28 March 2017

Book Review: Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild

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Here's my review as it appears on Goodreads.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American RightStrangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a liberal who was not surprised by President Trump's election victory. Sad and angry, yes, but I always knew it was a possibility because I do not live in the "bubble" that the media placed many of us blue-state people in. I am as equally aware of the economic situations in the Midwest and South as I am of the poverty-line populations in cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

Dr. Hochschild focuses on the Tea Party supporters around Lake Charles, Louisiana. The oil industry has destroyed the environment, people's health, and ways of life for at least a generation. Yet the residents of these areas continue to support it because they believe oil brings in jobs. Dr. Hochschild provides research to show that that is not actually the case yet people continue to vote for oil and against regulation. One statistic she brings up over and over again is that Louisiana receives 44% of its budget from the federal government yet everyone she talked to wanted less federal government intervention. Governor Jindal gave away money from the education budget as incentives to oil companies but that investment was never returned in any significant way. They bring in foreign workers who don't spend money on the local economy. Much of the the company makes money goes back to a corporate headquarters in another state rather than investments in Louisiana. Tourism is sinking because it's not safe to go into most of the water. No one wants to eat the fish. Yet people persist on believing in oil.

I want to tell people that the American Dream we were sold a generation ago, two generations ago, has changed. One of the great things about Americans is that we adapt. However, this segment of people refuse to do so. And with President Trump's revoking of environmental regulations today -- I literally got the news alert as I was typing this review -- we get to regress instead of grow.

As I skimmed the other reviews for this book, however, I felt like I was joining a tide of like-minded people, and it's Trump supporters who might actually benefit from reading this book and opening their minds to some facts rather than going along with ideology. (At least read Appendix C, if nothing else. It will only take about fifteen minutes.)

This book is clearly well-researched. Dr. Hochschild considers many of the people she interviewed and visited with friends even though they are about as far apart ideologically as can be, because as humans there are more things that bring us together than tear us apart, ultimately.

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