Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Review: The View From Flyover Country by Sarah Kendzior

Why did all those swing states embrace donald trump? While there's no clear answer, but several, Sarah Kenzior's writing provides some historical context, especially aimed at those who live on the coasts and look at middle America as a foreign country. As Kenzior writes the red state/blue state is dichotomy is false, there's more variety and diversity in the middle of the country than anywhere else in America, as Kenzior writes "I live in the middle, and when you live in the middle, you see all sides." In the tradition of Ida Tarbell, Kenzior's sheds lights light on machinations of power. 

Kenzior's writing style is straight forward, direct, and poignant. Hard truths abound. Her topics include economics, race, media, and foreign policy. A recurring motif is the refusal of corporations to pay a decent wage and the stop gap measures to prevent upward mobility. This holds true in the media and academia. Often the gateways are unpaid internships or meager stipends, which typically only allow those with the means to enter those fields. Saying America is a meritocracy now strains credibility. 

The oppressive corporate culture of 21st Century America goes on full display on these pages; revealing a nation of bean counters who revel in testing the limits of how much people will allow themselves to be intimidated. Within these essays are the blueprint of the issues that need to be addressed - what the media and politicians should be discussing.  

To quote Bob Dylan's song "Dignity" the soul of the nation is under the knife. Kenzior laments how the Midwest is now caricatured as angry trump supporters at diners donning their MAGA hats espousing xenophobia. NY Times profiles of trump voters who feel marginalized and fear diversity, while ignoring the multiple points of view in all regions.

From a historical perspective America is trapped in a new Gilded Age, like the one that spanned the 1870s to the 1890s. The Progressive Era followed and carried America for most of the 20th Century, an era that produced vibrant unions, state and local leaders with a reformist approach, all the while demanding civic responsibility. That's not nostalgia, read the history. A new Progressive Era may be the only hope we have in saving ourselves. 

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