A Letter to Governor Brown, Another Town Hall Meeting and a Book to Read

Indivisible Ferndale Letter to Governor Brown

The Indivisible Ferndale Representation committee has sent a letter to Governor Brown urging him not to allocate Prop.56 revenue as a means to “back fill” the state’s general fund.  Prop. 56 was passed by voters in the November, 2016 election increasing the tobacco tax by $2 per pack.  The resulting revenue was intended to go toward the state’s Medi-Cal health care program for low-income residents.

Read Indivisible Ferndale’s letter to Governor Brown here.

Congressman Jared Huffman Hosts Another Town Hall Meeting

Date: Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Time: 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM

Location: Redwood Playhouse, 286 Sprowel Creek Road, Garberville, CA 95542 (Theater attached to College of the Redwoods Garberville Instructional Site)

Please click here to register. This event is free and open to the public, however seating is limited and available on a first come, first served basis up to capacity.

The town hall will also be broadcast live by KMUD radio. You can listen here.

If you have questions please contact Congressman Huffman’s Eureka District Office at (707) 407-3585.

Carpools are encouraged!

A Book to Help Us Understand How We Got Here!

At the end of our first Indivisible Ferndale meeting in January at Jennifer and Stephen’s home, Kevin Silver talked about a book he was reading entitled, “Strangers in Their Own Land” by Arlie Hochschild.  The premise sounded interesting enough: a Berkeley sociologist travels to the Deep South in an effort to understand why people there were so angry and felt left behind and how our country became so divided.  I picked up a copy of the book and have been taken on a remarkable journey not only into the Deep South, but into the heart of the Tea Party.  I urge you to pick up a copy at our library or buy one at a local bookstore.

The article below was published in this past Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle.

Berkeley sociologist crosses over to Trump’s America

By David Talbot, San Francisco Chronicle

May 21, 2017

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle: Author Arlie Hochschild left the Berkeley bubble to explore Louisiana bayou country.

 

 

 

The great divide in America between the red and the blue gaped ever wider this past week as progressive Democrats, smelling blood, called for President Trump’s impeachment and his enraged supporters threatened a scorched-earth fight to the finish. As the fractures in America grew more jagged, I dropped by the Berkeley home of sociologist Arlie Hochschild, whose new book, “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,” is a fascinating and intimate look at the men and women who form the core of Trump’s support.

Hochschild left her liberal bubble — where she lives with her husband, author and Mother Jones magazine co-founder Adam Hochschild, and where, until recently, she taught sociology at UC Berkeley — to spend five years on and off in the ardently right-wing Louisiana bayou country, where God, guns and big oil rule. “I had a keen interest in how life feels to people on the right — that is, in the emotion that underlies politics,” she writes. “To understand their emotions, I had to imagine myself in their shoes.”

Hochschild drew complex portraits of the men and women who feel a deep allegiance to the petrochemical industry that helped raise their families from poverty, even as the oil rigs and processing plants wreak havoc on the natural world and traditional Cajun culture they still revere. “The spill makes us sad, but the moratorium makes us mad,” one woman told Hochschild, referring to the calamitous 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and President Barack Obama’s temporary ban on offshore drilling.

“I’m pro-life, pro-gun, pro-freedom to live our own lives as we see fit as long as we don’t hurt others. And I’m anti-big government,” Mike Schaff, an oil contractor and Tea Party advocate, told Hochschild as he drove her around the swamp country where he grew up. “Our government is way too big, too greedy, too incompetent, too bought, and it’s not ours anymore. We need to get back to our local communities.”

And yet, as Hochschild points out, red states like Louisiana, which ranks 49th in overall health, are desperately dependent on federal money, which accounts for 44 percent of its yearly budget.

“They’re very aware of the red-state paradox,” Hochschild told me, sitting in the living room of her Berkeley hills home. “Mike said to me, ‘We’re embarrassed by it.’”

Photo: Paige Parsons, Courtesy

Arlie Hochschild wrote “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,” an intimate look at the men and women who form the core of President Trump’s support.

 

Many of those she spent time with in the Lake Charles area are painfully aware of how they’re perceived in blue-state enclaves like the Bay Area. “Oh, liberals think that Bible-believing Southerners are ignorant, backward rednecks, losers. They think we’re racist, sexist, homophobic and maybe fat,” Madonna Massey, a Republican activist and gospel singer in husband Glenn’s Living Way Pentecostal Church, told Hochschild.

But Hochschild found herself unexpectedly moved when she attended the Masseys’ mega-church one evening, where some 700 worshipers flocked together. After Pastor Massey spoke in tongues, parishioners came forward so assistant ministers could lay hands on them, relieving them of their anxieties and despair. “One woman flutters her hands as if freeing them of something dreadful,” Hochschild wrote in the book. “Dressed in military fatigues, a man stalks slowly back and forth as if to protect the troubled worshippers or to calm an inner anxiety of his own. Every human emotion is on display.”

Hochschild’s first thought as she observed this spectacle was, “I think I’m in a mental hospital. But then I thought, if I were distressed in Berkeley, what would I do? I’d call a therapist and make an appointment for a 50-minute session, for which I’d pay her, and God forbid we touch during the professional interaction. Berkeley talks a lot about community, but in some ways it’s not as richly communal as the South.”

Radical journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, Hochshild’s friend, warned the Berkeley sociologist not to overly empathize with her subjects. “Barbara said, ‘Enough already, get over it — don’t forget these people did vote for Trump.’”

As Hochschild notes in her book, writers on the left like Thomas Frank (“What’s the Matter with Kansas?”) have long struggled to understand why conservatives like those she interviewed embrace political candidates and views that contradict their own economic self-interest. After all, Trump’s proposed tax cuts and health care plan will only do further harm to oil workers and their families in the Louisiana bayou. But Hochschild’s central insight is that, like all of us, Trump voters are motivated by “a deep story” — an unconscious force that defies political logic. Our deep story “removes judgment. It removes fact. It tells us how things feel.”

For Trump’s white Southern voters, this deep story is about betrayal by the country’s elites. They envision themselves standing patiently in line, waiting for their share of the American dream, only to see others — blacks, ambitious women, immigrants — cut in front of them. “They feel sold out by those in charge — the so-called grown-ups.” The Washington establishment and the liberal media play favorites, rewarding their own — while the “rednecks” of Louisiana get screwed.

Race is “the elephant in the room” in Trump’s America, Hochschild told me. “It was so palpable all the time in my conversations for the book. They’re very defensive about it. They say, ‘I know you think we’re all racist down here.’” And yet there’s no denying that racial resentment lies at the heart of their deep story. “It’s all about others cutting in line in front of them,” Hochschild said.

The sociologist has kept the conversation with her subjects going, visiting Louisiana twice since the book came out and hosting one of the women in the book, a medical insurance saleswoman and Trump supporter named Sharon Galicia, whose teenage son Bailey is a Bernie Sanders fan. “Bailey was interested in going to UC Berkeley, so I showed them around the campus. I took them to Robert Reich’s class, where he gave a spellbinding lecture on social inequality.

“It’s funny — the people in my book feel a genuine affection for Sanders. They call him ‘good old Uncle Bernie.’ But they think his ideas are pie in the sky.”

Hochschild is continuing to keep the blue-red dialogue going. She and MoveOn.org co-founder Joan Blades have started a series of “living room conversations” at their homes, bringing together people from across the great divide. “Sharon came to the conversation in my living room while she was visiting with her son,” Hochschild said. “Afterwards, she told me she’s going to start something similar back home in Louisiana.”

San Francisco Chronicle Columnist David Talbot appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Email: dtalbot@sfchronicle.com

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One Response to A Letter to Governor Brown, Another Town Hall Meeting and a Book to Read

  1. Thank you for the book recommendation. I have ordered it and look forward, with some trepidation, to the journey. I am wondering if any others who read it might want to get together for discussion.

    Like

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