John Lingan at The Baffler:
Shortly before the first election of the second President Bush, Joe Bageant convinced his third wife that they should move from Oregon to Virginia. At the time, Barbara was a bored Merrill Lynch middle manager, while Joe, a self-taught intellectual with stifled literary aspirations, was editing an agribusiness newsletter. They had money and lived well, but when Military History magazine offered him a job in Virginia, Joe saw it as an opportunity to return to his hometown of Winchester. He hadn’t been back in decades, and like many displaced Southern men on the far side of middle age, he felt the pull of home. The people were real there, he told his wife. They took care of each other. Without spending too much, Joe and Barbara could buy a colonial with a porch, right downtown, and say hello to a dozen friends every time they walked to the store.
So they moved. Bought the colonial, downtown as promised, and settled into the nominal capital of the Shenandoah Valley, a 250-year-old, tradition-bound town that had given George Washington his first political victory and Patsy Cline her first stable home. Before long, Joe shook off the cultivated air he’d acquired in his west-coast days. He started dressing in cheap work clothes and guzzling beer alongside the rednecks he’d grown up with. At karaoke nights and in the 7-Eleven parking lot, he listened to his people rail about their menial jobs, their healthcare debt, and their proud anti-liberalism.