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Written by Timothy Sexton
“Pollution is the sacrifice we make for capitalism.”
One of the joys of reading this text for those of a certain ideological persuasion is the number of jaw-dropping statements of opinion and assertions of belief made by those speaking in the name of modern mainstream conservatism. Not only is it strange to realize that comments which used to come only from the fringes of the farthest right have become mainstream GOP talking points, but much of that radical mainstream agenda also carries the wow factor. As in, wow, I can’t believe what I just read. Of course, it goes without saying for members of another ideological persuasion the result will be the same yet different. As in wow, this is exactly what I’ve been saying for years.
[Mitt Romney] wouldn’t help the country clean up dirty rivers, they thought, but as an opponent to the right to abortion, he was for saving all those babies”—and that seemed to them the more important moral issue on which they would be ultimately judged.
Those on the Left grow increasingly baffled and bewildered by the political expediency made by those on the Right. The conservative ideological stance has intensified a willingness to support a candidate who espouses certain positions on broad-canvas issues which likely will actually very little if any direct impact upon their lives over a candidate taking the opposite position on those issues, but who aligns much more closely on issues which actually will directly impact their lives. This quotes points to a concrete example of what is systemic among conservatives across the country. For many of these Louisiana conservatives, one issue always near the top of their list in importance is improving the environment after a series of industrial disasters. The local environment obviously is going to impact far more of these people on a daily basis than the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and yet as a collective entity they express an eager willingness to vote for a candidate who places the latter issue near the top of their agenda.
People are segregating themselves into different emotionally toned enclaves—anger here, hopefulness and trust there…the more that people confine themselves to like-minded company, the more extreme their views become.
This concept lies at the heart of the current state of the nation in which slightly less than half of the population believe everything one man says is unfiltered truth and slightly more than half of the population accept the evidence that everything that almost every word out of that same man is by definition a lie. The founding fathers who drafted the Constitution foresaw the danger of this eventuality even as they dismissed the possibility that it could ever reach such a widespread state. What the author is discussing, of course, is a literal community made up of neighborhoods filled with like-minded people. Metaphorically, that self-segregation is taking place across the nation as a whole in the form of which news channels one watches and which one dismisses as tools of propaganda. It takes the form of which websites, pundits, talk-show hosts and celebrities one looks to for confirmation of their ideological bias and which can be easily be dismissed. It is not by accident that as more and more Americans have become more and more like-minded that they have also become more extreme.
“Children have a natural desire to dominate and try to get what they want. It only stops when one guy is afraid his lip is going to get busted. That’s the natural order. Regulation breaks that up. We don’t see the harm overregulation can do.”
The paradox lying at the center of the specific story of right wing America being told here is how conservatives in Louisiana continually make demands for cleaning up the environmental damage done to their state by industrial disasters, yet remain staunchly opposed to imposing business regulations designed to do exactly that. Regulation is a huge issue with the conservative movement as a whole and of the hot button type. But the fire is also paradoxical: the book illustrates how one woman reacts to regulatory mandates on light bulbs with a fanaticism which might be better directed toward the environmental damage incurred on Louisiana’s coastal communities following high profile oil leaks. This quote situates the opposition to regulation as it exists in a pervasive way across the movement. Regulation is not compartmentalized into issues of legality or healthy or consumer protection, but becomes a singular entity viewed as a threatening a way of life. Of course, the most important lesson to take from this particular quote might simply be that you don’t want your kid playing on the same playground as Donny’s.
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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.