Deer hunting with Jesus

Sometimes I think the GOP emits a special pheromone that attracts fools and money. — Joe Bageant, “Deer Hunting With Jesus.”

For some reason, I was thinking about my buddy Joe Bageant yesterday, and how we used to spend hours on the phone, talking about why progressives weren’t getting anywhere with working class voters. (Back then, they weren’t.)

I’d pick up the phone and hear that distinctive voice. “Hey, Susie, how ya doing?” I knew I could settle back for a long discussion that could go almost anywhere.

Joe was a hardcore socialist, which you already know if you’ve read any of his books. He was also impatient with overeducated progressives who thought everything would be okay if the working class would only wise up and take their advice. He was truly compassionate at heart, which made it hard for him to write people off for good.

But he trusted me because I was working class. (I think I passed the test when I talked about having sugar sandwiches growing up.)

I never did make it to his home in Winchester, Virginia for a visit. (The perpetual car problems.) Then, for a while, he was living in a fishing village in Belize, and he urged me to move there and join him. (Not that I was special, mind you — Joe just wanted all his friends to follow him around so we could create a little community of like souls.)

Then he moved to Mexico, and wanted us to come there instead. He was a little embarrassed, but he said he needed better wifi than Belize had, and had to be near an airport when he had to travel to paying gigs. He hated making money, almost as much as he hated talking about it. He was almost shamefaced by how much money he made on “Deer Hunting With Jesus,” and gave a lot of it away, especially to that village in Belize.

We really bonded over mysticism. Like me, Joe had done a lot of psychedelics; and like me, he’d had some transcendent experiences that changed the way he looked at things. “You know, there are a lot of people who would write me off if they knew about this,” he said.

“Same here,” I told him.

It was mutual assured destruction in the early days of the blogging business.

We talked for hours about our commonly-held opinions that progressives fucked up by writing off faith. Not religion (we both agreed it was too evil to save), but the yearning for some kind of spirituality. The part that connected us to everything. (I’ll bet some of you are rolling your eyes even now as you read this.)

Anyway, he was a helluva writer and story spinner, and I’m glad his death from lung cancer didn’t take too long. When I finally save up enough money to move, I’ll find his books in the boxes where I packed them years ago and read them over again.

It won’t be as wonderful as one of his phone calls, but it’ll be pretty good.






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