I just finished Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant. It is an exploration into the political needs and realities of Southern working class people. Begeant's main thesis is that the average southern citizen spends so much time working and trying to make ends meet that they have no time to participate in democracy by educating themselves on current topics. Bageant points out that this is where the divide between educated urban liberals and the poor working class of the south has its greatest divide and most tension. Because those who make a comfortable living that affords them the time for these activities often neglect the socioeconomic situation and pass judegements. Bageant makes a thoughtful point when he states that it doesn't matter if news outlets blatantly get the facts wrong because these people are not fact checkers and are not going to question a corporate machine. There's no time. So let's say a certain news agency puts ridiculous lies out there or mislabels someone's heading during an interview, what is the likelihood that these people will just believe it?
Since democratic participation no longer constitutes citizenship consumerism quietly steps in to take its place. This was solidified after Sept. 11th when Bush asked Americans to get out and shop as it was the "most important thing they could do for their country." This dangerous mentality creates a downward spiral of credit card debt and personal emptiness that the interviewees did not know how to fill. (On a related note the television yesterday stated that winning American Idol was the "American Dream." So I guess we can forget about owning our own homes and providing for our families-the economy is going to crap so hope you can sing!)
What is also interesting, and has been pointed out by other various authors like Thomas Frank who wrote, What's the Matter with Kansas, is how political parties that have no interest in the economic lives of working people have brought these people into their party to believe it is in their best interests. Mostly because these parties prefer to build a platform based on single issues that provoke a gut reaction based more in heart than logic and perpetuate the idea that you don't have to be 'informed' you just 'know what's right.'
Bageant uses a historical legacy of Scottish cruelty to explain some current atrocities that I did not particularly agree with but overall it was surprisingly excellent, although some comments from interviews were terrifying. Some of the interviewees were racist, but I believe this speaks for the authenticity of the interviews because these are people the author knows and shares a community with. It is a light read, there are no notes or citations which always makes me feel uncomfortable when reading a book, but it is an excellent personal insight into these people's lives.