America: The Farewell Tour
BY CHRIS HEDGES
Simon & Schuster, 2018
400 pp.; $27.00
For better or worse, you know what you're going to get with a Chris Hedges's book. Despite some of them having ostensible focuses--Death of the Liberal Class being about the silence and complicity of liberal intellectuals when it comes to money-power; American Fascists being about the fear and hatred promoted by the religious right's propaganda network of schools, megachurches, self-improvement seminars, and TV channels--they're really all about the same thing: the self-destruction of our country. How neighbor is turned against neighbor. How the rich horde more and more wealth and hide behind more and more elaborate security. How great effort is put into making us dumb and distracted--and how we're often guilty of aiding in our own degradation.
America: The Farewell Tour (Hedges's latest book) is no different. It's another civilization-is-going-to-hell shelf-stuffer. A dozen of which seem to get published every week nowadays. The difference between Hedges and these other authors, however, is that with Hedges you get the impression he really believes things are getting irreversibly bad and, more importantly, that he really gives a damn about it.
America is divided into seven chapters: "Decay," "Heroin," "Work," Sadism," "Hate," "Gambling," and "Freedom." Each chapter has little to do with any other. They stand alone and are tied together by nothing but the author's stylistic directness and general sense of doom. "Heroin," for example, is mostly about two women from New Jersey who were both addicted to the painkiller. One of them, after years of being prostituted by her husband to pay for drugs, has gotten clean and now lives a relatively normal life. The other died of an overdose. Conversely, "Sadism" begins with Hedges attending a six-hour course titled "Creative Mindfuckery & Authentic Interrogation for BDSM Intensive" that's mostly about prostitution, pornography, and sexual humiliation.
The other five chapters are on the alt-right ("Hate"), outsourcing ("Work"), casinos ("Gambling"), slave prison labor ("Freedom"), and oligarchy ("Decay"). Although they aren't actually that internally coherent. In truth, most of America is recycled material from Hedges's weekly Truthdig columns, and not all of that recycled material mends well together. Not only in a thematic sense--on one page of "Work" we're talking about the Carrier jobs Trump promised he'd save from...