real understanding of the great beery, NASCAR-loving, church-going, gun-owning America that has never set foot in a Starbucks. Deer Hunting with Jesus is a potent antidote to what Bageant dubs the "American hologram" the televised, corporatized virtual reality that distracts us from the insidious realities of American life.


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After thirty years spent scratching together a middle-class life out of a dirt-poor childhood, Joe Bageant moved back to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, where he realized that his family and neighbors were the very people who carried George W. Bush to victory. That was ironic, because Winchester, like countless American small towns, is fast becoming the bedrock of a After thirty years spent scratching together a middle-class life out of a dirt-poor childhood, Joe Bageant moved back to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, where he realized that his family and neighbors were the very people who carried George W. Bush to victory. That was ironic, because Winchester, like countless American small towns, is fast becoming the bedrock of a permanent underclass. Two in five of the people in his old neighborhood do not have high school diplomas. Nearly everyone over fifty has serious health problems, and many have no health care. Credit ratings are low or nonexistent, and alcohol, overeating, and Jesus are the preferred avenues of escape. A raucous mix of storytelling and political commentary, Deer Hunting with Jesus is Bageant's report on what he learned by coming home. He writes of his childhood friends who work at factory jobs that are constantly on the verge of being outsourced; the mortgage and credit card rackets that saddle the working poor with debt, i.e., white trashonomics; the ubiquitous gun culture”and why the left doesn't get it; Scots Irish culture and how it played out in the young life of Lynddie England; and the blinkered magical thinking of the Christian right. (Bageant's brother is a Baptist pastor who casts out demons.) What it adds up to, he asserts, is an unacknowledged class war. By turns brutal, tender, incendiary, and seriously funny, this book is a call to arms for fellow progressives with little real understanding of the great beery, NASCAR-loving, church-going, gun-owning America that has never set foot in a Starbucks. Deer Hunting with Jesus is a potent antidote to what Bageant dubs the "American hologram" the televised, corporatized virtual reality that distracts us from the insidious realities of American life.

30 review for Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    I really wasn’t expecting this to be quite so leftwing as it turned out to be and then once I’d gotten my head around that, he started talking about guns and I felt my world turn nauseatingly about itself yet again. I have always been more than happy to believe that American politics is harder to understand for those of us not born in the land of the free and the home of the brave than we are likely to believe it is. This book did much to help me understand the world of the American redneck. Fro I really wasn’t expecting this to be quite so leftwing as it turned out to be and then once I’d gotten my head around that, he started talking about guns and I felt my world turn nauseatingly about itself yet again. I have always been more than happy to believe that American politics is harder to understand for those of us not born in the land of the free and the home of the brave than we are likely to believe it is. This book did much to help me understand the world of the American redneck. From guns to Jesus to NASCAR racing to health insurance and Lynddie England this is a long and compassionate look at what people have come to know as ‘trailer trash’ from someone who grew up amongst these people (the Southern Working Class) and has now returned to live amongst them once again. He makes many interesting points, not the least that the majority of poor people in American are actually poor whites, but that these people (because everyone knows that white people in America have all of the advantages) are virtually invisible. My parents have told me the same things about growing up poor and Protestant in Northern Ireland and being able to comfort yourself with the certainty that ‘at least we’re not Catholic’ until it becomes clear that living off the bone of your arse is living off the bone of your arse whether said arse is sitting in a Church or a Chapel. This book is an introduction to the complexities of life amongst the descendents of Scots Irish of the USA so as to help ‘liberals’ (that is American idiom for leftwing types) to understand the workings of these people’s minds so as to help explain how they can be so consistently ‘stupid’ as to vote for George Bush and thereby so clearly vote AGAINST their own interests. And this book succeeds admirably in this. The chapter Republican by Default makes it clear that by Republicans finding ways to appeal to the working class’s fears of everything from gay marriage to gun control they have gotten these people to effectively vote away their own jobs and their social security. It would almost be funny if it didn’t make me want to weep. This book is also an extended love song on education. The only hope these people have to ever change their lives is to gain an education that will enable them (entitle them?) to get jobs that pay more than the minimum wage and to also allow them to think with more than their gut, their heart and their genitals. The part of this book where his brother (a Southern Baptist minister) talks to him about chasing demons from people is too sad for words. I feel the same sadness about this as Carl Sagan felt in his The Demon-Haunted World Science as a Candle in the Dark – when articulate human beings can believe such childish nonsense we all need to be deeply afraid. There are bits of this book where figures seem somewhat rubbery and are used with gleeful abandon. He claims somewhere (I forgot to mark it and now can’t find it) that 50% of people in the US are functionally illiterate – which might be overstating his case just a little. As my friend Wiki points out: ‘In the United States, according to Business magazine, an estimated 15 million functionally illiterate adults held jobs at the beginning of the 21st century. The American Council of Life Insurers reported that 75% of the Fortune 500 companies provide some level of remedial training for their workers. All over the U.S.A. 30 million (14% of adults) are unable to perform simple and everyday literacy activities.’ When I studied Adult Literacy one of the things that was clear was that illiteracy increases with age – use it or lose it applies just about everywhere. Nonetheless, whatever the rate of functional illiteracy the question that bothers me much more is how many people in the US are effectively illiterate? If you NEVER read a book or a newspaper or even a rather chatty book review on Good Reads then what the hell good is your literacy to you? His figures for gun ownership basically show that more guns make safer communities. And I quote, “Approximately 200,000 women defend themselves against sexual abuse each year. The Carter Justice Department found that nationwide 32% of more than 32,000 attempted rapes were committed, but only 3 percent of the attempted rapes were successful when a woman was armed with a gun or knife.” Okay, sounds pretty convincing, and when I Googled this little fact it does seem to appear on an awful lot of pro-gun websites – but without being able to find the original source data or what it means to ‘defend yourself with a knife or gun’ it is hard to know what to make of this data. I would have suspected that the times when you are likely to be raped are not necessarily the times when you are going to have easy access to a knife or gun. Now, if I was ever thinking of being a rapist I think I would try to specialise in chasing people at precisely the times when they are least likely to have access to weapons of any sort, whether they be guns or knives. So the question that struck me was, how many female gun owners and knife experts were raped while not armed? Perhaps more importantly just how big was the sample of attempted rape victims who conveniently had access to a gun at the time of their attempted rape? I mean, of the 32,000 attempted rapes how many of the victims just happened to have a weapon? Was it 30 or 300? Of the 97% of the women who had guns or knives but were not raped how many weren’t raped because they were dead? Obviously, I’m going to worry a little that 32% of 32,000 does seem a little more designed for ease of remembering than for truth. As I am suspicious that defending yourself with a gun makes you almost exactly ten times less likely to be raped (all a bit handy). Also can it possibly be true that the most recent relevant data on this topic is really from 1979 and that the original report is not available on the Internet? I can accept the argument that not everyone who owns a gun is a murderer, but that still doesn’t mean I would want to live in a society where everyone I meet might have a concealed handgun tucked in their knickers. “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you … oh, I see, it is a gun.” I would have thought that the statistics that would be relevant about rape in the US would be that 60% are not reported to the police at all and that 73% of victims know their attacker http://www.rainn.org/statistics - but then, that might just be me. Are we really suggesting that giving every college-aged woman a gun or a knife is the best we can do to stop violence against women? Overall, I did enjoy this book – but what I learnt most from it was that there are large parts of America about which I know virtually nothing at all. There were parts of this book where I could have done with a translator. Although they do have NASCAR here, I still had to look up what it meant. What ‘Little Debbies’ were also involved a trip to the internet, but after a while I just gave up and figured I just didn't care enough about the cultural minutia of the US. I’ve read the Australian edition of this book in which there is a preface that ends, “In times such as these, I remember what an Australian once told me: ‘I’m glad we got the convicts and you got the puritans.’ Amen to that.

  2. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Too Stupid to Know You’re Stupid Joe Bageant returned to his boyhood home in rural Virginia after 25 years to find it ravaged by unemployment, poor health, alcoholism, drug addiction and fundamentalist religion. He traces all this to bad politics. The town is controlled by a mafia of local worthies who have run it into the ground in their own interests. State government collaborates in this destruction through anti-union and other neoconservative legislation. Nationally, the Democratic Party has Too Stupid to Know You’re Stupid Joe Bageant returned to his boyhood home in rural Virginia after 25 years to find it ravaged by unemployment, poor health, alcoholism, drug addiction and fundamentalist religion. He traces all this to bad politics. The town is controlled by a mafia of local worthies who have run it into the ground in their own interests. State government collaborates in this destruction through anti-union and other neoconservative legislation. Nationally, the Democratic Party has long ago abandoned the working-class interests of the locals; and Republicans have exploited the political vacuum mercilessly by providing a stream of meaningless slogans and misinformation. Essentially, Bageant believes that everything that could possibly go wrong with democracy has done so in Winchester, Virginia. He also believes that Winchester is a synecdoche for the entire United States, at least that part of the country that lies between the cities and what hasn’t yet been suburbanised. He wants the urban ‘liberals’ who have chosen to throw towns like Winchester under the bus of globalisation, meritocracy and social change to know that they’re not taking it anymore. They might not know what they want, but they know it isn’t the current state of affairs. And they’ll do just about anything to get even. As an explanation and prediction of the rise of someone like Donald Trump, Bageant’s book is essential reading. At least a decade before Trump’s political appearance, their economically and intellectually impoverished nihilism was just waiting for his arrival. Today, Trump represents nothing positive to them... except themselves. Hence their intense loyalty to a man who in fact despises them. Bageant makes a compelling case for the systematic and complete corruption of democracy to which Trump is a cogent response not a cause. The folk of the Winchesters throughout the United States want revenge on the entire system; they wouldn’t mind at all if it were destroyed. However, as a suggestion for what to do about the situation, the book is less than enlightening. Bageant sees education as the solution to the political problem - in the first instance the education of the urbanites who don’t have a clue about the dire condition of their neighbours; and then of the natives of places like Winchester who are unaware of the forces that conspire to oppress them. Unfortunately, education is and always has been a political issue. If democratic politics is corrupt, education is the first casualty, not the solution. In any case, Bageant doesn’t really help his cause much by his description of what there is in Winchester to educate. He would like the rest of us to have sympathetic feelings for fellow humans who have fallen on hard times. They may have red necks but they also have hearts of gold and deserve a break. Maybe so. But their born-in-the-blood racism, obdurate resistance to comprehending their own interests, and profound ignorance of themselves as well as the world around them aren’t traits likely to ingratiate them to the folk that might help their plight. Postscript 15Oct20: Things have got considerably worse since Bageant wrote about the place: https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireS...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    Joe Bageant's Deer Hunting with Jesus belongs to the tradition of books that has given us Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and Jim Goad's The Redneck Manifesto. These books all aim to clarify the position of an all-too-often-overlooked cultural group and, in doing so, they ultimately aim to help this group. This book is by turns funny and heartbreaking in its description of people who make little money, vote Republican en masse (whether this is in their economi Joe Bageant's Deer Hunting with Jesus belongs to the tradition of books that has given us Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and Jim Goad's The Redneck Manifesto. These books all aim to clarify the position of an all-too-often-overlooked cultural group and, in doing so, they ultimately aim to help this group. This book is by turns funny and heartbreaking in its description of people who make little money, vote Republican en masse (whether this is in their economic interests or not), see buying a doublewide trailer as a good investment, value their guns and the traditions that they accompany, are overwhelmingly Christian and fundamentalist at that, fight amongst themselves, and cannot afford healthcare, too often dying alone in substandard nursing homes because neither they nor their families can afford better. Bageant walks the fine line between mocking people who don't see the ridiculousness of some of their actions, pitying them for the poverty and suffering they endure and the hopelessness of the life they are raised to lead, and evoking righteous outrage on the behalf of those who are taken advantage of by other humans with more money and a better education. If you or your family belong to the social class or cultural group described by Bageant, you will recognize the experiences and values he describes and will benefit from his explanation of the sources of said values and his defense of the people who live these lives. He is able to put this way of life in a larger context that shows how limited and tragic this life can be while refusing to trivialize or demonize it. While he himself has moved away from most of the hallmarks of this lifestyle, he has lived and he still loves parts of it and the people who live it. If you do not belong to the group Bageant describes, you need to read this book and learn about the people you likely never think about and know little to nothing about. Bageant deals with the stereotypes (and their basis in reality) but he goes beyond that to explain why people behave in this way, what in their history and present experiences leads them to these beliefs and behaviors, and what they gain from continuing in these habits. There are too many Americans who belong to the culture described by Bageant for them to be easily ignored--and yet they are ignored. This is dangerous for them and for everyone else.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm Logan

    Oh boy, are the ditto heads and Bill O'Reilly fans gonna hate this one (rubbing hands together with glee). Imagine, a former small town redneck rejects the assertion that higher education is a form of snobbery, goes to California, gets a degree and embraces "the humanities" (gasp!) and then returns to his origins with compassion and outrage over how his people are being dumbed down and economically raped by the very forces that claim to be their standard bearers, the good ol' GOP, everybody's ch Oh boy, are the ditto heads and Bill O'Reilly fans gonna hate this one (rubbing hands together with glee). Imagine, a former small town redneck rejects the assertion that higher education is a form of snobbery, goes to California, gets a degree and embraces "the humanities" (gasp!) and then returns to his origins with compassion and outrage over how his people are being dumbed down and economically raped by the very forces that claim to be their standard bearers, the good ol' GOP, everybody's champion of the working class! But Joe Bageant doesn't stop there. He points out, quite rightly in my view, that the Dems insulting hypocricy, shedding crocodile tears over the plight of the white working poor while climbing in bed with the same predators who bid down working people's wages and refuse to provide Americans retraining after shipping their jobs overseas, is just as bad - maybe worse - since the Dems don't have a BS economic theory like trickle-down economics to justify stealing from the poor to give to the rich. It's no wonder that rural America is shell-shocked and woozy, stuggling valiantly to keep their heads above water, even as the sharks circle. And don't think you're getting off easy, you smug urban liberals with your I-told-you-so attitude that lets you turn your back on your flim-flammed cousins from the hinterland and write them off as a bunch of nitwit yokels. They may be backing the wrong pony, but they're not so dumb as you think. They're still linked in to a quaint but fundamental notion of what it means to be an American, independence, fortitude, perseverance and dignity, which makes it all the more pathetic that they're being hoodwinked by rightwing demagogues but doesn't absolve you of respecting them or their ideals. When these people are ultimately ruined and dispersed, and their way of thinking denigrated to insignificance, we will have lost something essential to the American character, and as a nation we will suffer for it, even if Cargill and Halliburton and Walmart and Exxon, and all their sainted stockholders still prosper.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This is pretty much an “in your face” book. The author spares us little. It is about the two divides in America. This can be under various denominations: liberal vs conservative, rich vs poor, urban vs small towns, educated vs red-neck… Put simply this can be viewed as a class struggle – lower classes and middle/upper classes. This was written in 2007 and with the current administration nothing is getting better – in fact the gap between the divides is becoming more intense and pronounced. And thi This is pretty much an “in your face” book. The author spares us little. It is about the two divides in America. This can be under various denominations: liberal vs conservative, rich vs poor, urban vs small towns, educated vs red-neck… Put simply this can be viewed as a class struggle – lower classes and middle/upper classes. This was written in 2007 and with the current administration nothing is getting better – in fact the gap between the divides is becoming more intense and pronounced. And this gap is the reason for the current administration – a quest and struggle for something new. I somehow doubt little has changed since the book’s publication. The author gives us a sad picture of his country. This divide is caused by a large mass of uneducated who have little concept of the outside world. The U.S. is very much an island onto itself, but it consumes a substantial portion of resources from other countries. There is a significant portion of the population (maybe 40%) who believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible – and their influence on government is increasing (think of Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence and company). The increasing influence of the evangelicals on society and government was being ignored for the most part by liberal America. Page 168 (my book) Theocracy and the infiltration of mainstream Protestantism by religious extremists was one of the biggest underreported political stories of the second half of the twentieth century. Page 170 (fundamentalist churches) This message of worthiness is a balm to those who do the thankless work of this world and suffer the purest snub of all: invisibility. Most people [in church] do not have careers; they have jobs and exist as part of the back-ground of the lives of the professional and semi-professional classes. A substantial part of the population has little health care and access to a good education. This population opposes unions and opposes raising taxes which would improve their schools. They are supported in this by the rich because it benefits them most of all and maintains their power. Page 66 Nor does one talk to Americans about universal health care or universal education, paid parental leave, affordable housing, unemployment compensation… These are “shameful entitlements” – “more damned government giveaways”. Page 67 One of the slickest things the right ever did was to label necessary social costs as “entitlements”. Through thirty years of repetition, the Republicans have managed to associate the term with laziness [I would add socialism] in American’s minds. The author points out that it is Republicans that go down into redneck country to make sure “the folks” vote properly and get the “proper message”. Wealth and power are much admired in America and so the poor listen and vote appropriately, urged on by all the hoopla on FOX news and their rabid commentators. Page 70 The absolute worst thing that a redneck can say about anyone is: “He doesn’t want to work.” Which is generally followed by “Hell, I don’t want to either, but I have to.” By the same logic, educated liberals who have time to read, who in fact read so much that they join book clubs, are suspect.” He has a very good chapter on how mortgages were deregulated and almost anyone could buy a home or trailer with little deposit. He was quite prescient as he wrote this in 2007, before the meltdown in 2008. I could not agree with anything the author said on guns. He is all in favour of that antiquated amendment allowing gun ownership of any kind. Let me leave it by stating that I see no reason why any citizen should be allowed to purchase an AK-47 or some such automatic weapon. This can be a pretty bleak book. This divide is far more apparent since it was written. It was responsible for building all those conspiracy theories around Obama – and then formed nativist groups that elected Trump. Part of the reason for all this is the continuing inability of the U.S. to look after its people. With no health care and little education – is it any wonder that the poor join the largest socialist organization in the country – namely the Army which provides health care, education, and subsidized housing. There they find a security base they cannot find elsewhere. This is surely a thought-provoking book. What will the future bring?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    One Friday afternoon when my dad was a kid he got up and wandered over to the pencil sharpener by the window in his classroom. He was killing time and sharpening that pencil as slowly as he could and looking aimlessly out the window. That's when he saw his neighborhood explode in front of his eyes. It was the East Ohio Gas Fire and the year was 1944. The working class men of his community ran for their lives from the factories chased by a wall of fire. At least two hundred people died. The stree One Friday afternoon when my dad was a kid he got up and wandered over to the pencil sharpener by the window in his classroom. He was killing time and sharpening that pencil as slowly as he could and looking aimlessly out the window. That's when he saw his neighborhood explode in front of his eyes. It was the East Ohio Gas Fire and the year was 1944. The working class men of his community ran for their lives from the factories chased by a wall of fire. At least two hundred people died. The street that used to be next to my dad's street was there where it was supposed to be that morning on the walk to school. On the walk home, it was gone. There was no health insurance. There was no worker's compensation. My grandfather, apparently, injured his back scaling a fence and throwing himself over in front of the inferno. His burns and his pains needed some time to heal -- time when there was no work waiting for him after the recovery. That was 'just the way it was' then. I entered a fantasy world when I was a kid that those times were over. We had health insurance. My parents prepared themselves for middle class jobs and remained in work. Living the simple life paid off in money saved. You played by the rules and put in honest effort and labor and, at the very least, there was a doctor to see and a decent roof over your head. I thought these changes were good. I thought everyone did. I thought we were all going to build an enlightened new society together so that those uncertain times...when average people had a deck stacked so high against them that one act of god (or man) could unravel their entire lives...would never return. Enter the 21st Century. Deer Hunting with Jesus is another person's inquiry into why so many of my fellow citizens stand united against the very things I hold so close to my hoping-to-remain-middle-class heart. Why do people who are chronically ill and practically penniless rail against universal health care? Why are people returning to a religious structure that is part hellfire and part happy-talk and just as frightening in its fundamentalism as anything the Taliban could dream up? Why the obsession with guns? Why are we more outraged about who blew Bill Clinton than we are about who blew our paltry life savings? And can I ever understand these reasons? Is there any hope that my fellow Americans who believe so much differently can ever see me or my point of view differently? This is fascinating stuff...and I need to delve into more of it. Joe Bageant was born and raised a (self described and unselfconscious) Redneck from rural Virginia. He was an avid hunter and a Rapture-believing fundamentalist. He harbored all the usual suspicions of anything smacking of intrusive and clueless liberalism. He did his time in 'Nam and lived to come back. After that, he decided to take advantage of the 1960s and get himself an education. He ended up on the West Coast. He is now a socialist. What an ideological journey! Now he has returned to his home town of Winchester, VA to live among the people he loved and left many years ago. People who are now standing across a chasm of opposing viewpoints. The result is a brash, illuminating and gut-busting read that every middle class (at least in name) urban lefty should experience. Bageant is pro-gun and pro-health care reform. He takes pot shots at both sides of the political aisle. I put more bookmarks in this volume than I can count. It felt like every other page had something both hilarious and valuable written on it that I should jot down to reconsider later. A few examples: "One of the few good things about growing older is that one can remember what appears to have been purposefully erased from the national memory. Fifty years ago, men and women of goodwill agreed that every citizen had the right to health care and to a free and credible education. Manifestation of one's fullest potential was considered a national goal, even by Republicans. Ike wanted national health insurance and so did Nixon. Now both are labeled as unworkable ideas. (Maybe even downright com'nist, Pootie.)" "If you spend your days at a soul-numbing repetitious job, our evenings rotating your tires, rewiring your house, or hauling your aging mother a load of firewood--or recovering on the couch from said job while contemplating the late fees on your credit cards, when are you supposed to find the time or wherewithal to grasp the implications of global warming?" "The administrative costs of Social Security are far lower than the administrative costs of any private sector company, only 3.5 percent of its annual budget, according to the Government Accounting Office. But in tying Social Security to the notion of government waste, conservatives translate the issue into terms that the ordinary Joe who spends forty bucks and most of a day at the DMV trying to get a postage stamp-sized license plate sticker can understand." " 'The people' doing our hardest work and fighting our wars are not altruistic and probably never were. They don't give a rat's bunghole about the world's poor or the planet or animals or anything else. Not really. 'The people' like cheap gas. They like chasing post-Thanksgiving Day Christmas sales. And if facism comes, they will like that too if the cost of gas isn't too high and Comcast comes through with a twenty-four-hour NFL channel." "Working people do not deny reality. They create it from the depths of their perverse ignorance, even as the so-called left speaks in non sequiturs and wonders why it cannot gain any political traction. Meanwhile, for the people, it is football and NASCAR and a republic free from married queers and trigger locks on guns. That's what they voted for--an armed and moral republic. And that's what we get when we stand by and watch the humanity get hammered out of our fellow citizens, letting them be worked cheap and farmed like a human crop for profit." For the past 30 years or so Americans have been conditioned to believe that our system works well and that anyone who 'works hard' will benefit from it. Not thriving under it? Must be some deficiency in your character or work ethic. We loathe asking for help, as a rule. And there are plenty of multi-millionaire talking heads available to demonize you if you need that help. (The working class in Bageant's home town listen to this stuff in their trucks and through headphones at their menial jobs. They follow it up at night with a chaser of Fox News.) Meanwhile, Joe Sixpack is working 2 minimum wage jobs, has no health insurance, can't afford a doctor visit, let alone the prescription for his blood pressure meds and is maxed out on more than one high interest credit card...his trailer is falling apart but he can't unload it. The cost of a better education might as well be infinite, he has no savings. He is caught like a rat on a wheel. There is not much time for an interior life and things are taken at face value. Joe Sixpack resents people like me and for good reason. When I read things like this I understand that, anxious and unprepared for the future as I am, my life is a miracle. My "class" is the first one on the middle class rung...closest to the bottom. I labored in the pink collar service ghetto for several years before making the uppity upper class decision to stay home with my baby. As a librarian I earned somewhere between 30-40K per year -- enough to keep me comfortable if I lived frugally and to even save some money --back in the 90s. Now the target is on my back and our governor is trying to take away collective bargaining rights from teachers, cops, nurses and other public employees. Apparently my former union's attempt to raise my salary from $36,400 to $36,800 is the straw that broke this empire's back. Never mind Lehman Brothers...the governor's former employee. I throw this in because something strange happened in the 21st century. Although I was raised "middle class" and always related to the mores and lifestyle of that group, I am now psychologically working class. My peers failed to understand one key point when we were younger: "Middle Class" is not your address...it is not what sort of car you drive or even your job title. "Middle Class" is security. It is knowing that you have a better-than-average chance of keeping a decent job. It is the capability of having enough left over at the end of your paycheck to save money. It is not being destitute in your old age. It is seeing a doctor when you are sick. We have made collective decisions in America that have undermined this security -- for Joe Sixpack and for me, the former librarian with a master's degree and 14 years work experience. Joe and I should not be screaming at each other at a political rally. We should be having a beer together and comparing survival strategies. Bageant talks to his old friends and neighbors. And he has respect for them. And, occasionally, he even agrees with them. More of us 'little people' should try that approach sometime. It is 2011 and that little boy with the pencil is now a 76 year old man with lung cancer. He just had his big surgery and he is doing well. He had the foresight to get the cancer after age 65 and he has medicare. So far, the governor has not managed to kill his pension. My mom keeps close track of the actual costs of his treatment. Right now, the grand total stands at $96,000. But it is early days and the itemized bills are still pouring into the mailbox. The tiny portion of citizens who always have several hundred thousand dollars of liquidity in their checking accounts think this is a fine state of affairs. If they need to save their dad's life they just write a check. For the rest of us? Well...we just 'didn't work hard enough'. That wall of fire is back and it is still chasing us. I feel the flames licking closer to my own back with each passing year now that 'old age' doesn't seem quite so far away (and neither does college for my daughter). But this time, all the working people in the neighborhood are not helping each other get over the fence in front of it. We are stomping on the hands of those behind us and sending them hurtling back into the flames.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    This Slim Jim is blisteringly funny, humorously vitriolic, blue jean bluesy, and eye-opening to say the least. I thought some of the hillbillies I knew who got drunk and fought at the tavern with their sallow cousins from the tented corners of Lanark County had some issues, but they were as nothing compared to this gun-loving, Jesus-loving, hard-working, hard-drinking, scale-bending, low-paid and low-expectation breed of checkered boys 'n gurls as revealed through the talented pen of Bageant, a This Slim Jim is blisteringly funny, humorously vitriolic, blue jean bluesy, and eye-opening to say the least. I thought some of the hillbillies I knew who got drunk and fought at the tavern with their sallow cousins from the tented corners of Lanark County had some issues, but they were as nothing compared to this gun-loving, Jesus-loving, hard-working, hard-drinking, scale-bending, low-paid and low-expectation breed of checkered boys 'n gurls as revealed through the talented pen of Bageant, a good old boy hisself come on home after decades abroad slurping coffee with the eggheads and elites. Cruelly dealt with by Republican policies and hypocrisy—and not much better served by the Donkey throngs—they'll be damned if they'll take a hand-up from the effeminate and condescending fancy boys living it up back east—or scheming endlessly at the library (where the latter is still available)—who'd faint at the sight of a buck's blood, crumble to pieces changing a flat tire, and would never break a sweat ripping the pull cord of a chainsaw or dealing death to an enemy of America. Thus, bound ever more straightly by their pride in their past, their country, their perceived hard-working independence—which is pandered to by politicians and taken advantage of by savvy money men—and their love for Jesus Christ their personal savior, they find themselves grinding—and wasting—away at two and three jobs just to pay the rent and put food on the table and pay off the usurious interest rates on their maxed-out credit cards. Unions are withering and infrastructure crumbling while wages remain stagnant and ever more industries and employers leave the hinterland for good; and of those that stay, their workforce punches out ten-hour shifts in mortal fear of illegal immigrants coming in and taking away their livelihood, their chance for a few snatches of privilege for all of the grim days put in sweating it for peanuts. It's a bleak and heart-wrenching picture that Bageant paints, and one he had foreseen back when he originally escaped this red-necked world by pursuing higher education—for those who lack the latter seem condemned to a life in which their physical, mental, spiritual and financial arteries harden and clog under a relentless regimen of junk food served up by the very system ingrained into them before they learn to drive. Poor old Bageant succumbed to that supreme-slayer cancer recently, and was given a nice sending off by close friend and fellow iconoclast journalist Fred Reed. The fact is that Bageant pries deeply—and with the keen insight of the native-born—into the conundrum of the Republican-voting rural white working poor in a similar vein to recent work by Thomas Frank; though Joe's outrage boils through the pages, and his anger at the scamming system that deals so cruelly with these people is more palpable, his anecdotes more punchy, than those of the Kenosha Kid. While Bageant is likely playing for effect at times, this polemic does carry the ring of truth, at least as discernible from my own Canadian perspective. The problem, as with all such broadsides that I've encountered, is that there are no realistic or workable—or even hopeful—solutions put on the table. Indignation is fine, and being aware of what is going on is always the vital first step, but it's not like this state of affairs came about overnight—and capitalism by its very nature will always create losers, cast people aside; and in a globalized market, corporations will seek out low taxes, cheap labor, and minimal regulations. There needs to be a systemic change if Bageant's outrage is ever to be addressed in a manner that he'd have approved of, and where is the political willpower these days to even start taking the first steps? Indeed, it seems more likely to actually head in the other direction. There's a certain element of the American Identity that perceives in such lean and unentitled existence all that is good and noble and hale about the United States, all that made her strong and vibrant to begin with; it's classified as a cherished Freedom—ofttimes from within the same depressed environs in which these tautened figures pass their lengthy and laborious days—though, as Bageant chronicled in these pages, it's a peculiar looking freedom when viewed through glasses lacking that particular rosy tint.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Billrogers

    Deer Hunting with Jesus is well-written; Joe Bageant has a way with words and with wry humor. I love the title! But ultimately the book disappointed me, and reading it was a waste of time. As I read the first few chapters, I found myself agreeing with the author, and often laughing out loud. Ultimately, though, Bageant's pessimism dragged me down, and by the time I finished the book, I was more than a little pissed off at him. Bageant appears to believe there is a master plot to anesthetize worki Deer Hunting with Jesus is well-written; Joe Bageant has a way with words and with wry humor. I love the title! But ultimately the book disappointed me, and reading it was a waste of time. As I read the first few chapters, I found myself agreeing with the author, and often laughing out loud. Ultimately, though, Bageant's pessimism dragged me down, and by the time I finished the book, I was more than a little pissed off at him. Bageant appears to believe there is a master plot to anesthetize working-class Americans by feeding them "operating instructions" and "a media-generated belief system" via television, by giving them a poor quality public education, and by providing affordable consumer products. He has it backwards. Corporations maximize their profit by providing what people want, even if it's not what's best for them. That's the imperfect reality of freedom and democracy. Bageant is an admitted socialist. Apparently he wants government to remove shows like "Law and Order" from TV, and replace them with, what? Programs that Bageant approves as educationl and good for the mental health of the working class? Sure, let's shove "Masterpiece Theater" down Joe Sixpack's throat. That'll work. Not. One of the reasons that public education has become worse is that people vote for local candidates who promise to reduce their taxes. And people buy made-in-China big screen TVs at Walmart because they want to, not because someone is forcing them to. I am 60 years old, and I have read many books about doomsday scenarios that never came to pass. "American Hologram," the last chapter of Deer Hunting, is in that category, I believe. The worst part of this book is that Bageant fails to provide even one practical suggestion for improving the lives of working men and women. "Turn off the hologram" is meaningless nonsense. "We have met the enemy and he is us," as Al Capp observed. Democracy is a messy process that offends socialists, who think they can do a better job. Thanks, Joe, but no way, pal.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Todd N

    Right before the election The Onion featured a story with the headline "Struggling Lower-Class Still Unsure How Best To Fuck Selves With Vote." That pretty much sums up the main topic and tone of this book. The author goes back home to live among the struggling lower class rednecks of Winchester, VA and writes about what he sees. (Rednecks, not white trash, he is careful to note. You will understand the taxonomy of poor white people a little better after reading this book.) This isn't one of those Right before the election The Onion featured a story with the headline "Struggling Lower-Class Still Unsure How Best To Fuck Selves With Vote." That pretty much sums up the main topic and tone of this book. The author goes back home to live among the struggling lower class rednecks of Winchester, VA and writes about what he sees. (Rednecks, not white trash, he is careful to note. You will understand the taxonomy of poor white people a little better after reading this book.) This isn't one of those stunt-y books where a white liberal fills out his or her book by working at Wal-Mart, going to 100 churches, etc. This is a guy going back home to find that his younger brother is casting demons out of people and that his old pot smoking musician buddy is now a dittohead. No cultural tourism here. For me the most interesting part is where he lays out Scot-Irish/Borderer culture as the basis for poor white culture in America. No matter how specious the argument, anyone who can draw a line from King James I to Sean Hannity is my kind of guy. He makes the hilarious point that most of them came to Virginia as ballast, self-unloading cargo that kept the empty ships returning to the New World from being too buoyant. That they were smuggling Calvin's ghost on the voyage is something that still roils our culture today. Related to this and far less amusing is the hold that well organized Protestant religion has on these people. Several generations since desegregation have been home schooled or sent to religious schools, after which they wait like a mass of Manchurian candidates for instructions on how to vote and where to send their meager savings. Mr. Bageant's book sometimes suffers when he forces anecdotes to make the point he wants to make, like when a student gets in trouble for keeping a replica gun in his truck before a battle reenactment. After a few pages of hand wringing, we learn anti-climatically that a judge threw out the case. That said, the chapter about guns was the most convincing one in the book. And it's good to know that these poor people that we elites are sneering at through the media not only outnumber us but are pretty handy with guns to boot. I noticed that some reviewers were put off by the pessimistic outlook of the book and the black humor of its jokes. I didn't find this a problem at all, though I'm not sure if this was because of the underlying compassion of Mr. Bageant's writing or just the fact that I enjoy cynicism similar to the way Superman draws power from our yellow Sun. So many institutions line up to fuck over the lower classes that there are a few surprises (Social Security, non-profit hospitals) along with the usual suspects (predatory lenders, large corporations, the media, the educational system). The only solution Mr. Bageant offers to get out of this mess is better education, which is probably the most bitter and cynical statement in the book until you realize he isn't kidding.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book should be required reading for anyone who listens to NPR, lives in a "liberal ghetto" and wonders why people vote Republican against their own self-interest. Bageant is from Winchester, VA and this book is about the working class people that he grew up with. It explains their plight as working class people in America, and how lack of education combined with religious fundamentalism keeps them brainwashed into believing in a system that absolutely does not benefit them. Bageant is a gre This book should be required reading for anyone who listens to NPR, lives in a "liberal ghetto" and wonders why people vote Republican against their own self-interest. Bageant is from Winchester, VA and this book is about the working class people that he grew up with. It explains their plight as working class people in America, and how lack of education combined with religious fundamentalism keeps them brainwashed into believing in a system that absolutely does not benefit them. Bageant is a great writer and he does not excuse the folks from his hometown-he agrees with most liberals that the way they behave just makes no logical sense. But he also takes the urban liberals to task for shielding themselves from the large number of people in this country just like the Winchester residents. He says "the left" (as he calls the Democrats although I disagree that Democrats are left) has failed to provide a grassroots movement to reach these people. I almost gave the book 4 stars instead of 5 because Bageant is a tremendous pessimist/cynic and does not provide any realistic solution to the problems he describes. Then I changed my mind. I would rather not have someone sugar coat reality for me. If the only solution to this problem would be to take all the Defense money and put it towards education, then it is what it is.

  11. 5 out of 5

    lp

    I obviously only picked up this book because I thought it would be about deer hunting and Jesus, two of my favorite subjects. (I was in an enormous rush at the bookstore -- it was closing and the lady was practically dragging me out by my arm and I had to choose something, or else I would be book-less, which would send me into panic.) Had I spent two more seconds reading the large text immediately below the title, I would have seen in rather large letters "Dispatches from America's Class War." O I obviously only picked up this book because I thought it would be about deer hunting and Jesus, two of my favorite subjects. (I was in an enormous rush at the bookstore -- it was closing and the lady was practically dragging me out by my arm and I had to choose something, or else I would be book-less, which would send me into panic.) Had I spent two more seconds reading the large text immediately below the title, I would have seen in rather large letters "Dispatches from America's Class War." Okay, so it's not really about Jesus. Fool me once, shame on me. I though it sounded interesting, anyway, and it was. I felt that Bageant brought us to the world of the white working class (which, by the way, I was surprised to find out I didn't really technically understand what "working class" actually means) with a unique perspective -- although it seemed sometimes he was talking down about them, he really wasn't. This is his hometown, the people are not un-relatable specimen in a science experiment, they are his family and friends and in some ways himself, and he is honest in dealing about what they care about, what they do, what they fear, and what their lives are like. My family is from a poor, steel town in Western Pennsylvania, and I am glad that I got to spend a lot of time there as a kid, because after growing up in a pretty snooty town in Ohio and then moving to New York City, I think it's important to see that this is not how most people live. That if you are educated, actually have enough money for food, medicine, gas, etc., insured, working for more than $9 / hour (I could go on), you are lucky, and not like the people in Winchester, VA. A lot of my friends haven't the slightest clue about what it's like to live in a place like Winchester or Sharon. Like me, and the "liberal elite," they are, as Bageant describes: "living the American Dream in relative economic safety. Yet they don't think of themselves as elitists. Overwhelmingly white and college educated, they live among clones of themselves. As far as they know, American life is about money, education, homeownership, and professionally useful friends. How can one blame them? Conditioning is everything and how could they fail to believe their own experience or what they see every day, all of which suggests that their privileges are natural and deserved? " I am guilty of this as well. And that's why it's good that I read this book. When I read the above paragraph, which appears toward the beginning, I still wasn't sure I was going to stick with the book. (I mean where was Jesus?! Where was the deer hunting?!) But I read that paragraph and thought, wow that would be pretty ironic if I got to the part about how the liberal elite have no idea wtf is going on and I am being handed an opportunity to see wtf is going on and instead I put down the book and go, 'eh, I care, but not THAT MUCH.' Know what I mean?

  12. 5 out of 5

    N.K. Jemisin

    Best book I have ever read on current American culture wars and policy. Broke down for me something I'd never understood -- why white Middle Americans were so blinded by racism and anti-intellectualism that they voted against their own interests. Highly recommended to everyone. Best book I have ever read on current American culture wars and policy. Broke down for me something I'd never understood -- why white Middle Americans were so blinded by racism and anti-intellectualism that they voted against their own interests. Highly recommended to everyone.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Joe Bageant, a self-proclaimed redneck, made it out of the blue collar town he grew up in, got an education, saw a wider world which changed his perspectives, and then moved back home. In his absence the working class people of Winchester, Virginia had become poorer, less educated, and more narrow minded, living precarious lives clinging to dead end jobs with no security and few, if any, benefits. Religion had always been a powerful force in these people’s lives, giving them hope to get through Joe Bageant, a self-proclaimed redneck, made it out of the blue collar town he grew up in, got an education, saw a wider world which changed his perspectives, and then moved back home. In his absence the working class people of Winchester, Virginia had become poorer, less educated, and more narrow minded, living precarious lives clinging to dead end jobs with no security and few, if any, benefits. Religion had always been a powerful force in these people’s lives, giving them hope to get through their troubles, but the new fundamentalism was darker, more threatening than the one Bageant had grown up with. And of course, they had become reflexive Republicans, a classic case of people voting against their own self-interest. Bageant does a good job examining what happened and why. He understands that education is the key to better lives yet is skeptical enough to recognize that the powers that be have a vested interest in ensuring that the working classes are barely literate, since it makes them easier to control. “Conservative leaders understand quite well that education has a liberalizing effect on a society. Presently they are devising methods to smuggle resources to those American madrassas, the Christian fundamentalist schools, a sure way to make the masses even more stupid if ever there was one.” When intellectual horizons shrink people lose the ability to objectively analyze their situation, and rely more and more on others to do their thinking for them. “In the old days class warfare was between the rich and the poor….These days it is clearly between the educated and the uneducated.” Since they are already living on the edge of destitution, it is a simple matter to manipulate them into an us-versus-them position, even if it puts them on the side of the people who made them destitute in the first place. Make no mistake, these are good people: honest, hard working, and trying their best to raise families in increasingly straitened times. Many of them work multiple jobs just to keep a roof over their heads, and they don’t have the time or the energy to analyze and reflect on the political and social issues of the day, so it is easier to just accept the opinions of those around them. This is especially true since the sources they get their news from have twisted those issues into simple slogans revolving around patriotism, individual freedom, and religion. “The intellectual lives of most working-class Americans consist of things that sound as if they might be true, and that is why millions are spent on sound bites and sloganeering.” For some, the military offers a way out, and it is good for many young people, offering the chance to learn self-discipline and a set of useful skills, and to gain a broader perspective on life by meeting people from other backgrounds. It is often their only chance at a better life, which puts the decision to enlist in a different light. “These so-called volunteers are part of the nation’s de facto draft—economic conscription. 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.” Even under these conditions, however, it worth remembering that only 25% of the young people in the United States today meet the military’s basic enlistment requirements; the other 75% are ineligible based on aptitude, weight, drug use, or past criminal history. Religion has always been the great consolation of the downtrodden, giving meaning to their sacrifices and hope for a better life in the hereafter. Religion in working class America is emotional, not intellectual, and it is much more than just going to church on Sunday. Middle-of-the-road Jews, Unitarians, Protestants, and Catholics, not to mention the secular humanists among us, cannot imagine how complete a lifestyle the cultish fundamentalist churches provide. This self-referential culture is so focused on religion and conviction that it was bound to come to see the larger secular society as its persecutor and all authority other than God’s, especially that of the government, as corrupt. The congregants face a relentless message of approaching end times. Why spend time helping others when you might be raptured up to heaven at any moment? This view also emphasizes a clannish damned-versus-saved mentality and leads to dark apocalyptic ideas. “Pleading upon the blood of Jesus. I never heard that expression while growing up. Scary as biblical language seemed then, there is something more ominous about today’s fundamentalist terminology. Close observers of conservative American Christianity know that it has grown darker and more blood oriented over the past few decades.” Bageant’s own brother is a preacher who has conducted his share of exorcisms. Life is getting harder for the people in Joe Bageant’s old neighborhood, and people like them in blue collar neighborhoods everywhere. What little money they might be able to save is often used up in court costs and medical bills. This is a world where people live paycheck to paycheck, where an unexpected bill can be a financial disaster, and where plenty of people exist to take advantage of them. For example, the American dream of owning your own home has been twisted into buying a cheap and poorly built “pre-manufactured” home that does not appreciate in value over time, costs more and more each year to maintain, and comes saddled with ridiculous interest rates and the near certainty of foreclosure the next time there are layoffs at the plant. Bageant is right that providing a good education is the way out, but better schools and more qualified teachers mean higher taxes, and it is easy to convince people already living at the edge of insolvency that the money should be spent elsewhere. It is hard to imagine a happy ending here. As the Roman empire fell apart in the wake of the barbarian invasions landowners gave up their freedoms and their futures in exchange for promises of safety from the local lord, and thus feudalism was born. What will happen when tens of millions of working class Americans find that life has become impossible, when they are unable to buy groceries, clothing for their kids, or medicines when they are sick? What alternatives will they turn to?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Regulator

    It was a slow afternoon, the store was empty. He walked in alone. There were just the two sunglass dudes standing around outside the front door. It was Barack Obama, browsing at The Regulator. We stayed cool. Gave the man some space. That's a big part of what this bookstore thing is all about--giving folks space to breathe, space to think, space to find something new. So we gave him his space, but I guess he didn't have much time. After a few minutes he came up to the counter and asked if there It was a slow afternoon, the store was empty. He walked in alone. There were just the two sunglass dudes standing around outside the front door. It was Barack Obama, browsing at The Regulator. We stayed cool. Gave the man some space. That's a big part of what this bookstore thing is all about--giving folks space to breathe, space to think, space to find something new. So we gave him his space, but I guess he didn't have much time. After a few minutes he came up to the counter and asked if there was something I could recommend. Here was my chance. What one book would I recommend to Barack Obama? What could he read that might help him get elected and then to help him do a better job as president? I stayed cool. Handed him Deer Hunting With Jesus. This is white working class America from the point of view of a left-leaning insider. Why do all these none-too-wealthy folks usually vote Republican? What is this thing they have with guns, and with Jesus? What are their lives really like, and how have their lives changed over the last 40 years or so? What kinds of things can people on the left do--and not do--to break the hold the Republicans seem to have on their votes? It's all here, told by a gifted storyteller who has a bit of an edge to his voice because of what is happening with his people. There's a ton here that Obama (and all of us lee-ber-als) can learn about the hard lives most of these people live. And no, Obama hasn't really been browsing at The Regulator. But does anybody know an address I can use to mail this book to his campaign?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    Joe Bageant confronts his urban liberal audience early on with an uncomfortable truth: we're seen as elitists by the subjects of his book -- white, rural, poor working folk who vote against their own economic interests -- because we do genuinely look down our noses at them. For all our academic buck-passing about whose fault it really is that this class of people is, in Bageant's words, impervious to information, at the end of the day the average progressive can't help but resent the people so d Joe Bageant confronts his urban liberal audience early on with an uncomfortable truth: we're seen as elitists by the subjects of his book -- white, rural, poor working folk who vote against their own economic interests -- because we do genuinely look down our noses at them. For all our academic buck-passing about whose fault it really is that this class of people is, in Bageant's words, impervious to information, at the end of the day the average progressive can't help but resent the people so directly responsible for fucking themselves, and America as a whole, at every election. Like most of the urban progressives I spend my time with, I have a myriad of intellectual responses to the basic conundrum as to how these people's beliefs got so turned around: rabid anti-union sentiment from some of the most oppressed workers in the country; anti-intellectualism from people to whom educational opportunity has been denied by birth; anti-tax protests from people who, as a rule, do not make enough money to worry about their taxes being raised. We blame Fox news, right-wing talk radio, and other less blatant propaganda, we decry the poor quality of public education, and we blog fiercely about the economic dead-end that is small-town America. These explanations do, in fact, help us to understand the motivations of the working poor, and Bageant touches on all of them in the book. What was missing from my own understanding, and what Bageant brings to the table, is something approaching empathy for these people, some emotional and visceral grasp of what it's like to see the world through their eyes. It's uncomfortable, sometimes scary, and incredibly frustrating. That's the thesis of Bageant's screed. "Deer Hunting with Jesus" is so provocative that it's easy to forget the part of the title after the colon: "Dispatches from America's Class War." At its soul, this book is the economic manifesto of a socialist redneck, a scathing indictment of big business taking advantage of the little guy while the government either does nothing or actively helps the oppressors -- a story nauseatingly familiar to liberal bloggers the world over. The fact that these working poor have been conditioned to believe -- to really, honest-to-God believe -- that they're middle-class workers living in a classless society just makes the bad joke being played on them even more infuriating. Without giving too much away to those interested in reading this -- and you should, if you want to understand a part of the country we only remember exists at election time, and then with raw scorn -- the answer to the question of republican allegiance is grassroots effort. Simply stated, the Republican party does the legwork to make sure these people hear their side of the story at the community level, face-to-face. The progressive movement, when it isn't fighting amongst itself over minutiae of environmental ethics or the dead end of gun control, cannot be bothered to establish personal relationships with these people. They make us uncomfortable. Meanwhile, the local real estate tycoon is perfectly willing to hold court at the pub, detailing the hundreds of ways that liberals hate America and unions send jobs to Mexico. If these bull sessions happen to make him a little richer or ingratiate himself a little further with the chamber of commerce, all the better. While I obviously can't claim perfect communion with the working poor after reading a single book, I do feel like I have a better handle on who these people are, what drives them, and how we might be able to reintegrate them into thinking society before it's too late. Assuming, of course, that it's not already too late.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steve Wiggins

    I bought this book because of the title, thinking it would be funny. While enjoyable Bageant has many important things to say. Like the author, I grew up poor and have never forgotten the plight of those betrayed by the "land of plenty." See more comments on my blog: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World. I bought this book because of the title, thinking it would be funny. While enjoyable Bageant has many important things to say. Like the author, I grew up poor and have never forgotten the plight of those betrayed by the "land of plenty." See more comments on my blog: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Todd Martin

    Ever heard of slum tourism? The basic idea is that instead of visiting a historic landmark or natural wonder, you can take a tour of an impoverished area. Though not without controversy, this activity can serve as an eye opening experience and serve as motivation to those who wish to take action to rectify the failures of a society. Well, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War is a form of slum tourism, but instead of a Brazilian favela Joe Bageant takes us on a tour of a l Ever heard of slum tourism? The basic idea is that instead of visiting a historic landmark or natural wonder, you can take a tour of an impoverished area. Though not without controversy, this activity can serve as an eye opening experience and serve as motivation to those who wish to take action to rectify the failures of a society. Well, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War is a form of slum tourism, but instead of a Brazilian favela Joe Bageant takes us on a tour of a low rent district in Winchester, Virginia as a means to explain why the underclass has aligned itself with the party of the rich in a partnership that is completely contrary to its own interest (I would also add that it is damaging to the country, democracy and even the long term interests of the well-to-do, but that is perhaps a discussion for another venue). So, why do working class whites vote republican (57% vs 35% for democrats according to one 2012 poll)? Bageant has two main answers. One reason is education. The higher a person’s education level, the more likely they are to vote Democratic (a trend validated by PolitiFact). Because those in the working class are less likely to have a college or post-graduate degree, they are more likely to vote republican. However, what I find to be the more compelling reason has to do with the right’s successful capitalization on the politics of resentment. We’ve all seen graphs like the following that show stagnant median household incomes for all but the super-rich. Add to this rising costs of healthcare and education and you have a lower and middle class that is working harder than ever (as demonstrated by record levels of productivity) who are either falling behind or simply treading water. Although enormous wealth is being generated by US businesses it is disproportionately going to the top 1%. The average worker rightfully recognizes that they are being screwed but they have been convinced by the right-wing echo chamber that the robber barons selfishly hoarding the spoils are ‘job creators’, that cutting taxes spurs job creation as opposed to raising the minimum wage which does the opposite, jobs are being taken by illegal immigrants who get free health care and abortions, welfare mothers are living the high life on taxpayer funded social services, that we live in a Christian nation, the Affordable Care Act is a government takeover of the healthcare system, that progressive taxation equates to socialism, the government is coming for their guns, there’s a war on Christmas, global warming is a liberal conspiracy, evolution is ‘just a theory’, gay marriage destroys families, that foreign relations are best addressed at the point of a gun, that equal opportunity still exists and that the American Dream is alive and well. And there you have it, ignorance, resentment and demagoguery in the service of an agenda favored by plutocratic interests has created a deeply divided electorate, political gridlock and generated some of the dumbest rhetoric to have ever graced the national dialog (and my Facebook feed). Hate is great motivator, and the right has a proven track record of manufacturing and redirecting anger, outrage and discontent from thin air (or more accurately, from the thin airwaves). Of course one should not neglect the fact that the Democratic party has largely neglected its working class base to instead court a wealthier clientele (not coincidentally, these are the same individuals with the wherewithal to fund re-election campaigns). It’s an unfortunate fact that the rise of the right was only made possible because the left dropped the ball. Having grown up within this conservative, working class culture, Bageant understands these issues first hand and does a great job distilling them down to their essence. Lest you be inclined to dismiss his analysis I’ll also point out that he identifies the corrupt lending practices of banks and predicts the 2008 collapse of the housing market in this book … all before it happens. His writing is crisp and clear, scathing and sympathetic by turns, and entertaining throughout (though I do believe he rather missed the mark with his analysis of the influence of the Scots-Irish and I felt that the book ended on a rather weak note with his discussion of the American hologram). I was saddened to hear that Bageant died in 2011. His would be a refreshing voice to have present in the national dialog were he alive today.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cody Sexton

    The American working class is dead and we are headed toward corporate feudalism. The elite are going to keep freezing us dry, giving us just enough to live on and no more. We are very much seeing a real and serious struggle between those who have and are trying to get more and those who have not and are likely to get even less. But I reserve my deepest scorn, and my greatest resentment, for the social forces that oppress millions of the working poor — chief among these is the woeful standard of The American working class is dead and we are headed toward corporate feudalism. The elite are going to keep freezing us dry, giving us just enough to live on and no more. We are very much seeing a real and serious struggle between those who have and are trying to get more and those who have not and are likely to get even less. But I reserve my deepest scorn, and my greatest resentment, for the social forces that oppress millions of the working poor — chief among these is the woeful standard of education in rural America, which I believe, as does the author, is a purposeful strategy of the middle and upper business classes, which is one of the most efficient and cost effective ways to keep the lower classes low. The class war is fought cold - with words, reproaches, snubs and deliberate mishearings - between mostly urban liberals and largely rural conservatives, who snipe at each other from class-segregated homes, bars and schools and while it may be true that working class poor people primarily vote against their own self-interests, they do so only by default, the reason being is because the left refuses to embrace them and at every turn they only wish to openly mock and blame them for all of societies ills. And if this causes some people to turn to an easy and self-destructive alternative, be it conservative politics or opioid painkillers, it isn’t because they lack the intelligence or strength of character to improve their own lot. It’s because false promises and cheap drugs are the only things the rest of America exports to Appalachia in plentiful supply. I defy anyone to read this book and go right on satirizing rednecks, white trash, or Republican-voting working class people in quite the same way as they did before.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I'm still reading this book (published in 2007), but so far all it has done is raise my blood pressure a little and reiterate my beliefs that many liberals feel that the rest of us are too stupid to decide for ourselves what we should believe in. That somehow they are the only ones with an education and therefore are the only ones capable of making decisions. I'm astonished every day when I meet and interact with otherwise intelligent people who have decided that the socialist state being pursue I'm still reading this book (published in 2007), but so far all it has done is raise my blood pressure a little and reiterate my beliefs that many liberals feel that the rest of us are too stupid to decide for ourselves what we should believe in. That somehow they are the only ones with an education and therefore are the only ones capable of making decisions. I'm astonished every day when I meet and interact with otherwise intelligent people who have decided that the socialist state being pursued by President Obama and his liberal congress is a good thing for the U.S. Perhaps by the time I finish this book written by one of those liberal muckrakers I'll have a better insight into why they think like they do. I'm sure it won't change my mind since I live in the real world and use my own education to make decisions based on my experiences, ideals, and goals. But if I could only understand where these people are coming from and how they perceive conservatives I might be able to have a greater compassion toward them and a better understanding of how to communicate some common sense to them.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is a book that can definitely be discussed at length. It's worth reading through the existing reviews which all bring up valid points. It was published in 2007 and was a mighty predictor for things to come, although it is dated material now. Since the economic and political landscape changed quite drastically over the past seven years, I wondered what Joe Bageant thought today? I looked up his blog and found out that he died in 2011. Nobody was safe from the critical eye of Joe Bageant, but This is a book that can definitely be discussed at length. It's worth reading through the existing reviews which all bring up valid points. It was published in 2007 and was a mighty predictor for things to come, although it is dated material now. Since the economic and political landscape changed quite drastically over the past seven years, I wondered what Joe Bageant thought today? I looked up his blog and found out that he died in 2011. Nobody was safe from the critical eye of Joe Bageant, but he appeared to be a person that would sit down and talk to anyone and really listen to that view point. He asks each person to stand back and reflect on their perceptions versus larger agendas. How well do you think you're doing? But, how well are you actually doing?

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This is a series of essays, really, on various aspects of life for those disenfranchised, used Americans who cannot hope to be effectively served by their education or political system in their lifetimes. Its a readable, irritatingly smart-assed, frightening picture which is painted by this intelligent, frustrated ex local of Winchester, Virginia. Bageant partially rubs the grime off the cheap, scratched perspex windows of the lifestyle and culture he was born into, and then rubs the reader's no This is a series of essays, really, on various aspects of life for those disenfranchised, used Americans who cannot hope to be effectively served by their education or political system in their lifetimes. Its a readable, irritatingly smart-assed, frightening picture which is painted by this intelligent, frustrated ex local of Winchester, Virginia. Bageant partially rubs the grime off the cheap, scratched perspex windows of the lifestyle and culture he was born into, and then rubs the reader's nose in the view, warts emphasised, and wounds festering. Clearly intended for an American audience, some of the references to people and events eluded me (though I'm pretty ignorant, so they might be clearer to others), but the point is most emphatic: these people are a neglected but significant group whose size makes them influential, but who are left unknown and unattended by their governments and service sectors, at increasing risk to the status quo. The lives of these red-necks are lousy with injustice,hopelessness and deprivation, and yet they are proud and fiercely independent and relatively uncomplaining, making them a low-maintenance sector of the economy who work themselves into an early grave whilst thanking their employers and landlords for the privilege of their illusion of partaking of the American dream (hence the ease of ignoring them). Despite Bageant's occasionally patronising and ridiculing tone, he generally depicts these people as tragic hubristic figures, brave and worthy of far more than they receive from life, and the exploiters they think are their benefactors. By the end of the book, the potential for happiness that is lost in their abuse, and the hopelessness of their situation at various stages in their lives as they slip through the outdated safety nets is quite affecting, and Bageant has managed to convince us of the danger of the extremity of their political and religious beliefs to the future of society if left unattended by the liberal side of politics. This little book offers some insight into the endlessly fascinating (to me anyway) question of why so many blue collar workers vote against their own political interests, and manages to make us see these ugly Americans as more than that, and as abandoned by the political liberals who could help them. Abandoned, dangerously, to the attentions of the Republicans who enslave and exploit them to ensure their future re-election. Historical explanations are given to explain the way it came to be like this, the vulnerable points in their culture, and how these have been used to profit others. Nobody comes up roses in this relentless appraisal of US society, but we do gain an insight into the way of hope and what needs to be done, and from where the problem springs, which makes this a pretty important little book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Really a great read, well-written, concise, and spot-on. Bageant grew up in the rural south (Winchester, Virginia) and knows from rednecks. He's not disingenuous at all, not a snobbish elite looking outside-in. He wants to love these people, like his brother, who's a pastor still living in the town he grew up in, or the mooks in the dive bar where he shoots the bull. In the book, he goes back to find that what the world knows as squabbling Scots-Irish white trash has gotten dumber, fatter, and dee Really a great read, well-written, concise, and spot-on. Bageant grew up in the rural south (Winchester, Virginia) and knows from rednecks. He's not disingenuous at all, not a snobbish elite looking outside-in. He wants to love these people, like his brother, who's a pastor still living in the town he grew up in, or the mooks in the dive bar where he shoots the bull. In the book, he goes back to find that what the world knows as squabbling Scots-Irish white trash has gotten dumber, fatter, and deeper in debt. And boy do they loves them some Jesus. Each of the book's chapters deals with one particular aspect of rural poverty or red-state politics; the chapter on mortgage debt is really painful to read. (Especially after having just seen the documentary "Maxed Out.") One predatory lender claims that he can "get a ham sandwich a loan if it has a dollar to make a downpayment." I find his chapter on gun ownership to be extremely sympathetic. Almost everyone there owns a gun, most of them still have heirloom guns that their families used to hunt with. And the majority of them still hunt, and no one owns handguns. Another great quote: "Handguns are for pussies." Why would some big-city elitist want to take that away? Damn right. And then, of course, there's the Millenialist/End-Times/Charismatic Christianity. If you can stomach that chapter ...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Although this book is 12 years old at my reading, its content was still useful and relevant to today's societal and political discourse. The chapters I found most interesting were: 1: American Serfs 4: Valley of the Gun; and especially 8: American Hologram. Sadly, Bageant passed away in 2011 but perhaps we can take some wisdom from his writings and spend less time watching television, spend more time reading and thinking critically and talking to people all around us. Although this book is 12 years old at my reading, its content was still useful and relevant to today's societal and political discourse. The chapters I found most interesting were: 1: American Serfs 4: Valley of the Gun; and especially 8: American Hologram. Sadly, Bageant passed away in 2011 but perhaps we can take some wisdom from his writings and spend less time watching television, spend more time reading and thinking critically and talking to people all around us.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Angelique Simonsen

    Jeepers this is bloody terrible and a good read. Definitely leaves you thinking

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    A journey into America's working class 19 June 2013 Isn't it funny that one day you wake up and you discover that you have become that which you hate. I remember a friend of mine saying that to me once. He used to be a member of the English working class and after two years returning to school he had become the wine sipping type of person that he used to look down on back in the motherland. The same feeling came across me as I read this book simply because where most of the books that offer a cri A journey into America's working class 19 June 2013 Isn't it funny that one day you wake up and you discover that you have become that which you hate. I remember a friend of mine saying that to me once. He used to be a member of the English working class and after two years returning to school he had become the wine sipping type of person that he used to look down on back in the motherland. The same feeling came across me as I read this book simply because where most of the books that offer a critical view of the American political system take a top down approach, Bageant, who has his roots in the American working class, takes a look at it from the bottom up, namely from the view of your average American working class town (or city as he now calls it). The reason that I have commented on how I have become that which I have hated is because of what Bageant describes as the working class view of middle class liberal types, and that is as a bunch of late sipping intellectuals that really do not understand what a hard days work is really like, and in a way that is true. I am currently sitting outside at a table in a cafe on Elizabeth Street in Melbourne, not so much drinking a late (because I cannot drink excessive amounts of milk), but I am drinking the next best thing and that is a long black (with a side of milk). I have associated with members of the Australian Left in the past, and many of them seem to be university educated individuals that generally want more free time, more money, and less work. The nature of the political right and left in Australia is somewhat different to that in the United States because our political parties tend to be more inclined to the left, though right enough to remain relevant to the Americans. Mind you, the working class here in Australia is also different because they are paid quite well, and sitting near me in this cafe are a bunch of construction workers who are also drinking lates. However they are the rough and tumble loud mouthed members of the working class who probably only use the internet to fuel their porn addiction. I can appreciate what Bagaent is saying here because even though the working class here in Australia is getting nowhere near as screwed as they are in the United States (you are more likely to get screwed if you work in a office in Australia than if you work in a manufacturing plant, not that there are many manufacturing plants left, and even then many of the office jobs are getting off shored as well). We do have better healthcare here in Australia as well as education, even though our government is attempting to gut that as well. This is one of the main points that Bageant makes here and that is the importance of education. One of the reasons that the working class in the United States is functionally illiterate (or worse) is because of the quality of education, but then again in some parts of Australia the public school system is little more than government funded day care. The children aren't being taught, and they aren't learning. It is not that they aren't learning, but they aren't learning to think. Universities are being priced out of the hands of the working class, which adds another layer of ignorance to the situation. Further, the only thing that many of us learn comes out of the idiot box, and we end up being swayed by the fine sounding words that the next motivational speaker who comes along says. Mind you, here in Australia Christians bemoan the state of our post-Christian society, but Christianity in Australia is nowhere near what it is like in America. Australians generally don't go to church, and generally don't buy the rubbish that comes out of many of the pulpits. In a way the fundamentalist Christians in the United States seem to make the same claim about their country though from what I gather from what Bagaent has to say Christianity in America is alive and well, it is just that we don't see all that much of it from where we are sitting. Here in Australia most of what we see coming out of America tends to come out of Hollywood, and I would hardly call the Hollywood culture a true reflection of American culture, not if what Bagaent says is true. We mostly get a glimpse of American life as it appears in the cities, and while the city life in Australia may reflect that, that is not necessarily true in the United States. The thing about Australia is that the bulk of our population is crammed into the cities that dot our shores, and even then, a bulk of that population is located on the Eastern Seaboard (which includes Melbourne, despite Melbourne being on the South Coast). However, just because the Australian people congregate in the cities does not necessarily mean that Australians are a more liberal lot (assuming that the liberals tend to congregate in the cites, which seems to be the case in the United States). While I still argue that Adelaide is a small town, in reality it is a city, however it does have a small town mind set. That is probably the main reason why I wanted to get out of there. The thing with small towns in Australia is that there are only two things to do: drink beer and play football – that pretty much defines Adelaide. The towns in Australia, like the United States, tend to also have a much more conservative view (which is probably a good thing that I did not move out to Dubbo), and that is the case with Adelaide. As I said, Adelaide is a city with a small town mindset, and that mindset tends to be very conservative (as well as very narrow minded). There are Adelaidians that cannot imagine why anybody would not want to live in Adelaide, and I was rebuked once for saying that I hated Adelaide (and I still do, which is why I do not want to go back). In a sense, it was that mindset, and that conservative streak, that made me want to leave and come over to Melbourne (which I finally managed to do after twenty years of trying). However, my rant about Adelaide reflects an important point with regards to this book. Bageant says that one of the problems with the left in the United States is that the left, like me, do not want to have anything to do with people holding the conservative mindset. From Bageant's descriptions, the people of Adelaide are actually more intelligent than the people that he describes in rural America in that when they vote for the conservatives (despite the fact that South Australia has had a Labor government for almost twelve years) they do so because they have that upper crust attitude. The people of Adelaide (that is the people that do not live in the northern suburbs who believe that if you read a book in a pub then you must be homosexual) do have a gentrified air about them. That was why a Queenslander that I lived with for a while ended up leaving. What Bageant was suggesting though was that the left seems to think that they are better than these people, and that the country hicks (as I put them) are the problem and must be dealt with as opposed to a group that actually needs somebody to step out and help them. If you read a lot of leftist literature (which I have done) they seem to think that the problem is at the top, and attempt to attack the top thinking that that is the way to deal with them, as opposed to courting the base (which, despite George Bush's joke about the billionaires being his base, is in reality the American working class) and doing something to solve their problems.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    These "Dispatches from America's class war" ring as true as America's Liberty Bell. Of course like the "Liberty Bell", the American Revolution's promise of "liberty and justice for all" cracked on first use. As with other bourgeois democracies, the ideals of the the American capitalist revolution were undermined by class rule. Liberty, equality and fraternity tended to break down under the rule of Capital, where, as the old wag's saying about the golden rule goes, those with the most gold, have These "Dispatches from America's class war" ring as true as America's Liberty Bell. Of course like the "Liberty Bell", the American Revolution's promise of "liberty and justice for all" cracked on first use. As with other bourgeois democracies, the ideals of the the American capitalist revolution were undermined by class rule. Liberty, equality and fraternity tended to break down under the rule of Capital, where, as the old wag's saying about the golden rule goes, those with the most gold, have made the rules. What Joe Bageant has done in DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS is to give his readers an up-to-date snapshot concerning the preemptions of America's revolutionary ideals as he focuses on the lower strata of the rural based working class. His microcosmic example is focused on the majority of the people who now live and work in his old home town of Winchester, Virginia. To be sure, he also shines in a light on his fellow workers' rulers: the lawyers, real estate agents, landlords and small business people (aka `cockroach capitalists', in Old Wob tongue). Bageant describes Winchester's cockroach capitalists this way: "Members of the business class, that legion of little Rotary Club spark plugs, are vital to the American corporate and political machine. They are where the institutionalized rip-off of working class people by the rich corporations finds its footing at the grassroots level, where they can stymie any increase in the minimum wage or snuff out anything remotely resembling a fair tax structure. Serving on every local governmental body, this mob of Kiwanis and Rotarians has connections. It can get that hundred acres rezoned for Wal-Mart or a sewer line to that two-thousand-unit housing development at taxpayer expense. When it comes to getting things done locally for big business, these folks, with the help of their lawyers, can raise the dead and give eyesight to the blind. They are God's gift to the big nonunion companies and the chip plants looking for a fresh river to piss cadmium into--the right wing's can-do boys. They are so far right they will not even eat the left wing of a chicken." p.45 Mr. Bageant peppers his aphoristic style with enough humour to keep all the but the most dour social stoic smiling. In his chapter titled, "Valley of the Guns" (a piece of writing sure to upset liberal gun control advocates like Michael Moore), Bageant explains his book's title. "To nonhunters, the image conjured by the title of this book might seem absurd, rather like a NUKE THE WHALES bumper sticker. But the title also captures something that moves me about the people I grew up with, the intersection between hunting and religion in their lives. The link between protestant fundamentalism and deer hunting goes back to colonial times, when the restless Presbyterian Scots, along with English and German Protestant reformers, pushed across America, developing the unique hunting and farming-based frontier cultures that sustained them over most of America's history. Two hundred years later, they have settled down, but they have not quit hunting and they have not quit praying. Consequently, today we find organizations such as the Christian Deer Hunters Association (christiandeerhunters.org), which offers convenient pocket-size books of meditations, such as "Devotions for Deer Hunters", to help occupy the time during those long waits for game. Like their ancestors, deer hunters today understand how standing quietly and alone in the natural world leads to contemplation of God's gifts to man. And so, when a book like "Meditations for the Deer Stand" is seen in historical context, it is no joke. For those fortunate enough to spend whole days quietly standing in the November woods just watching the Creator's world, there is no irony at all in the notion that his son might be watching too, and maybe even willing to summon a couple of nice fat does within shooting range." p. 124-125 The ideological crack between the more liberal, more urban, coastal based U.S. workers and their small town, conservative rivals, living in the interior of the country, is one of the main political thrusts of DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS. The gun control issue is but one of many sore points dividing the U.S. working class thus, making its members easier to rule. The elephant standing in the room is the issue of work-time. Too many hours sold to the bosses makes it difficult for small town wage-slaves to do much in the way of educating themselves, reading or expanding their views of the world beyond the easily accessed, instant, canned gratification available from conservative Republican corporate AM radio pundits and their brethren on the bully pulpits of the nation's fundamentalist Christian churches. The toilers of Bageant's home town are literally being worked to death at jobs which market for low wages, kept even lower by the anti-union ideology which is so common in their everyday parlance as to be taken for `commonsense'. The same can be said for their socially conservative cultural traditions concerning: race relations, the possession of firearms, Big Gov'mint, namby-pamby intellectuals and warlike nationalism. Across that great bellwether, the great crack in the working class remains unrepaired as left liberal workers sit and sit and sit, disdaining contact with their `benighted' fellow citizens thus, leaving both sides ignorant of what the other is saying or doing and by extension the potential of their power as a class united. According to Bageant, this is a recipe for continued impotent expressions of working class power, while serving to maintain a ruling class status-quo which is on track to continue cutting U.S. workers' living standards and furthering the commodification of human values and humane relations. Joe Bageant has written a book which should be on every IWW organiser's shelf. DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS answers many of the questions concerning how and why the workers in the USA are largely blind to their own class interests. The Australian edition of DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS comes complete with an Australian oriented preface.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brett

    In the same vein as What's the Matter with Kansas?, Strangers in their Own Land, and Hillbilly Elegy, Deer Hunting with Jesus is about that timeless political topic of what makes white rural people hold their conservative political beliefs and what if anything can be done about it. Joe Bageant is a pretty good writer, though his prose can be a little purple at times. Like Bageant, I have rural roots but lefty politics, and can certainly identify with many of his gripes and observations, but the b In the same vein as What's the Matter with Kansas?, Strangers in their Own Land, and Hillbilly Elegy, Deer Hunting with Jesus is about that timeless political topic of what makes white rural people hold their conservative political beliefs and what if anything can be done about it. Joe Bageant is a pretty good writer, though his prose can be a little purple at times. Like Bageant, I have rural roots but lefty politics, and can certainly identify with many of his gripes and observations, but the book is a decidedly mixed bag overall. His chapter on the petite bourgeoisie domination of small town politics is very good. The circle of real estate holders and owners of small businesses that are deeply entrenched in maintaining the status quo is a real and rarely discussed feature of rural life. His hatred for these folks is amusing and not entirely unjustified. Similarly, his discussion of the absence of any kind of educational opportunities or culture, and the way this stunts human development is also sadly on the mark in many rural places. Finally, his descriptions of the culture of work (and his linkage of these attitudes with Scots-Irish ancestral practices) is also insightful into the way people act and think in many rural places. For me, these were the high points of the book. His chapter on guns is weirdly wrong-headed. He takes issue with what he sees as anti-gun zealotry on the left, and describes a gun culture that is important and meaningful in rural America. Let me just say: the statistics he cites regarding gun accidents and self-defense from guns are not accurate. Decent data in this area is notoriously difficult to come by since Congress has forbidden the CDC from even collecting relevant information; it goes without saying that violent crimes and deaths from guns are astronomically higher in the U.S. than any comparable country with strict gun laws. This is only kind of the point, though. Bageant's description of Democratic politicians as vehemently anti-gun is also far wide of the mark. True, some Democrats have been staunch gun control advocates, and the certainly the party is more inclined to regulate firearms than Republicans. But, in the rural place where I live, every serious Democratic nominee for higher office takes great pains to respect the culture of hunting and gun ownership in our state. The party is hardly a monolith, and the gun control measures that they have successfully enacted in the last couple of decades are basically null. Discussion of health care also has some red flags. This is kind of a trivial matter, but I think it bears mentioning that in his rather extensive discussion of long term care, he continually suggests that older Americans use their Medicare to pay for nursing home stays. This is getting the core fact of long term care financing wrong: Medicare will not pay for you to be in a nursing home, though many people mistakenly are under the impression it will (it may, however, cover a short rehab stay after, for example, a hip replacement). Medicaid is the main federal funding source for long term care, but not all elderly people are qualified for Medicaid, only those will very few assets. I'm not here to delve into the details of this issue, but what is disconcerting is getting this very basic fact wrong. It really only takes a little googling to get your terms correct. If this fact is wrong, what other things are being fudged in the book? Bageant's righteous anger makes this a fun and at times galvanizing read, but I'd be careful in putting too much stock into the details he produces. One last point in its favor: it's clear that Bageant (who passed away some years ago) does in fact have a great deal of affection for his fellow rural people, even as he is furious at them. He even does what I thought was impossible: makes me feel sorry for Lynndie England.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Natasha Hurley-Walker

    10 years on and this book is still terrifyingly relevant. Bageant, a working-class American by birth, explains just why this enormous group of people consistently vote against their own self-interest in every American election. The key of course is economics: the vast majority of the working class have seen their in-real-terms income decline since around 1970, along with a huge reduction in job security and benefits. It is necessary for both partners in a relationship to work, sometimes at multi 10 years on and this book is still terrifyingly relevant. Bageant, a working-class American by birth, explains just why this enormous group of people consistently vote against their own self-interest in every American election. The key of course is economics: the vast majority of the working class have seen their in-real-terms income decline since around 1970, along with a huge reduction in job security and benefits. It is necessary for both partners in a relationship to work, sometimes at multiple jobs, putting enormous strain on family ties, given the expense of child and aged care. This has knock-on effects on people's participation in politics, which they no longer have time or energy to think deeply about, people's willingness to believe in religion, that opiate of the masses, and of course their health and education, both of which grow to be ever more expensive to maintain and improve. The result: a huge section of society controlled by fear and propaganda via talk-back radio (and now of course, right-wing "alternative fact" websites), unable to get more than a high-school education, which itself is horrifyingly likely to be taught by fundamentalist Christians, entirely enslaved to mortgage and health insurance payments, in jobs that pay a non-living wage and are always just on the verge of being outsourced. He knows these people, for they are his family, and his pain at seeing their ignorant degradation and the way they are used as pawns by distant politician translates to a fiery and very readable series of essays on each of the serious flaws in current American working-class life. What was really illuminating to me was that the Republican party essentially connects all the way from the top to the bottom, while the Democrats have failed to maintain working-class links, especially with their push for globalisation. And the evangelical/fundamentalist Christian link is even scarier. The perception is that Democrats only care about the working-class at election time, which is hardly a way to garner support. From the way Bageant tells it, his working-class friends and family don't even know any Democrats personally, while they are surrounded by fear-mongering Republicans who trash the "liberals" while promising salvation/riches/popularity if only you work hard, which melds well with the Protestant background of evangelicalism. Of course, why WOULD you vote for a party whose members never talk to you, who want to take away your guns (your freedom), who want all your kids to turn gay, who don't believe in the righteousness of Holy War in the Middle East? He writes incredibly perceptively given that this book came out in 2007 (so was probably written in 2006). He warns of the impending mortgage crisis which will destroy poor families, and says that no matter what happens in the 2008 election, if the Democrats don't seriously address the issues he raises and start seriously connecting with the working class, it's only a matter of time before someone worse than Bush gets in. The last couple of pages even contain a (probably coincidental) reference to Donald Trump, saying that to "grovel at the zipper" of such a man is the most degrading possible experience, but people will do it in search of entertainment and meaning. We only have to look around to see that those lessons weren't learned, and the world is poorer for it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    A left-wing writer returns to his republican, Southern hometown and describes it’s inhabitants. This book makes for pretty grim reading post-Trump, but I think it’s a useful book for understanding why people voted for him and how we got here. Bageant grew up poor in the North End of Winchester, his mother a textile mill worker and his father a gas station worker. He felt a sense of belonging returning to his town after 30 years, which lasted a couple months before he realized how much harder peo A left-wing writer returns to his republican, Southern hometown and describes it’s inhabitants. This book makes for pretty grim reading post-Trump, but I think it’s a useful book for understanding why people voted for him and how we got here. Bageant grew up poor in the North End of Winchester, his mother a textile mill worker and his father a gas station worker. He felt a sense of belonging returning to his town after 30 years, which lasted a couple months before he realized how much harder people’s lives had gotten in the time he was gone. Two in five of the residents of his hometown do not have a diploma, “nearly everyone over fifty has serious health problems, credit ratings rarely top 500, and alcohol, Jesus, and overeating are the three preferred avenues of escape”. The US class system is interesting to me as someone from the UK, because most Americans consider themselves “middle class” and there doesn’t seem to be a working class/middle class distinction. “If you define “working class” in terms of power—bosses who have it and workers who don’t—at least 60 percent of America is working class, and the true middle class—the journalists, professionals and semiprofessionals, people in the management class, etc.—are not more than one-third at best. Leaving aside all numbers, “working class” might best be defined like this: You do not have power over your work. You do not control when you work, how much you get paid, how fast you work, or whether you will be cut loose from your job at the first shiver on Wall Street. “Working class” has not a thing to do with the color of your collar and not nearly as much to do with income as most people think, or in many cases even with whether you are self-employed. These days the working class consists of truck drivers, cashiers, electricians, medical technicians, and all sorts of people conditioned by our system not to think of themselves as working class. There are no clear lines, which is one reason why the delusion of a middle-class majority persists.” The book was written in 2007 and there was something a little spooky about the final monologue, a strange stream of consciousness which mentions Trump. “No Democrat or leftie seems to grasp that much of working-class theocrats’ eagerness to join the corporatists at putting the liberal yuppies in their place is revenge based. Working-class people can perceive the upper-middle-class snobbery toward them.” I think a lot of democrats and leftists are now very aware of the revenge aspect lol Anyways, overall it’s a thoughtful book, he doesn’t dismiss the people in his town and instead tries to understand why they see the world the way they do. However, it would have been nice if it ended with some positivity, maybe some possible solutions

  30. 4 out of 5

    Paul Hebron

    Deer Hunting With Jesus is Joe Bageant's savage but sad indictment of life as lived by the average American, as seen through the lens of small town life in Winchester, Virginia. This could, in the wrong hands, have been poor-hating spew as seen in 'Crap Towns', but Bageant is a sensible, sensitive and knowledgeable writer. Bageant writes clearly about the redneck community he came from in the southern USA, and writes authoritatively from experience and from statistical and historical research ab Deer Hunting With Jesus is Joe Bageant's savage but sad indictment of life as lived by the average American, as seen through the lens of small town life in Winchester, Virginia. This could, in the wrong hands, have been poor-hating spew as seen in 'Crap Towns', but Bageant is a sensible, sensitive and knowledgeable writer. Bageant writes clearly about the redneck community he came from in the southern USA, and writes authoritatively from experience and from statistical and historical research about the grimness of working class living in 21st century USA. Patriotism, religion, and ignorance are what has blossomed in the heartland: the Bush years reflected back the world that had been put into place by economic and political forces earlier. Bageant however goes further than this and convincingly places the issue with the "American Dream" itself and the "Borderer mentality" ('grab everything and die defending it' = 'they're taking our freedoms!') that served colonial settlers well hundreds of years ago but today is a roadblock for many to thinking more broadly and critically. The book provides a lot to think about, such as the chapter about gun control, and how much guns can mean to the people who own them, which forced reconsideration of points I took to be self-evident in the gun control debate. Having never owned guns or hunted myself it helped a lot to understand why people are reluctant to part with them (Bageant also has a extremely good point, which is that 'what's more persuasive than an armed working class?'). Bageant puts blame also on the 20% or so who constitute the American liberal middle class and their unwillingness to begin to empathize or care about the majority of Americans. There aren't many options Bageant puts forward: too many Americans are trapped in the 'hologram' of beer and sport for the working, and sushi and brie for the middle (interestingly a thought that screams through my head whenever I watch American sitcoms in the insipidly bland New Girl sort of vein). Education (not necessarily in the degree-churning out sense of UK universities) and community activism are depicted as good ways to make the best use of available time and resources. As one blogger I was reading put it, where are the British authors who can write so convincingly and accurately about what it's like to be alive in Britain; where are Britain's equivalents to Bageant, Barbara Ehrenreich, or Thomas Frank?

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