Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right Metaphors and Similes
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Written by Timothy Sexton
One cannot write effectively and truthfully about the right-wing movement in America without eventually coming around to Fox News. Call is a news organization or a propaganda machine for the Republican Party, the company’s prowess at the art of manipulating its viewers cannot be denied. As evidence, the very words of one committed viewer steeped in the lessons of viewing the world through simple and easily understood metaphorical imagery:
“Fox is like family to me. Bill O’Reilly is like a steady, reliable dad. Sean Hannity is like a difficult uncle who rises to anger too quickly. Megyn Kelly is like a smart sister.”
“Louisiana is a Cowboy kind of state”
The metaphor quoted above obviously needs context for any attempt at understanding. A “Cowboy” represents a certain type of the right-wing mind: charged with testosterone (though they need not be male) and ready to stand up to dangers that are real or dangers that merely perceived. Or, in a great many cases, dangers that perceived as genuinely real:
“In Louisiana…it is legal to buy a frozen daiquiri with the lid snapped on, straw to the side, tape over the hole, at a drive-by shop. It’s legal to gamble and to carry a loaded gun into a bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.”
Context helps to clarify the concept of a cowboy state and the image of strutting into a saloon with a holster strapped to the waist certainly resonates. On the other, no context at all is provided to explain what connection, if any, exists between frozen daiquiris and cowboys.
Louisiana is a metaphor-maker’s dream. In addition to being a Cowboy state, it also earns another distinction. Perhaps the reference is to the buckle that connects that holster-belt strapped around the waists of thirsty gamblers fresh in from the fracking fields and looking for a place serving a decent daiquiri:
“Stuck in the South, the poorest region in the nation, Louisiana now seemed perched to become the proud center of an industrial renaissance, a shiny new buckle in the nation’s energy belt.”
The American Dream
The always fuzzy concept of “The American Dream” is a central point of contention among members of the right-wing who view progression policies as destroying the less muddle basic foundational structure of the idea. In the words of one representing a more broadly shared opinion, because of progressive liberal policies:
“The American Dream itself has become strange, un-Bibled, hyper-materialized, and lacking in honor” that has made traditionalists feel like “a stranger in her own land.”
“The Great Paradox”
The term “Great Paradox” is one of the book’s controlling metaphors, describing a complex and psychologically disturbing mechanism of political ideology in conflict with personal interest. The Great Paradox describes a pattern of supporting policies and the politicians working to implement them that are demonstrably obstructing one’s own self-interest. In Louisiana, for instance, the central manifestation of the Great Paradox is the vociferous and near-universal rejection by conservative voters to introducing stronger anti-pollution regulation even when as—a group—they routinely place a cleaner environment near the top of the issues deemed most important. The Great Paradox is a metaphor that is not to be applied to the occasional examples of this conflict between political beliefs and personal quality of life, but rather describes a systemic aspect of behavior that that has become one of the defining characteristics of the new type of conservative among far right-wing Americans.
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Study Guide for Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right study guide contains a biography of Arlie Russell Hochschild, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.