6 thoughts on “Deer Hunting with Jesus: deconstructing the stereotype

  1. Ron,
    Thank you again for bringing another fascinating book to our attention. But as I noted yesterday, we in Canada should not be too smug. Just as in the USA, the people who still are reasonably well off are ignoring what is going on around us as the country and our people get raped. As the author of COLLAPSE points out, the better off are not aware of how their country is falling apart until it is too late. P.

  2. While we agree that there is grave danger in the social trends around us, I think that Bageant was primarily concerned with explicating the working-class Republicans’ willing co-operation in their own exploitation, an irrational act which makes no more sense to the rest of us than does the march of the lemmings.

    What I take away from the book is not a Canada-US comparison, but an American liberal’s chastisement of the Left not to dismiss the power of ignorance. It doesn’t matter very much that we’re right if, thanks to our condescension and cultural superiority, we have no clue how to show them how wrong they are.

  3. This sounds like an angry book by an author in sympathy with and defending his people, their inability to escape their culturally imposed lower class status. Dickens did much the same for the Victorian poor attacking the complacent middle classes who were secure in their belief that their own initiative had allowed them to escape from ignorance and poverty.
    Bageant himself has escaped. How? Read Ralph Glasser on his escape from the Gorbal slums of Jewish Glasgow via self education and a scholarship offer from Oxford. Could others here do the same?
    Millions of people crossing borders to escape crushing poverty are doing just that.

  4. Even if most of the people crossing those borders are better off for doing so, they’re better off in just the kinds of low-end jobs Bageant describes in his book. His people already hold those jobs, so there’s no place for them to go. In decades past, the rural poor, white and black, moved north and took better-paying factory jobs. Those skilled trade jobs are now in China and India, so where are the rednecks to go for relief?

    Yes, Bageant and a few others escape, but they’re very much the exception, as he notes in passages like this one, which was too long to put into the review but addresses your question directly:

    Until those with power and access decide that it’s beneficial to truly educate people, and make it possible to get an education without going into crushing debt, then the mutt people here in the heartland will keep on electing dangerous dimwits in cowboy boots. And that means educating everybody, not just the small-town valedictorian or the science nerds who are cherry-picked out of the schools in places like Winchester or more rural areas. These people end up in New York or Houston or Boston — places where they can buy boutique coffees or go to the art cinema — holding down jobs in broadcasting or research or economics.

    But what about the rest of the class? What about this latest generation of kids left to suffer the same multigenerational cycle of anti-intellectualism and passivity? Right now there are millions who will be lucky if they are accepted by the military, and if they are extra lucky they will qualify for a vocational school before they are absorbed forever by America’s passive, ignorant labor poor culture.

  5. Do I detect a hint of superior liberal patronizing here? Only those with a higher education are capable of responding to their situation?
    Or is it contempt for the useless roles in the chattering classes the escapees have hidden themselves in ? They never go back home?
    Another interpretation of the US situation might be that the ignorant poor are not at all passive. They see the American Dream dissipating and are desperately seeking a saviour. Let’s hope they don’t make the mistake made by other societies who have seen their lives disintegrate and choose another beast slouching towards Bethlehem.

    • Perhaps, but throughout the book Bageant emphasizes the need for a solid basic education — literacy and numeracy. Between the summarizing analyses I quote in the review are numerous personal histories, presented with understanding and sympathy, in which he time after time paints the subjects as victims, not as fools. He also emphasizes that in their ingrown communities, especially in their churches, the working poor are never exposed to the idea that there is an alternative. He doesn’t blame them for not making better choices — he blames those who don’t give them any choice at all.

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