‘Red State Blues’ Puts Trumpism Into Perspective

I have grown to appreciate the various small, independent publishing houses and authors that have spoken their truth in the age of Trump. Belt Publishing is one I especially enjoy. They published What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia which is a much more balanced view of the region than Hillbilly Elegy.

Their latest book I read is Red State Blues: Stories from Midwestern Life on the Left. The book is divided into five sections and contains about 25 essays. The essays are written by people from a wide range of backgrounds and are intriguing looks at the communities they represent. There are stories from immigrants and first-generation Americans, African Americans, college students, activists and reporters. The most well-known name (to me) was Sarah Kendzior, a Missouri reporter (and author of The View from Flyover Country) who has been uncannily accurate in her predictions about the Trump administration.

In her essay, The ‘Other Forgotten People’: Feeling Blue in Missouri, she opens with her attendance at a Palo Alto, California conference, ‘where the average home sells for three million dollars.’

“That’s would be two million, eight hundred and seventy thousand more than the average home sells for where I live, in St. Louis, Missouri: a struggling, blue city in a once purple, suddenly bright red state.”

This direct approach to the problems — like wealth inequity — is just one of the attributes of Kendzior’s writing I find appealing. In the essay she exposes the rage that many, who feel left behind, feel. She notes, though, that anger is intensified when the forgotten are morphed into ‘white, male conservative manual laborers.’

As she says,

“It is a terrible thing to be in pain and ignored — as a place, as an individual. It is perhaps worse to finally be recognized, but only as a symbol — to be given a mask and told that it is your face.”

Her quote, for me, summarizes what each of the essays attempt to do — remove the mask and show what is beneath the surface.

Black Lives Matter

An essay, written by Mark V. Reynolds, hit very close to home. Reynolds writes about Yellow Springs, Ohio (about 45 minutes from my residence), known locally for its laid-back atmosphere, bike trails and progressive politics (not to mention its most famous resident Dave Chappelle). The town also has a rich Civil Rights history. Coretta Scott King graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, and two of the three Civil Rights workers killed in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964 were students at Antioch.

But, the essay centers around an incident that made the local news a few years ago during the village-wide New Year’s eve celebration. The event has been held in the town’s center for decades and, after the ‘ball drops’ the crowd disperses without incident.

A few years ago, though, the event was marred when white officers ‘roughed up’ a black man.

After the incident, the progressive town was forced to re-examine itself — and the essay does an excellent job retelling the story, not as a news event, but as a reminder that race relations are abysmal in the United States.

Say No To ICE

The essay about Elkhart, Indiana, though, was my favorite — because of the story it told. It’s the tale of an unlikely pair taking on the private prison industry (CoreCivic). The organization was attempting to build a civil detention facility for ICE in Elkhart. The pair, a 50-something professor and a 22-year-old female (the eldest child of Mexican immigrants) went to work educating the community on the downsides of bringing the facility to the region which has a significant Hispanic population. Eventually, the mayor of Elkhart, a Democrat, would post on Facebook:

“CoreCivic…would create jobs we don’t need at wages we don’t want. Any tax dollars generated by the project wouldn’t be enough to offset the long-lasting damage such a facility would do to our county — both in terms of perception and in terms of creating an unwanted unwelcoming reputation.”

The community succeeds in keeping the facility out of their town — proving Goliaths can be defeated.

Rated: 5 out of 5. Anyone who, like me, is a blue dot in an ocean of red, will find the book enlightening, thought-provoking, and occasionally humorous, but mostly it feels like you’re sitting down with 25 or so like-minded friends.

Categories: Books I have read

‘Recovery Boys’ Another Great Documentary On Opioid Crisis

When I watched the parade scene in ‘Recovery Boys’ a Netflix original documentary created by the producer of Heroin(e), I felt like I was watching a parade in my hometown. The backdrop of the empty, gutted downtown looked eerily similar in concept.

But, in Preble County, an apparent change in the heroin supply, dropped the number of overdoses calls in Eaton, Ohio from about 10 per month in 2017 to about two per month this. Aggressive policing and court-mandated Vivitrol shots, also appears to have altered heroin use in the county — by driving the chemically addicted to using meth. According to an article in Saturday’s The Register-Herald, the executive director of our mental health and recovery board said,

“In the state of Ohio, Preble County is number one in meth use.”

Ohio has 88 counties, and with 40,000 or so residents, we are a small county.

What Can You Do?

As I interact with various locals on social media, though, there does not appear to be a resolve to solve the issue, rather more of a ‘let the professionals figure it out’ approach.

That is what is refreshing about Recovery Boys. The film is set in nearby West Virginia, and it chronicles the life of four men who are struggling with heroin addiction. All four have entered a rehab facility that is the brainchild of a man whose son is a recovering addict. Rather than resign the issue to the professionals — although he is trained in substance abuse treatment — the father decide to go his own way and create a unique approach to treatment.

What unfolds in a farm-based treatment center where the chemically-addicted work the farm in addition to the ‘inner work’ that recovery requires.

I won’t reveal how each of the four men did, but obviously with a chemical as intense and as addicting as heroin, it’s not always a win-win story. But, the producer does an excellent job presenting the humanity of these men — men who are often reduced to stereotypes in my county.

A minor, albeit troubling, subplot that unfolds in the story is the reality that the children, especially young ones, are extremely vulnerable in our country. One of the men lost custody of his two young girls (less than five years old), and one of his girls is molested by a foster parent. This is one of the side issues that gets buried in our culture’s ‘disgust with druggies.’ Their children often pay a high price, especially in small counties where adequate oversight does not exist.

The movies moves at an appropriate pace and it will make you think — and hopefully it will help the apathetic or the ‘they made their choice’ crowd, better understand the disease of addiction, so small communities like mine can shed titles like ‘meth capital.’

Rated 5 out of 5.

Categories: 8th congressional district, drug use, movies, My America | Tags: ,

‘Intuition’ by Osho Delves Into Our Other Intelligences

After watching, Wild, Wild Country, I purchased a book written about the spiritual guru, Osho, who was featured in the Netflix series.

Knowing that he taught a doctrine of free love, I attempted to steer clear of that topic, and chose ‘Intuition,’ but since the doctrine is, in many ways, at the core of his beliefs about repression, the subject did surface in this book as well.

Overall, though, I felt the book was basically a New Age work. I don’t say that to diminish it because I have read several New Age books and find their philosophy interesting. This book also leans heavily on Eastern and Buddhist teachings, which is no surprise, but Osho does seem to have an issue with Gandhi (a contemporary of Osho), which I did find odd. I presume there is a history between them.

A couple of my favorite quotes from the book were:

Have you ever come across a child who is stupid? It is impossible! But to come across a grown-up who is intelligent is rare; something goes wrong in between.

By your fixing a destination your future is no longer a future, because it is no longer open. Now you have chosen one alternative out of many.

Intuition is only a mirror. It does not create anything, it only reflects. It reflects that which is.

If I were to sum up the teachings of Osho, based on this book, (which I am reluctant to do), he is a believer in living in the moment and listening to one’s ‘inner guide.’ In that regard, his beliefs remind me of Quakerism. Overall, he is a believer in trusting oneself, but his morality is jarring to many Westerners because of his belief in open sexual relationships. He does believe that sexual repression is part of humanity’s problem.

For people who read self-help books, they would find this an enjoyable read, as would people interested in Eastern philosophy.

Rating 4 out of 5. This is an easy read and it flows well, especially considering the book was not written by Osho in the technical sense. It is compiled from his many speeches.

Categories: Books I have read