[Available for rent at Mulligan Books… -DS]
The book itself is a unique all-American road trip, part riveting text by Hedges, part comics by Sacco. It takes the reader through the most extreme “sacrifice zones” in a country that is slowly hollowing itself out. In this excerpt, the two road warriors have made it to an area of West Virginia where coal mines, dangerous as they were, once supported town life, but more recently have either mechanized or closed down. This particular community, Gary, West Virginia, writes Hedges, has “fallen into terminal decay. There are today 861 people in Gary. There were 98,887 in McDowell County in 1950. Today there are fewer than 23,000. The countywide per capita average income is $12,585. The median home value is $30,500. Gary’s rutted streets are lined by empty clapboard houses with sagging roofs.”
Hedges himself has written a TomDispatch introduction to the excerpt, which follows…
A World of Hillbilly Heroin
The Hollowing Out of America, Up Close and Personal
During the two years Joe Sacco and I reported from the poorest pockets of the United States, areas that have been sacrificed before the altar of unfettered and unregulated capitalism, we found not only decayed and impoverished communities but shattered lives. There comes a moment when the pain and despair of constantly running into a huge wall, of realizing that there is no way out of poverty, crush human beings. Those who best managed to resist and bring some order to their lives almost always turned to religion and in that faith many found the power to resist and even rebel.
On the Pine Ridge Lakota reservation in South Dakota, where our book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt opens, and where the average male has a life expectancy of 48 years, the lowest in the western hemisphere outside of Haiti, those who endured the long night of oppression found solace in traditional sweat lodge rituals, the Lakota language and cosmology, and the powerful four-day Sun Dance which I attended, where dancers fast and make small flesh offerings.
In Camden, New Jersey, it was the power and cohesiveness of the African-American Church.