Tuesday, March 28, 2017


      I’ve recently finished (or almost finished, whether I’ll return to the book is an open question) Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild, a finalist for the National Book Award. Loved by most, the work, for me, typifies everything I find wrong with progressive writing, particularly an unwillingness to confront the obvious

     In the preface to her book, Ms. Hochschild writes, “I have lived most of my life in the progressive camp, but in recent years I began to want to better understand those on the right.” To that end, she spent five years researching the lives and opinions of Tea Party-Trump supporters in the heart of the Louisiana fossil-fuel/petrochemical corridor near Lake Charles, Louisiana.

      The word “empathy” is used again and again throughout the book. Ms. Hochschild wants to feel what these people feel, to see the world through their eyes. Unfortunately, the closest I came to an empathetic response was disgust. Almost every man or woman interviewed in this book has been victimized by pollution, a number losing relatives to cancer, their homes to man-made environmental disasters, and the outdoor way-of-life they hold most dear to the destruction of the outdoors. Yet they continue to support the very industries responsible for the chemical releases that injured them. To an individual, they hate the federal government and the regulations imposed by the EPA.

      Ms. Hochschild, I don’t suppose you’ll ever read this review. But if you should, I want you to consider a simple and very obvious truth, which you played with, but never really addressed. For a hundred years, white southerners voted Democratic because a Republican ended slavery. For the next hundred years, their pitiful rationalizations aside, they will vote for pro-business, pro-rich, anti-worker Republicans because a Democrat ended segregation. And if those votes require them to live along a stretch of road they, themselves, have named Cancer Alley, so be it.

      Strangers in Their Own Land did influence me. It hardened my belief in the foolishness of a 50-state political strategy, as urged by Dems like Howard Dean. Most of the people in Ms. Hochschild’s study believe that the entire universe (not just our planet) is 6,000 years old. Denial infuses nearly every aspect of their political lives as well. Whenever information contrary to their beliefs penetrates the filters they’ve created, they simply close their eyes and whisper the magic mantra: “Liberally Biased Media.”

      That’s apparently what happened when they cast their votes for Donald Trump, a man who cheats small business owners, who manufactures overseas, who hires illegals, who uses his personal charity to pay his bills and who buys foreign steel for his new hotels even as he proclaims, “America First.” And if there’s anything to be gleaned from his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, it’s Gorsuch’s consistent rulings for business over workers. CBS estimates the net worth of Don the Con’s cabinet to be $14,000,000,000.

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