The chapters of this book are titled Days Of…
Each chapter of this book takes place in a particular city or town of my beloved #americant. Each chapter goes deeper than the previous into the negative of what makes a once great country no longer great again. And each chapter features characters that were interviewed by Chris Hedges. But before I get into the good, first this. The only problem I have with this book is 1) other than the chapter Days of Revolt, it doesn’t really inform (me) about what is going on back home that I didn’t already know and 2) the comics–or as others might put–the graphic novel sections of this book–felt to me to be more in the way than on the way. I guess I’m not a fan of comics–sorry, graphic novels. But I am interested in reading and/or owning the graphic novel Watchmen–and I already own Maus. But I digress.
I read Hedge’s American Fascist and Empire of Illusion a few years ago. Since then I’ve been reading his articles on truthdig.com. Unfortunately, not much from his books have stuck with me. That’s not because of Hedges, though. In fact, I’m a big fan of his speeches that are numerous on youtube. It’s just that, well, I guess I’ve started to lose my intellect. Either that or I just don’t give a sh*t anymore (about certain things). I suppose, in a way, I can easily blame such a loss on the frequency that I visit my beloved #americant or the amount of stuff I read about it (her)–which has been quite a bit since my step-father past and my mother isn’t getting any younger and #eurowasteland politics bores the krapp out of me. Indeed. Each visit to my beloved homeland has been scarier and scarier and scarier. My most recent visit, just last month, set new heights regarding what can come of a nation suffering from something that is no less than pathological. America really is starting to look and feel like a land of zombies. In fact, I bought Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt to accompany the trip.
I managed to read two-thirds of the book on the flight to PHL and within the first few days of my arrival. Then I got sick as a dog as the weather in Maryland was worse than in Germany. I mean, I froze my butt off the first few days I was there. And it’s not that I’m not used to cold weather. I guess I’m not used to going from far north Germania, where it was warm, to somewhat southerly Atlantic coast Maryland and freezing my a$$ off. So. Yeah. I got sick. And then I got caught up in the all work I’m supposed to do when visiting my mom. It’s just that my sickness didn’t want to go away. Of my two week visit, I was out of it for almost ten days with the worst head-cold and flu that I’ve had in years. I ended up finishing this book when I got back to Germany. But, again, I digress.
By-the-bye, I got lost in Camden, NJ, once, which is featured in one of the chapters of this book, after I switched my Atlantic flight destination from Dulles Airport to PHL (from Frankfurt). Back then there was no GPS to guide me and I made a few wrong turns leaving PHL and the next thing I know I’m in NJ. Aghast! Other than the panic that ensued being a caucasian driving a rental car through Camden, I remember vividly the landscape of #americant that was nothing new to me. It was just another broken place. In fact, a city like Camden looked as familiar as the small coal mining town my step-father grew up in that has been decimated like any other with mine and plant closings galore. To me, these places are all part of Reganomics and neoliberal greed politics that #americants have been voting for–a world that I was able to get out of so many years ago. As I follow all the goings-on back home, it’s sometimes hard to have mercy on those who are obviously too stupid to see what they are doing to themselves. I guess, in a way, I saw it all coming–first hand! Camden, NJ, is everywhere in the US. It’s everywhere there’s an abandoned strip mall, more potholes than asphalt on highways, it’s in every dive-bar where jaundice drunks occupy the rundown churches as much as the rundown Walmarts and every–EVERYONE!–is screaming about making something great again. Yes. Everywhere.
With that in mind, this book didn’t do much for me on the learning front. Except for the last chapter. Indeed. The last chapter, Days of Revolt, saved this book because I haven’t read enough about the Occupy Movement that, to me, seemed to come and go as fast as a rational thought on #americant cable TV news. On top of that, Hedges manages to make a connection that has been lingering in the back of my mind for years. When people ask me “why Germany” I usually just tell them it’s because of the girls and the beer. But sometimes I’ll break down and give them the real reason. It was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that brought me to my expatriation–because I was right in the middle of it. And it was not just the joy of living in the end of the Cold War. It was the fact that the idear of authoritarian rule was finally gonna end. In those days I never thought in terms of America being the centre of the universe–whether it’s great or great-again. To me, the idear of how the people in Eastern Europe were able to discard the authority of The Soviets without violence was beyond mesmerising. Never in my wildest childhood Cold War dreams did I think it could happen. And even though the whole movement didn’t start in East Germany, the fall of that Wall will forever be my beacon. And then there’s the connection I started to make–not unlike Hedges makes in the final chapter of this book.
A quarter century has passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Neoliberalism is rampant and unabated in the western world not unlike an opposite ideology was rampant in Eastern Europe thirty years ago. The result of having gotten rid of the authoritarian rule of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union hasn’t quite turned out to be what it should be. Or? In my worst-opinion, the west has become the thing we defeated. Hedges manages to see this in the last chapter of this book. And so. I’ve always wondered where are the revolutionists that would call out the West for what it has become. Is that revolutionist Chris Hedges? It might just be. Or was it the movement that came and went with the Wall Street Occupiers in Liberty Square, NY, in 2011? I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that there is a heavy irony when considering what #americant has done to itself and subsequently the world since the fall of the Soviet Union. Just look deeply at our response to September 11, 2001, including the subsequent largest government expansion since… And check out those bank bailouts and the amount of consumer credit run amok. And then there’s the recent election that has given the world Trump & awe….
Why has no one been able to see the connection to a not-so-distant past with all that has happened in this still somewhat young new century? Ok. At least Chris Hedges has seen it. I think I have too. So. What the heck. Let history repeat itself.
Good luck suckers.