Hedges and Sacco visit Pine Ridge, South Dakota, to examine the misery of the Indigenous peoples who remain there. It’s nice to think that we’ve corrected our crimes through political correctness, and yet they continue uninterrupted — unconscionably, intolerably, tragically. Here the human stories are told, and told by those affected and by those resisting and struggling to set things right. Ironically, the victims of the United States’ first imperial slaughters are now disproportionately suffering the pain common to veterans of recent U.S. wars. That same pattern of widespread military experience is found in each of three other sections of the book as well, while other communities in this country have virtually no participation in the military.
Hedges and Sacco go to Camden, New Jersey, to examine the world of impoverished and ghettoized African Americans, whose lives have worsened by many measures over the past generation, despite the successes of the civil rights movement. Poor whites and others figure into the story as well, with special attention to those struggling to improve the world, whether on a small or large scale. Michael Doyle’s voice is one of those from Camden residents that tell the story of decline and devastation that city has experienced:
“You hear people my age get up and say, ‘We were poor. We put cardboard in our shoes.’ We talk like that. But we didn’t know we were poor. Today you do. And how do you know you’re poor? Your television shows you that you’re poor. So it’s very easy to build up anger in a, say, a high-voltage kid of seventeen, and, he knows he’s poor, he looks at the TV.”Doyle went on to say that the cause was unclear, the “enemy” was unclear to people, and “so you take it out on your neighbor.” Young men with no education have no employment anymore, he said, no opportunities to be worth anything — except through the military.
The authors went to Welch, West Virginia, to speak with those suffering from and resisting mountain-top removal by the coal companies. Larry Gibson, who lives with death threats and other health hazards, has saved a fraction of his family’s land from the surrounding devastation. “You heard about the World Trade Center terrorists?” he asks.