Books I have read

Southern Boys Trying To Pull South Into 21st (Or At Least The 20th) Century

 

God takes a moment out of his busy schedule to remind everyone in Southern Kentucky that Hell is really, really hot.

After reading Hillbilly Elegy with its Horatio Alger slant on problem solving (just work hard and it will all work out), I started reading more books dealing with Southern, and mostly Appalachian, people to better understand my heritage. As stories posted on this site indicate, my family tree runs mostly through Appalachian America. I normally read books like Albion’s Seed and have preordered What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte since I follow her blog and respect her opinion.

So when I stumbled upon The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta the Dark by Trae Crowder, Drew Morgan, Corey Ryan Forrester, I wasn’t sure I would like it.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Funny, With A Message

Although I’ve never heard the trio, they do comedy and are successful at it. But fairly deep into the book, I knew they were bona fide southern when one of them mentioned chocolate gravy. The (mostly) Appalachian treat was a staple in my childhood home — it is a sweet chocolate sauce with the consistency of gravy that is poured over biscuits for breakfast.

As the trio would say — it hits.

They set the tone early in the book proudly stating their love of their heritage while at the same time expressing extreme dissatisfaction — and at times hate — for the archaic thinking that has hindered Southern progress. They touch all the subjects one would expect — from religion to WIC payments. The strength of the book is it does, albeit with humor and at time ‘rough’ language, give an outsider a glimpse of the southern mindset.

Rewriting The Constitution

An early section of the book deals with the Bill of Rights, which they flip on its head, calling it the Bill of Wrongs. One amendment deals with the anti-government sentiment which runs deep and strong through the South. This sentiment was so strong during last fall’s election that I finally exited Facebook because in the virtual world, just like real life, most of my Friends were family or community members and I grew very tired of the mindset.

But in the book, I found a common spirit with the trio, who had this to say about the hypocrisy of the anti-government movement.

“If you’re gonna be antigovernment, be consistent. The police are the government. Stop pretending like government overreach is a problem everywhere but in the criminal-justice world. Also, Black Lives Matter.”

For students of American history, especially those wanting to understand how we ended up with the Orange Menace, it’s a book that provides insight from an insider — and as a bonus the reader can enjoy some dry, Southern wit.

Rated 4 out of 5. My only complaint with the book is it’s a bit shallow, but I think that’s the intent of the authors. Despite only hitting the surface on some issues, they still make their point: It’s time to grow up South and be part of a diverse society.

Favorite Anti-Trump Comment Of The Week

Colonel Morris Davis, born in North Carolina, is a retired Air Force Officer and Lawyer — and a huge Trump critic on Twitter. Since he is a critic, thin-skinned 45* blocked him. This has not stopped Davis from going after Trump with a vengeance. This week, when 45* engaged in a distraction tactic by arbitrarily Tweeting that transgenders were banned from the military, Davis called him out saying,

“I served for 25 years and never served with a Trump…pathetic for 5-Deferment @realDonaldTrump to ban anyone with patriotism he lacked.”

And commenting on Trump’s campaign stop at the Boys Scouts a day earlier, Davis said,

Aren’t vanity, narcissism, cruelty, vulgarity, bullying and self-aggrandizement @boyscouts core values? @realDonaldTrump.

Spoken like a true patriot.

Categories: American History, Appalachia, Books I have read, Understanding Trump Counties | Tags:

‘American Panic’ Takes A Long, Hard Look At Our Fears

American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why by Mark Stein is a nice counterbalance to Prayer in America: A Spiritual History of Our Nation by James P. Moore Jr.

Prayer in America, which I read earlier this year, highlights our attempts at morality. American Panic zeroes in on our dark side.

I was introduced to Mark Stein’s work through a TV show, How the States Got Their Shape, based on his book of the same name. The TV show is a fast-paced look at historical events that led to each state’s creation.

For the most part it, like Prayer, is a positive look at who we are.

In American Panic, though, Stein takes us down a much different path. Relying on a large stash of historical newspapers he unveils our fears — which are seemingly endless. Despite our rhetoric of being the ‘land of the brave,’ we have feared almost every race, ethnicity and religion that does not fall under the umbrella of white, protestant, Christian.

Although the story in Panic is told in a mostly chronological order, beginning with our fear of Native Americans, it does skip back and forth at times since some of our collective fears have surfaced, and then re-surfaced.

For example, our current fear of immigrants.

But, what the book really tells is the ease in which we, as citizens, have been manipulated by politicians feeding a fear frenzy for political gain. In each of the various eras of American history we have had someone, or something, to fear. The list in the book includes: Asians, African Americans, Communists, women, homosexuals, Jews, corporations, Catholics and even the Masons.

Stein also expertly shows the formula behind the political manipulation and how faulty logic, among other tactics, is often used to ‘prove’ a panic is justified.

In the opening Stein writes,

Political panic, the irrational fear that one’s government is in danger, is by no means unique to any country. In America, it dates back to the 1692 Salem witch hunt…The panic that began in Salem commenced after seizures afflicted three girls, ages nine through twelve. When the colony’s physicians could not explain it, fear arose that sorcery was taking place in Salem and endangering its Puritan rule…

..What happened in Salem over 300 years ago continues to reverberate in the United States.

Anyone who has spent time on Twitter or Facebook, knows with certainty, that our panic lives on.

Published in 2014, the book is even more relevant today in light of the extremism and incompetence that exists in both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

Rated: 5 out of 5. The aspect that really sold me on the book was the wide variety of historical sources Stein used to flesh out the various panics — from college newspapers to obscure letters to the editors. Another bonus, at least for me, was Stein calling out the modern-day Tea Party as a political entity built on a foundation of fear and panic. It’s a movement that needs to fade away like the Know-Nothing Party of the 1800s (a Party that is also mentioned in the book).

Favorite Recent Anti-Trump Quote

Midwestern comedian David Letterman has never been shy about expressing what he thinks of T-Money.

“If the guy (Trump) was running Dairy Queen, he’d be gone. This guy couldn’t work at The Gap…let’s just stop whining about what a goon he is and figure out a way to take him aside and put him in a home.”

Categories: American History, Books I have read, My America | Tags:

10 Books, Movies That Explore The American Experience

Over the past month or so,  I’ve read — or watched — a wide range of material exploring the American Way.

Here are 10 works I recommend:

1. Glass House by Brian Alexander: I learned about this book from What’s Nonfiction (read review here) and was several pages into the book before I realized that I’ve been to Lancaster, Ohio multiple times in the past year (the story’s setting). It is the town where I dine after a day of hiking at Hocking Hills. Although the financial aspect of the book is too complicated for my tastes, the societal implications of the economic downturn hits close to home. The book deals with the heroin epidemic and the town leaders inability to solve their economic depravity. The obsession of Lancaster’s leaders with poorly thought out solutions (like festivals and tourism) for their economic demise felt very familiar.

2. Dream Land: This is an excellent book to better understand how states like Ohio became an easy target for the heroin trade. Dealers, mostly from small, rural regions of Mexico, swooped in and profited off the consumer base created through opioid prescriptions. The lack of violence in Ohio (and other states east of the Mississippi River) is by design as customer service and a pizza-delivery style approach — plus a keen awareness of law enforcement’s desire for ‘big busts’ — kept the heroin market thriving.

3. Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You: A manual of sorts for parents who have children dealing with drug addiction. The book offers insight into the signs and problems of addictions while offering methods on maintaining a high quality of life for the non-addicted.

4. Tears We Cannot Stop: Sermon to White America. Black minister Michael E. Dyson touches on everything from Black Lives Matters to the hypocrisy of the Tea Party, which he astutely notes, read, on the House floor, a modified version of the Constitution (avoiding the article about slaves being 3/5ths human) when they came to power in 2010. The book offers a strongly argued viewpoint that’s America’s ‘whiteness’ is part of our problem in the current era.

5. The Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen: Several books have addressed the issue of how American communities are becoming more segregated by class and income in addition to race. But this book also looks at the impact this segregation is having on politics and our democracy. The lack of mobility of the current generation has left us economically and politically vulnerable, the author asserts.

Movies

6. Warning: This Drug Can Kill You: In this hour-long HBO Documentary you meet several families from across the country dealing with various degrees of the heroin epidemic. The movie begins with 1990s footage of a pharmaceutical company falsely claiming that opioids are non-addictive. The movie ends with a law enforcement agency that, in lieu of criminalization, have an open door policy to place willing heroin addicts into rehab centers. Very powerful stories from ‘real’ people dealing with the fallout of an epidemic created by an under-regulated industry.

7. Friends of God: Filmed in 2006 by Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy Pelosi, the slant is obvious. The story is interesting as she criss-crosses the country highlighting churches and church signs while interviewing powerful ministers. Although not the goal of the film, it does show the mindset (Vote your Values) that willingly voted for president Trump and why they are doubling-down despite his less than Christian tactics.

8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Although the film was a little disappointing since the story is quite powerful, it is still a quick way to learn about the rise of the bio-medical industry. Cells extracted from Henrietta Lacks, without her consent, have resulted in cures, cutting-edge medicines and billions of dollars in profit. Lacks, a poor, black woman was never compensated for — what amounts to legalized theft of — her cells. And, as the film points out, it is still legal to extract cells from a patient without their consent.

9. I Am Not Your Negro: Based on a unfinished project by black novelist James Baldwin, the film is mostly a look at America’s hypocritical whiteness. Although there is plenty to comment on about the film, one of the most powerful effects for me was how they zoomed in on historical photos of school integration. By zooming past the black teen or child heading to school and highlighting the expressions on the faces of white children, teens and adults, it is very disheartening to realize those same intense expressions of hate exist today, more than 50 years later.

10. All The Way: This is another HBO film, and it is about LBJ’s campaign for the presidency. LBJ was renown for his crudeness, which the film includes, but the movie is really an excellent condensed version of 1964 — LBJ’s first full year as president. It shows how, even then, politicians were more concerned about wielding power than democracy. Be forewarned, for those tired of the current political debacle, it will not be pleasant film, and it may reinforce budding cynicism.

Categories: American History, Books I have read, movies