Subtitle: The 400-Year, Untold History of Class In America
Odds are very good that if you're an American too, then we're both members of the white trash class that has existed infamously, and mostly invisibly, since British settlers and their dependents planted their boots (or ill-covered feet) on the shores of the New World. I just finished reading Nancy Isenberg's book White Trash: the 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg who lives in Virginia as well as Louisiana. It's opened my eyes in many ways.
First we must understand that England colonized America with her criminals, vagrants, orphans, and misfits she didn't want simply filling up space, being an economic drain on society. Such people were considered a nuisance and irredeemable, which made them perfect for shipping off to a mysterious, untamed land of 'savages' like America. Scores of them died on the way.
Some wealthy men also sailed to this waste land with the intention of dominating the land as they dominated the poor wretches who worked their fields and kept their homes. We naturally inherited the British class system, Isenberg argues, and the poor became useful to the rich as laborers and breeders whose progeny inherited their parents' lower-class status and roles in society. The vision for America was never about creating the American Dream for everybody, not 'the' land of opportunity where social mobility rewarded those who worked hard for it.
And American politicians have continued to propogate this myth and others, including how the poor are to blame for their inferiority because of 'black' blood or their vulgar temperament and immorality. They may label white trash with many different names, but they're always present, especially in the South.
Isenberg takes us from the earliest days in the 1500s through the Founding Fathers, President Andrew Jackson's 'common man' image, other southern presidents, Civil War, the Confederacy, Reconstruction, the push for eugenics or sterilizing poor, white women, the Great Depression, and all the way up to the present day. Trump was mentioned once, for certain. Isenberg states that many celebrities like him owe their success to their rich, well-connected parents.I suspect she alluded to Trump when she observed that if we allow elections to become a three-ring circus, don't be surprised if the dancing bear wins.Reading this huge book was very engrossing. I wish I could write pages about what I found insightful and even entertaining. It may be American history, but it didn't seem dry and boring to me. Indeed it was memorable in the way America was portrayed through the angry eyes of one who represents the interests of the waste people, the white trash, the ones called rednecks today.
White trash have reinvented themselves in recent decades, triggered probably by Tammy Faye Baker's rise to stardom as an unrepentant, white trash princess and Bill Clinton making rednecks or 'Bubba' more accepted in polite society.
Highly recommended for those who wish to understand the turbulent forces behind Trump's terrifying rise on the waves of the disenfranchised masses.
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