Todd N's Reviews > Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War

Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant
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's review
Mar 15, 2016

liked it
bookshelves: kindle, america-in-decline
Read in November, 2008

Right before the election The Onion featured a story with the headline "Struggling Lower-Class Still Unsure How Best To Fuck Selves With Vote." That pretty much sums up the main topic and tone of this book.

The author goes back home to live among the struggling lower class rednecks of Winchester, VA and writes about what he sees. (Rednecks, not white trash, he is careful to note. You will understand the taxonomy of poor white people a little better after reading this book.)

This isn't one of those stunt-y books where a white liberal fills out his or her book by working at Wal-Mart, going to 100 churches, etc. This is a guy going back home to find that his younger brother is casting demons out of people and that his old pot smoking musician buddy is now a dittohead. No cultural tourism here.

For me the most interesting part is where he lays out Scot-Irish/Borderer culture as the basis for poor white culture in America. No matter how specious the argument, anyone who can draw a line from King James I to Sean Hannity is my kind of guy.

He makes the hilarious point that most of them came to Virginia as ballast, self-unloading cargo that kept the empty ships returning to the New World from being too buoyant. That they were smuggling Calvin's ghost on the voyage is something that still roils our culture today.

Related to this and far less amusing is the hold that well organized Protestant religion has on these people. Several generations since desegregation have been home schooled or sent to religious schools, after which they wait like a mass of Manchurian candidates for instructions on how to vote and where to send their meager savings.

Mr. Bageant's book sometimes suffers when he forces anecdotes to make the point he wants to make, like when a student gets in trouble for keeping a replica gun in his truck before a battle reenactment. After a few pages of hand wringing, we learn anti-climatically that a judge threw out the case.

That said, the chapter about guns was the most convincing one in the book. And it's good to know that these poor people that we elites are sneering at through the media not only outnumber us but are pretty handy with guns to boot.

I noticed that some reviewers were put off by the pessimistic outlook of the book and the black humor of its jokes. I didn't find this a problem at all, though I'm not sure if this was because of the underlying compassion of Mr. Bageant's writing or just the fact that I enjoy cynicism similar to the way Superman draws power from our yellow Sun.

So many institutions line up to fuck over the lower classes that there are a few surprises (Social Security, non-profit hospitals) along with the usual suspects (predatory lenders, large corporations, the media, the educational system).

The only solution Mr. Bageant offers to get out of this mess is better education, which is probably the most bitter and cynical statement in the book until you realize he isn't kidding.
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03/15/2016 marked as: read

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David Sarkies I am a big fan of eduction, but the problem is changing the system for the better. If they are being home schooled or sent to religious institutions, then unfortunately the system of education is unlikely to change.

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