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UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) — Digging Deeper CVIII: January 4, 2010, 7:00 p.m.

Joe Bageant, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War
(New York: Crown Publishers, June 2007).

[Thesis. American liberals need to (40-42). Bageant's father was ignorant


engage the working class and of his own exploitation (43-44). Small-
understand how it lives; with deep roots and medium-size businesses are stifled
in Winchester, VA, Joe Bageant proposes by big business (44-48). Closing time at
to help them begin.] the bar (48-49).

A Note from the Author. Events are Ch. 2: Republicans by Default:


true; many names have been changed Redneck Pride and Fear in an Age of
[vii]). Outsourcing. Winchester's Rubbermaid
plant (53-61). The anti-elitism and the
Introduction. Bageant claims to speak work ethic—at the service of the elites—
with the authority of experience of the of Tom Henderson, a Rubbermaid worker
"working-class poor" or "lower class" of and redneck (61-73). Corporate
Winchester, VA: "conservative, politically Rubbermaid pressured (via Wal-Mart) by
misinformed or oblivious, and patriotic to globalization (73-77). Nance Willingham,
their own detriment" (6; 1-8). These are a 33-year-old woman worker who votes
white poor (8-10). "[T]he fact is, we are Republican (77-82). Working-class
a working-class country . . . at least 60 political thinking dominated by "(1)
percent . . . 'working class' might best be emotion substituted for thought, (2) fear,
defined like this: You do not have power (3) ignorance, and (4) propaganda" (82-
over your work" (11). Michael Zweig of 83). Laurita Barr, real estate magnate, a
SUNY Stony Brook on the "hollowing out "grass-roots operative" for the GOP,
of the middle class" (12). "[T]here is stirring up "working-class anger"
practically no labor movement" (13). (whereas "liberals . . . make little attempt
"[T]he left must genuinely connect face- to engage" [88]) (84-89). "Much of the
to-face with" with the working class and ongoing battle for America's soul is about
pursue "class equity" (15; 14-17). healing the souls of these Americans and
rousing them from the stupefying guilt of
Ch. 1: American Serfs: Inside the commodity and spectacle" (90).
White Ghetto of the Working Poor. Conservative politics is about fear, not
Portraits of Pootie, Dink, and Dot drinking moral values (91-92). The working class
at "Royal Lunch" in Winchester (21-25). thinks that what is regrettable about the
Today's class wars are not rich vs. poor, Iraq war is that "we are not winning"
but educated vs. uneducated (26-29). (94). The working class's moral
The life chances of the poor are worse blindness is rooted in "innocent trust of
now than a generation ago (30-33). The our system" (95).
working class is characterized by
passivity, anti-intellectualism, and anger Ch. 3: The Deep-Fried, Double-Wide
toward outsiders (33-35). Bageant Lifestyle: Whatever It Takes, the
recently spent two years organizing the Mortgage Racket Will Put You under
state's first tenant union in Winchester Your Own Roof. The American dream
(35-39). Today's workers do not realize of home ownership has spawned "the
that a class war is being waged against biggest organized racket in the United
them; they don't even know the term States" [Bageant, writing in early 2007,
(39; 39-40). Depredations wreaked by foresaw the impending crisis] with
businesspeople and their accomplices
special attention to trailer homes (106; (197-99). "To this day what has been
99-115). called 'Jacksonian nationalism' remains
the political foundation of those elements
Ch. 4: Valley of the Gun: Black that might be called the Republican Party
Powder and Buckskin in Heartland of Permanent War, the political wing of
America. Fond memories of deer America's Corporate Military Industrial
hunting with his father in the 1950s (119- Complex" (199). Meditation on Lynndie
123). Deep connections between England, who "never had a chance" (200;
American protestant fundamentalism and 199-201; 207-09; 219-20). The angry,
deer hunting (124-25). A Civil War vengeful culture of the Ulster Scots
reenactment (125-26). Defense of guns ("Borderer spawn" [209]), their fanatical
and fear of "antigun nuts" are associated Calvinism, and their descendants, a font
with liberty; liberals should back off (127- of American "white trash, crackers,
33). Ed and Charlie talk about guns rednecks," "hard-fighting fanatics" (203;
(133-41). The history of gun laws and 212; 201-07; 209-19). "[A] good blood-
gun lobbies (141-45). Defense of guns: rousing war is where we truly shine—
they "really do protect their owners" where God, patriotism, glory, and
(146; 146-49). Millions of men, however, mayhem come together in the Borderer
are, to an alarming degree, gun fetishists scheme of things" (215).
(150-56). A visit to his father's grave
(156-57). Ch. 7: An Authorized Place to Die:
The American Health Care System on
Ch. 5: The Covert Kingdom: They Life Support. Dot (see Ch. 1) in an
Plead upon the Blood of Jesus for a assisted living facility in Romney, WV, a
Theocratic State. Bageant's brother space for "proprietors, doctors, and
Michael is pastor at Shenandoah Bible health administrators to generate money
Baptist Church, an independent Baptist for themselves through our government's
church (161-62; 175-76). A approach to care" while "[w]e all feel
fundamentalist, dominionist theology of guilty that we cannot care for our parents
premillennialism (163-68). A church at home the way they cared for theirs"
service and sermon (168-72). (229; 228; 223-31; 245-46). On
Fundamentalist churches are cults supposedly non-profit hospitals (cites
training Christian cadres (172-75). His Mahar's Money-Driven Medicine) (231-
brother casts out demons (176-80). 33). Bankruptcies from medical
Bageant's great-great-grandfather was a expenses (233-35). The story of Woody's
Holiness Pentecostal preacher (180-82). death and Ruth's attempt to live on
Fundamentalism is linked to "a uniquely Social Security (235-44). "Ours is a
American form of ignorance" (182-85). system that destroys the fabric of
Bageant accepts his fundamentalist working-class families' relationships with
family members, though politically and their elders" (246).
spiritually they are "dire enemies," as
"my people" (187; 185-88). But the Ch. 8: American Hologram: The
current wave of fundamentalism is a Apocalypse Will Be Televised. Bobby
major political development posing a Fulk, successful realtor and one of 89m-
grave danger to the Republic (188-93). 94m functionally illiterate Americans
(249-53). In the contemporary U.S.,
Ch. 6: The Ballad of Lynndie "[t]he difficulties of self-expression
England: One Foot in Ulster, the hav[e] been neatly eliminated through
Other in Iraq. The mean violence of the standardization"; the culture has turned
Scots-Irish (Andrew Jackson was Scots- away from the Sixties' goal of
Irish) is deeply rooted in local culture "actualizing individual potential" and
instead conditions Americans to be "the Rocky Mountain News, the Denver Post,
property of the government" (253-56). and other western newspapers. In 1981
"[T]elevision drives the hologram" he moved to the Coeur d'Alene Indian
[Bageant's term for the "illusion" that reservation, where he built his own
keeps Americans from seeing each other cabin, worked with horses, tended
and pursuing their real interests—see 17] reservation bar, taught at the tribal
(257; 257-58). Those working for school part-time, continuing to write. He
corporations, liberals and conservatives also lived in Eugene, Oregon, for ten
alike, are to blame for "serv[ing] the years, working for "an international
brutal American brand of market publication that published agricultural
capitalism" and effecting "the slow magazines" (275). He returned to
dismantling of our educational system" Winchester, VA, and worked as a senior
and our news media (258-59). editor for the Weider History Group.
Democrats and Republicans "stand Bageant writes a popular online column
behind the American brand: imperialism" (www.joebageant.com). He and his wife
(260). "The corporate simulacrum of life Barbara now spend half the year in
has penetrated us so deeply it has Belize, where he sponsors "a small
become internalized and now dominates development project with the Black Carib
our interior landscape" (261). At the families of Hopkins Village" (275).
heart of our culture is a "symbiosis
linking corporate television, war as a [Additional information. Joe Bageant
corporate profit center, and corporate was born in 1946. His parents had
oil . . . We live in an age of corporate eighth-grade educations (10). He moved
dominion" (262). American liberty "is back to Winchester circa 2001 (36).]
largely fictional" (263). Yet people are
"approximately happy" (264). Coda: "in [Critique. Deer Hunting with Jesus is a
this dimming light and waning empire, fascinating reflection on rootedness and
Royal Lunch is a pinpoint in the the American working class. While
hologram" (266; 265-67). casually written, loosely organized, and
modest in its stated aims, Joe Bageant
Acknowledgments. Various Internet offers some deep insights into American
connections, including Thomas culture. Of particular interest is Chapter
Baypeyras, his French translator; a list of 6, where his paean to the contribution of
45 websites. Various friends and the Scots-Irish to American culture rises
associates, including Frederick Clarkson. to a pitch of eloquence that deserves to
Agent and editor. be anthologized. (This chapter was
About the Author. Joe Bageant was inspired by the life of Lynndie England, of
born in Winchester, VA, "once the hub of Abu Ghraib fame.) Bageant's defense of
colonial America's 'Great Wagon Road,' gun culture in Chapter 4 is notable.
the largest crossroads of Scots-Irish Racism is not explored in any depth,
history in America" (198), and served in surprisingly. The author's broad cultural
the U.S. Navy in the Vietnam era. He diagnosis in Chapter 8 is radical; it is not
lived in communes in Colorado and far removed from Guy Debord's Society
began to writing in a countercultural vein of the Spectacle. But Bageant does not
in 1971 and soon began to write for the engage social theory per se in this book.]