Open Thread

Deer Hunting with Jesus

Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant~ Dispatches from America’s Class War

Welcome to our first Politic 101 book discussion everyone! Let’s kick things off lightly with a couple of general observations about DHw/J.  Been reading the Australian edition which was published in 2007:

First, Team Obama convinced enough rednecks in Virginia to act on “This year we’re votin’ fer the nigraahhh.” to deliver VA’s 13 ECVs to BHO. This is a remarkable achievement as VA was the former Capital of the ante-bellum South. The prospect of a President Sambo Macaca was so far off former GOP VA Senator George Allen’s radar as short a time ago as the 2006 Mid-Terms, that Georgie Boy thought he could publicly slag a “darkie” at a deep woods rally and expect to get only votes and kudos from such a blatant act of bigorty. But bigotted George was too much for “decent” Virginians in 2006 and the voters shunned him like a political leper. And justly so! Two weeks before E-Day 2008 in neighbouring Ohio— which Obama also won;

“The Hardest Vote,” by George Packer (October 13, 2008) wrote:

Recently, people in Ohio have told me that voters there have started to shift toward Obama. Gabe Kramer, of the S.E.I.U., said that, after the first Presidential debate and amid the financial crisis, union members seemed to find Obama’s ideas and manner more persuasive than before. But even if Obama wins he will still have to overcome the deep skepticism of struggling Americans

Then came E-Day;

Candidate Party Votes Pct. Change from ’04 Electoral Votes
Barack Obama Dem. 1,958,370 52.7% +7.2% 13
John McCain Rep. 1,726,053 46.4% -7.2% 0
Ralph Nader Ind. 11,467 0.3%   0
Bob Barr Ind. 11,055 0.3%   0
Chuck Baldwin IGr. 7,466 0.2%   0
Cynthia McKinney Grn. 2,352 0.1%   0

Table Source: New York Times

Secondly, Joe Bageant is writing about what he knows and loves; his people and his place and how his people and his patch have been systematically oppressed and degraded over the course of his lifetime. After thirty three years in the profession, many as a “big city” editor, Joe is an extraordinarily good writer with an ace raconteur’s turn with a story and a fine ear for dialogue:

From page 95 …

Nobody stands up for people like her (Nance) unless a few of them get crushed under a seam of coal, thereby providing the required emotional grist for the nightly news. Only right wing politicians appealing to their religious prejudices and ignorance on behalf of big money pay any attention to them. If you hang around real working class places very long,……you’ll see that decent working folks seldom talk politics or current events except during the final weeks of an electon and when prompted by lefty agaitators like me or grassroots neocon Republican operatives—people who understand that the four cornerstones of the American political psyche are:

  1. emotion substituted for thought
  2. fear
  3. ignorance, and
  4. propaganda

… to me the most profound sort of blindness in heartland America is born of innocent trust in our system

So when American/Virginian rednecks* are politically inattentive by design and they are force-fed Limbaugh and Fox as media staples, it is all the more remarkable that Obama swung 7.2% of voters, (most of them rednecks, I venture) to vote for him a few short months after HRC whupped him in the VA Dem primaries, and after the saturation coverage of Obi’s crack about rednecks “clinging to guns and religion” when they were “under stress”.

Anyway, there’s a great deal to discuss, mes amis, so it’s over to you.

*Bageant differentiates between rednecks and “white trash”. Rednecks will never take a “hand-out” from anyone whereas “white trash” will accept help from where ever it comes.

23 replies on “Deer Hunting with Jesus”

A thought-provoking book that covers that sub-culture of the insular, ignorant and sickeningly-religious redneck sub-culture of the working poor of (largely) Scotch-Irish decent. One point in the last chapter was mind-blowing – that around 94 million Americans are either illiterate or functionally so. It goes quite a large way to explaining the appeal of the Village Idiot as President – George W Bush is so dumb that he thinks his Presidency will be vindicated but the scary thing is that Sarah Palin makes him seem like Aristotle.

I was not aware of the chicken-shit religious colleges that provided lots of Bush’s appointments to all sorts of jobs in the administration. I’ve read somewhere that these types were put into administrative roles in Iraq after the US invasion. WTF. Bible bashing makes you stupid. See Jim B’s brother, any fundamentalist preacher who actually believes his stick, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, Dubya, Sarah P and so on.

My wife is reading it now and finds that whole redneck-Republican axis to be very scary. Hopefully, Jim’s book will wake the so-called liberals up to the fact that they need to counter attack. Getting a National Health Care scheme up is among the best such move.

Ecky, hopefully, I’ll get around to commenting on Joe’s lovely book in a day or so when I get a spot of free time.

In the meanwhile, here’s a snippet of one of his acute observations from outside the country in Jalisco Mexico on New Years day 2009.

I had been listening to CNN’s endless propaganda loop a day, well coiffed twits mouthing in media speak about Blagojevich, Gaza, Obama on the golf green (who surely must be in a “fake it till you make it” frame of mind, since nobody in their right mind believes he or she can catch every falling stone in a collapsing empire.) The main theme on CNN today though seemed to be “our boys” in harm’s way on this New Years Eve.” (As if they were not causing anyone else any sort of harm at all. Remind me again who has the armored Humvees, the radioactive artillery shells, drone aircraft and laser night scopes. Is it the barefooted guys eating goat meat and hotwiring dime store cell phones into weapons? Or the Darth Vader dressed Americans spitting fifty caliber machine gun bullets and grenades into every nook and crann y in their path? I forget.)

From his site.

Cardster, those functional illiteracy rates are mind-blowing indeed. As you correctly suggest this makes their mind-bending (manufacturing their consent) all that much easier. Like the bison that once roamed the mid-west in abundance, these human ungulates feed upon acres and acres of Fox-fodder and Limbaugh lucerne, their thumbs in their bums and their minds in neutral. Yet enough of them “turned” to hand P.E. Barry a comfortable win in November.

Thought Chapter 8, American Hologram, was the best Chapter in a very good book.

Bobby (Fulk) is one of the 89 to 94 million Americam adults who are functionally illiterate. According to the National Institute for Literacy, they “lack a sufficient foundation of basic [literacy] skills to function succesfully in our society”. Of these, 17 to 20 percent can read just a little. This means that they cannot fill out job applicatons, understand food labels, or read simple stories to their children. Another 25 percent can read, but not well enough to follow five consecutive paragraphs of text or dense documants such as sales contracts

(from page 250, DHw/J)

As for Palin, she’s a self-outted nincompoop. Even with so many ill-informed electors in Sepsville, she’ll never ever pull more than low 40’s nationally in any bid to become POTUS. The ballot-box support of the GOPper base plus a motley collection of crazed fuck-wits will never be enough to get her close.

A future Dem War-Room would position itself around grabs like:

“Can America Afford another Decider-In-Chief who is not as smart as George W. Bush?…..

Look what happened to America during Dubya’s eight years at the national helm!!”

Sarah is a GOPper Jonah, no risk. She’s unelectable as POTUS and a liability on any national ticket, imo.

How may we ever thank you, Tina Fey?

And yes, Cardster, a decent and just National Health care program, the type that Michael Moore has been championing for the last couple of years would be a great way to salt a bit of solidarity for a New Deal among the people who need it most.

paddy, looking forward to your comments. Thanks for the link to Joe Bageant’s website.

Am running a bit late…Gleebooks have my copy waiting for me.
Who ever planned this Xmas and long school holiday chaotic overdose in the one chunk?


Do they sport a Gloombooks section at Gleebooks……..for pessimists?
Huge market.

FFS just stop that Ecky!
You’ve just caused a perfectly good mouthful of shiraz to spray all over the keyboard. :mrgreen:

Wine spilt in mirth is wine not wasted.

~Dionysus, son of Zeus and Semele

Dionysus possessed legendary resilience and did drop bear impressions in a Greek Circus when the old man gave him the arse from Olympus for serial overindulgence. Apparently Dion was out cavorting when The Big Z was laying down the chops about “Nothing in Excess”.
Although devotees of Dionysus tend to live shorter lives, they are rarely diffident.

Wine spilt in mirth is wine not wasted.

Ah Ecky…..
Just love that quote!

Time for a new bottle. 🙂

Megan – I think I got the last book from Gleebooks! Sorry.

I’m half way through, and I’ve found this book pretty shocking. I don’t find it funny at all, and I don’t mean that as a criticism. Like Cardster, the basis of the religious schools was a revelation to me, but fundamentally the poor living standards and average wage levels beggar belief. It’s somewhat sobering to think that the true middle class in the States consists of professionals much like myself – so while many identify with middle class they are, in reality, not part of it.

I’ve always thought it wrong that hotel and restaurant workers in the US aren’t paid a living wage – that tips are necessary to live even after working long hours.

Thank f*cking gawd that work choices never got a real hold in this country. Work choices to me was always about creating a (much bigger) working underclass in this country.

Katielou, remember the mobile phone camera clip of Co$$ie fan $weetie (about a year before the last Fed. Election) at the H.R. Nicholls Society apologising to the right wing crypto-fascists that he and the Rodent hadn’t gone far enough with Work Choices. The Libs were trying to fit Australia up with similar draconian workplace laws as America. Unions mounted a very effective pre-emptive TV campaign from which Team Rat never recovered. With only ~10% union membership in Sepsville they could never afford to run ads about how they were getting systematically shafted by their system 24/7.

Katielou sez: “I’ve always thought it wrong that hotel and restaurant workers in the US aren’t paid a living wage – that tips are necessary to live even after working long hours.”

It’s more than wrong I think, KL, it’s bloody demeaning for service industry personel to have to dance for their supper like a troupe of midgets at Prince John’s table.

Managed to get my copy yesterday and what an engaging , though depressing, read it is.
Have always felt it important to see where the US is heading as much invariably filters to the rest of the world- Anglo first and then diluted variations further afield.
Emotional impact not unlike what Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” had on me- this a 21st century version, though with much more levity and humour.
Like picking at food before everyone is seated at the table, I need to go back to the beginning with yellow stickers and pen as Ecky advised….tough on a hare playing tortoise 🙂

EC @ 11

Yes – there seems to still be an important cultural difference between Australia and the US. We have a stronger belief in support for those in need and in state-provided essential services. Health care is the glaring example – I simply can’t understand how anyone could think that it’s just tough luck that someone can’t afford health care. The US system is just unthinkable to me.

Howard tried to shift us culturally, and I think he succeeded to a degree. For example, I think he essentially gave us permission to be openly racist with the stuff like the asyllum seekers, embracing Pauline Hanson’s bullshit and his pathetic reaction to the Cronulla riots.

But, thankfully, work choices was clearly a step too far for most Australians. Tens of thousands of people, including teenagers, were being shafted in just the early months of work choices and most of us wouldn’t cop it, even if we weren’t directly impacted. And yes, I remember well Nick Minchin’s comment to the HR Nicholls Society.

I guess, what’s also notable, is that the heavyweights in the Libs were completely unable to gauge the reaction of the majority of Australians.

What a marvelous book and what a writer!
Since I’m basically useless when it comes to putting down thoughts in any sort of coherent form.
I’ll just fire away and mention a few things that leapt out of the pages when I first read the book.

It certainly didn’t take him long to surprise me.
By p7. The following passage left me utterly gobsmacked.

For example,I am standing in the checkout line at one of the most low-rent supermarket chainstores. Food Lion, watching the fellow in front of me, Eddie Coynes, receive his change with nicotine stained fingers and stuff it into the breast pocket of his shirt. His wife is telling the clerk how her church rallied to buy her and Eddie a secondhand truck after theirs was repossessed. “It needs a spare tire, but we can come up with that”.
“Praises be to him!” exclaims the clerk, as if God had come down with a five-piece band and personally delivered that 1990 Toyota himself. Obviously they are all born again. The wife grabs up her purchases, a sixer of Diet Pepsi and a carton of Little Debbi cakes, then moves towards the door.

The reason I found that passage so stunning, was the way it confronted my own prejudices and preconceptions.
My own (atheist) views on religion have never been particularly positive. Esp the US evangelical kind that fill our own airwaves on early Sunday morning TV.
But suddenly, Bageant describes a simple example of a church community offering *real* support to two of its members.
Not the religion of Jimmy Swaggert spouting fatuous hypocrisy and greed. Nor the Pat Robertson school of preaching hate and rapture.
Just the sort of stuff that involves actually caring for one’s neighbours.

There’s also a certain irony to the storm of confected outrage, that greeted Obama’s comments about people clinging to religion and guns.
When the state won’t even grant it’s citizens the right to basic health care and the realistic opportunity of a job with a living wage…. Of course they’ll stick to what they’ve grown up with and just hope (and pray) they can make the next payment.
BTW thanks cardster, for reminding me of that mind blowing illiteracy statistic. 90 million!!!! FFS
Truly scary stuff and not something that’s going to be changed in less than a generation. 🙁

Anyway…I’ll try to cobble together some more thoughts later on.

Oh yes. One more thing that did stick and impress with regard to Joe B and guns, was his description of the “antipersonnel” gun fetishists on p.151/152
He obviously didn’t enjoy writing that bit. But he was too good a journalist/writer to leave it out.

Great responses everyone.
megan, we’ve got plenty of time to mull over this excellent tome. Do dally, delve and savour the prose. Glad you liked the idea of the yellow yup paper. So many “great streams of thought” and dreams have missed the catcher because I didn’t write the bloody stuff down when there was a chance to so do. Joe has the gift of being able to touch, amuse, inspire, anger and inform those readers who take the trip to Springfield with him. Man. This guy is a real Sammy Clemens with his sharp eye and ear and ability to spin a yarn, yet never considers himself a VIP, as did Twain. Yes, I’ll buy the visceral oomph of Upton Sinclair. Joe certainly knows his history backwards!

From Ch. 7, An Authorised Place to Die, p 226:

{Dottie continues: “Honest to damned! I think these doctors are here to take out the old and crippled in this country. Kill ’em off in out of the way places where the publuc can’e see. They treat all of us like they expect us to die and like they expect to make money on us right up to the last minute.”}

Fifty million Americans are without health insurance, and 25 million are “underinsured.” Millions being laid off will soon be added to those rolls. Medical bills cause more than half of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. Desperate for care, the under- and uninsured flock to emergency rooms, often dealing with problems that could have been prevented.

KL and paddy: back after sundown to reply to your thoughts at 13 and 14.

KL sez: “I guess, what’s also notable, is that the heavyweights in the Libs were completely unable to gauge the reaction of the majority of Australians.”

Liberal party zealots still don’t get it, or more likey do and don’t give a damn if they think can impose it on the Oz equivalent of the citizens of Springfield, VA. I remember someone leaked some Crosby-Textor research to Possum which he deftly analysed to show what marginals were in jeopardy, but El Rodente was not for moving much on the crucial issue.

paddy, I don’t have an difficulty with your “random thoughts’ nor with your twisted sense of humour. Yes, it’s a wonderful book, an excellent Seppo-Cultural cornerstone tome.
The example of “practical Christianity” you cite in the supermarket queue is truly touching. Reminds me of reading the autobiography of Wilfred Burchett many years ago. When young Will left his family farm at 15 or so to pursue his living on the farms of coutry Victoria in the Great Depression, he noted that the people who were kindest to him, who always gave him a verandah to sleep under and a chunck of bread and dripping were those who had the least to give. He lost count of the time he’d had the dogs set on him by “squatters”.

If only “financially disadvantaged” decent people realised that they didn’t need all the guff and hypocrisy that goes with money-sucking vengeful religious practice. What shits me most about so called moderate religious followers is that don’t demand a stop to the fanatics perpetrating their barbarities under the banner of THEIR religion. It’s tantamount to giving the fundies; Christian, Muslim, Hindu whatever—tacit support.

I have still not been able to lay my hands on a copy of the book although I have it on order at the library and the main bookshop. perhaps next book we choose we should make sure it is still available?

if you haven’t been able to get a copy, I have access to a second one now.
Happy to post it to you.
Last of visitors this weekend and then finally, some serious reading. 🙂

That would be great. Do we have a central email address we can use rather than posting our addresses here?

kerneels, happy to send megan’s email to you if it’s OK with megan. Actually, megan can send it to you herself, just remembered she’s got the key to the engine room.
So glad you’re going to “play”. Got a couple more obsevations about DHw/J and am happy to hold until you weigh in. Take your time and enjoy the book, post your two bob’s worth when you’ve had a chance to mull Joe’s observations and “Professor Ecky Harlequin” will be back atcha with bells on.

Looking forward to it! Megan, could you let me know the price and the postage, then I will send it on to you.

Comments are closed.