'Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt' by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco (Perseus Book Group)
"Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt" is a pretty grim account of not just the corporate victory over America, but the historical context of why such a victory is not unusual or unexpected.
In documenting lives within the so-called "sacrifice zones" -- that is, areas that have been destroyed in the name of profit, leaving a ravaged and dazed populace that cannot save itself -- Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco provide a passionate exposé of the price of our corporation-dominated country. As they travel through the dark and forgotten corners of American life, they uncover corruption everywhere.
What makes the book different from most is the collaboration between reporter and cartoon journalist, who tag team in their portrayals of these bleak areas. Hedges is a passionate writer who can pound out a sentence to move you to tears and then provide the research to back up the emotion you're feeling. Sacco is the premiere non-fiction cartoonist in the world, and here, his immense talents are utilized to personalize the larger situation, taking personal stories of interviewees and bringing them to vivid life. It's a powerful combination that drives its point home until you feel ashamed.
The book opens with a jarring portrait of Native American life as it currently exists, the result of a free fall of cultural destruction at the hands of moneyed interests and government. The process is simple: Steal from the victim, obstruct opportunities for the victim, offer no support for the victim and then blame the victim when shattered lives lead to desperate behavior. From there, you can stick them in jail and say it's their own fault.
This is pretty much the standard thread of history anywhere Hedges and Sacco investigate, whether it's in Camden, N.J. -- a wasteland built on a corrupt political machine defined by graft and run by state Democrats and recently, frighteningly embraced by the popular Chris Christie -- or West Virginia, where historically, coal mining companies were able to routinely rape the land after they stole it from the people who lived on it and continue a campaign of terror against anyone who opposes them, even as they create a nightmarish ant colony of sunken graves beneath the ground. (Not to mention the thousands of new corpses each year from the industry's pollution).
The book also covers the absolutely depressing and shameful virtual slave labor endured by migrant workers in Florida -- with a complete history that makes it a sadly inevitable situation -- and the Occupy encampment in Zucotti Park.
As Hedges delves into the Occupy movement, he frames it as the final assault by money and business upon American citizens, where it's no longer the minorities and the aliens who are used and destroyed, but anyone else that can be, including supporters of the very institutions doing the raping. The premise is that by not correcting the wrongs of minorities and the poor, we, the middle class, have failed to fortify our own battlements and are probably doomed. It's a dreary vision of America. It's also a clear one. As Hedges points out, though, historically, the oppressed eventually explode -- and often effectively.
The larger swathes of Hedges are brought down to earth by Sacco's monologue vignettes providing the stories of individuals who he and Hedges come into contact with. Whether he's following the tragic story of a Mexican family seeking the American Dream, a New Jersey resident trying to negotiate the way dirty politics ravage an ordinary life or an ex-coal miner fighting black lung disease and the trauma of watching his West Virginia world fall apart, Sacco manages to frame the political as the personal and show how the larger movement of governments and corporations can ravage the lives of any of us.