After reading dispatches from Pluto I thought i would get a locals view of modern day southern USA. It doesn't disappoint, giving a balanced observation which moves between funny and shocking. Buy it, you may just learn something y'all,
I grew up with close family in Tennessee, so I have always been fascinated by the South. While I despised the views expressed by my uncle, I learned from my cousins in long discussions. Now, with the rise of political rage and cultural tensions that I sometimes find incomprehensible, I was looking for an in-depth explanation of what if anything has changed in the South. I did not find all of what I was seeking here, but it was worthwhile nonetheless.
Thompson starts out with long explanations of the warped version of history - that states' rights and not slavery were the cause of the war - and the region's intense religiosity. As a history buff, I felt that I learned very little here and for the most part skimmed the first 150 pages. There were also many descriptions that I found too lengthy, such as the operation of a capitalistic church. While she mentions the hypocrisy and tendentious nonsense of much of this, I feel she should have offered more perspective and detail. Nonetheless, if not hard hitting enough, she never crossed the line of appearing apologetic or obtuse; for that, I respect her courage as many from her region will be alienated and angered.
It was in the last 100 pages - on Atlanta as a city and the socio-economics of the region - that I learned the most. First, the South is becoming far more diverse than it has been, with Mexican and Asian immigrants as well as blacks in "remigration". Second, the rural areas are progressively becoming de-populated, a brain drain to the cities that is decimating the traditional society. Third, and most interestingly, she explains the Southern notion of community in a clearer way than I have yet seen. It is a masterful performance, with much moving, personal detail. Fourth, she looks at a city that is dominated by business-oriented ideology, which is growing haphazardly out of control in a variety of unsustainable ways; even in the face of the evidence, its politicians resist the notion of some guidance of the process.
The most significant failure for me is Thompson's insufficient examination of what has happened to entrench Southern conservatives into believing in the Tea Party and candidates like Donald Trump. Southern politics seems to me excessive and wildly unrealistic, unable to distinguish between opinion and fact, just blindly ideological and absurdly entrenched. I do not mean to judge them here or make a political argument against them, but I did want a better understanding of what is spawning their rage. I will have to seek it elsewhere.