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Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from…
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Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War (2007)

by Joe Bageant

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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Although not a long book, I took my time with this one, digesting it in bits and pieces so that I could think about some of the ideas presented here. The basic concept is an underlying look at an underclass that American's do not want to recognize: poor white's who live in semi-rural society who are one paycheck away from total poverty and disaster. In some circles they would be considered rednecks, in others white trash and in others still, hillbilly's.

The reality is that despite our claims to egalitarianism and the ability for anyone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, those sentiments no longer apply in the twenty first century and by continuing to make that assertion there are swathes of communities in America that we are choosing to ignore. America is a society with castes – elites, middle class, underclass and poor. Urban, rural, suburban and semi-rural divides. All spectrum's of color occupy all areas but the focus here is on the white underclass.

Although the book is set in Winchester, Virginia any reader from any state in this nation will be able to immediately pick a town in their state that qualifies. Such a town will be populated largely by whites with a fringe number of migrants. The primary employer will be either a large industrial concern like mining or one of the last companies that continue to manufacture here (perhaps a textile company or manufacture of plastics) or a prison. There may be the last vestiges of family farms but they will constitute only a small number.

The workers will earn minimum wage or slightly above but still need both spouses working, possibly even more than one job to make ends meet. Groceries, clothing, guns, ammunition and almost everything else consumable will be purchased at a Walmart which will have virtually wiped out the rest of the town's economy.

Going to church on Sunday and the local tavern or service club on a Friday or Saturday night will constitute the main entertainment. There will be a high rate of high school dropouts with people opting for GED's or jobs. In many cases, there will be those who join the military because even with the possibility of death, there is provided structure, a steady pay check and the chance to venture out into the world.

Debt will be high, credit ratings low. People will struggle financially except for a small circle who run the town. Primary residences will consist of small, older homes in disrepair or newer double wide trailer homes or manufactured homes. For many of these communities, there is a high rate of alcoholism as well as a prescription drug epidemic with people using and abusing hillbilly heroin (Oxycontin.) There is usually a black market economy that deals in drugs, moonshine and guns.

Many of these communities, and this one in particular, are comprised of Scots Irish. This group is clannish and is almost single-handedly responsible for the creation of what we now think of as Appalachian culture. However, it is no longer confined to one part of the country due to cultural diaspora. Families are tight and extended.

There will be a high number of health issues: smoking will lead to high rates of emphysema. High blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity will prevail due to a diet that is high in processed food. Why? Because processed food is much cheaper, more plentiful and easier to acquire from Walmart which is the primary grocery source. Diabetes, dental health issues, heart attacks and shorter life expectancies are the norm.

The author of this book returned to his home town to live after going out in the world and establishing himself in a comfortable, middle class style. He returned to write about what he found and to provide a starting point for people to consider that not everyone who is white is blessed with privilege and that in fact, there are large numbers living an existence that teeters on the brink of abject poverty. More than a few tip over into it if they live long enough.

This book is though provoking. There are aspects I disagree with and there are lots of statistics batted out there. Anyone with an internet connection will find stats to support whatever their position. The author's objective is to provide a window into this class of people. They are the ones who vote Republican even if it goes against their interests personally or economically. They are the ones who cherish gun ownership and use as almost a religion. They are quite conservative for the most part and church attendance is high as they look for a source outside themselves as the moral authority of the community. The church also acts as an important cultural touchstone in their Scots Irish heritage.

There is some humor here too. But there is sadness. There is an attempt to explain why some people who became newsworthy for all the wrong reasons, were shaped by this background.
If nothing else – there is a look at the human condition and even in the face of all the things occurring in their community, there is a sense that there is hope that things can always get better. This is a book that should be read by those who do not understand how this class influences the political agenda. This is the class who may bring us Donald Trump. Read this before it's too late. ( )
2 vote ozzieslim | Jun 4, 2016 |
Bageant, Joe
Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War

Nonfiction
Remember, not long ago, the horror some of us felt over the result of the last election? Red vs. Blue? How could the very people most brutalized by the current economic system not take a chance on even just the possibilty of relief from these conditions by their vote? The answer is frightening. Bageant understands and even loves these people and his compassion and concern comes through. This is a problem and reality that none of us can afford to remain ignorant about, for it can, and will, engulf us all. I truly feel that there isn't anyone that wouldn't benefit from the insights Deer Hunting With Jesus provides, including the people being discussed.
Recommended February 2008
  dawsong | Jun 15, 2015 |
Recent happenings in shut-down America have one scratching one's head, as the Queen might say. So a friend placed this book in my hands and Bageant has now cleared a few things up for me. America's working class isn't comprised of Roseannes after all. It seems the truth is more horrifying by far. ( )
  LynleyS | Feb 8, 2014 |
Joe Bageant grew up in Winchester, VA, left to become a journalist with a left wing angle, and then returned to his NASCAR roots back in Winchester. He tells us about the people there in a sympathetic way. Not that he agrees with them or particularly admires them, but he explains why they are the way they are.

He covers the territory from a variety of angles. He never goes very deep, but he surveys the appearances and makes them understandable. To view a person's situation as not so much a reflection of the person's character but as a result of their circumstances: that's Bageant's approach and a manifestation of his left wing angle.

He has some nice references. David Hackett Fisher's book Albion's Seed discusses the various British subcultures that were transported to America and persist to this day. Bageant talks about Presbyterian Scottish Borderers who were first moved to I Ireland by James I to help control the Irish, and who then escaped the oppressive conditions there by moving to America. They formed what Colin Woodward calls Greater Appalachia: http://www.tufts.edu/alumni/magazine/fall2013/features/up-in-arms.html which maintains a huge influence in our national culture. ( )
  kukulaj | Nov 23, 2013 |
This book is a provocative look at southern rural communities in general, and Winchester, Virginia, the author's hometown, specifically. The author describes the culture and traditions of the inhabitants of these areas, and he pulls no punches in his descriptions. Do not look for any semblance of political correctness in this one -- he tells it just how he sees it. While large parts can be construed as rants against conservatives/Republicans, he doesn't spare liberals/Democrats, either. He makes several interesting points, and has references and statistics to back up his claims. He states the importance of education as well as a decent working wage in creating well-informed voters. ( )
  michellebarton | Oct 29, 2013 |
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On the morning of November 2, 2004, millions of Democrats arose to a new order.
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After thirty years living a hippiesque life as a progressive journalist, Joe Bageant returns to his Virgina hometown to examine why, among other things, the growing America underclass in the "Red states" continue to vote for political entities directly against their best interests. It is an honest, brutal, historical and tender reporting of his explorations. (galpalval)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307339378, Paperback)

A raucous, truth-telling look at the white working poor-and why they hate liberalism.

Deer Hunting with Jesus is web columnist Joe Bageant’s report on what he learned when he moved back to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, which-like countless American small towns-is fast becoming the bedrock of a permanent underclass. By turns brutal, tender, incendiary, and seriously funny, this book is a call to arms for fellow progressives with little real understanding of "the great beery, NASCAR-loving, church-going, gun-owning America that has never set foot in a Starbucks."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:50 -0400)

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A Web columnist describes the permanent and largely invisible underclass that resides in many American small towns, examining a section of society that exists in a world of taverns, churches, and double-wide trailers.

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