STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN LAND Anger and Mourning on the American Right By Arlie Russell Hochschild351 pp. The New Press. $27.95.
Arlie Hochschild’s generous but disconcerting look at the Tea Party presents a likable fellow named Lee Sherman, who once worked for a Louisiana chemical plant where his duties included illegally dumping toxic waste into the bayou.
Sherman did the dirty work; then the company did him dirty. After 15 years on the job, he was doused with chemicals that “burned my clothes clean off me” and left him ill. But rather than pay his disability costs, his bosses accused him of absenteeism and fired him.
Sherman became a fledgling environmentalist and got his revenge after a giant fish kill threatened the livelihood of nearby fishermen. Company officials feigned innocence, but Sherman barged into a public meeting with an incriminating sign: I’M THE ONE WHO DUMPED IT IN THE BAYOU. Fast-forward a couple of decades and Sherman, still an environmentalist, is campaigning for a Tea Party congressman who wants to gut the Environmental Protection Agency. Sherman still distrusts chemical companies, but he distrusts the federal government more, because it spends his tax money on people who “lazed around days and partied at night.”
I listened to a local Seattle news commentator Dave Ross this morning on my way in to work. He had this Berkeley Professor Emeritus Arlie Russell Hochschild on talking about her new book (titled.) She took 5 years out of her life and moved to Louisiana so she could imbed amongst the population with intent to discover why the southern tea party conservatives are so hell bent on self-destruction, hates anything liberalism and would rather die first before moving out of their political, religious and racial ideology that only keeps them limited and hopeless.
I found it really interesting to take some of the answers the people told her.
Mainly their answers have to do with overwhelming feelings of being disenfranchised when Affirmative Action came along, women's rights came along and immigrants that pretty much moved them all out of line on the government dole or the government doing anything to help these people.
Anyone who's paid any attention to my stance, I am liberal but I am a compassionate one (although easily intolerant of bigotry, racism and just plain stupidity.) However, for the most part, I find all people are equal, just like most of you. Although I vehemently disagree with religious extremism and the basic southern conservatism stemming from it, I don't hate the people themselves. I have felt for them all of my life as their fellow countrymen in one way or the other. Sort of on the sidelines watching and reeling when anything bad happens to them there, like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, BP oil spills, etc..
I have tried to understand their antebellum history. I would feel immense sorrow every time I heard the song "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" by The Band. And many other southern ballads that represented the south, what they had, what they lost. I loved their culture, I loved their music, I loved their love. IF I believed there was a Lord, I'd know they loved their lord as they loved their own. As a kid growing up in my area, there were many southern immigrants who migrated for work, so I grew up with kids whose early starts were in the South. Some were prejudiced and bitter right off the bat. Separatists in their own right, but many adapted to this side of liberalism pretty quickly.
There was always a great sadness in my heart that 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War and here we are again, throwing that threat around like it's a bottle of booze at a frat party. Makes me literally ill, even when I bring it up.
I found the answers to some of our questions as to WHY don't they get a damn clue pretty interesting. I am trying to find the radio link to the interview as I think it's more explanatory than this NY Times list. If I find it, I'll edit and bring it to you.
Just a couple of observations throughout my lifetime about the southern strategy as it were:
I remember in the 70's when we had an influx of immigration from south east Asia, etc. Our government was offering immigrants 2% business loans. Especially in regions like the Gulf Coast where the shrimping and fishing industries were well populated. I grew up in a fishing village in my Pacific NW, so know quite a bit about who gets what and why. It didn't take but a decade to see who took over the Convenience stores, all those immigrants who got 2% business loans and their own inside financing that we US born citizens just could never have a chance at.
I always found that so damn unfair. Where was our government in helping it's own citizens who have earned the right, regardless of racial background with their 2% business loans? That wasn't right. And it cut out many of the established fishermen and their future progeny from advancing their businesses. They couldn't compete any longer, couldn't buy good new boats or much needed gear, yet someone coming in from Asia could just take over that fleet? White or black, our US borns were cut off. These are generations of families who have fed into the government through taxation all their lives, whose families are the foundations of our country. Now they're having seen little return but a bust of their environment, a bust of their livelihoods, a bust of their way of life before the government interfered. To be honest, it was because of this that I voted the one and only time for a republican. I was sick of the Democrat's free for all but us attitude just so we'd be the good guys.
Butt, let's not just blame the government, we know some big ass corporate names behind the destruction of the south and we know there's always been an agenda to keep us divided. That's how they conquer. That is how they strip our democracy.
As many of you know, I culturally came from First nations ancestry as well as European. I am a DoAR, even. I love all good people fairly easy. I'm a hugging kind of gal. I am genuine this way. I have friends of all colors, races, religions. I find I am lucky in that I am diverse.
This author's attempt at this isn't that it's a new revelation by a long shot. I think we all know the root causes, religion, race, "I've got mine, now you've got mine too ideology."
Before we ever chant death to fellow Americans ever again, can we really just change this? How do we make it a fair game for all? That isn't right what has happened to these people in the south.
In my mind, it's going to be far better for all of us if we figure out a way to help southerners rise out of their poverty, rise out of their ignorance, rather than brow-beat them into believing their only shot at righting this ship is to kill liberals. I don't believe they're all racists just because their south. I do get the idea they think blacks got a shot when they did not, so maybe aren't racists but hate the unfairness that it comes out resembling racism.
From this election, what I have learned is I don't like this divide, I don't like this chatter of hatred, and mistrust of each other. I don't see it has to be a winner takes all. Other than there will always be a divide of religious interference into our beds and bodies that will never be tolerated again, does it really have to come down to these where there is no compromise to be had?
I'd enjoy your 2 cents!
There is some interesting reading here. I'm ordering the book today.