Thursday, September 6, 2012

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt

Joe Sacco occupies an interesting niche in the world of graphic novels.  Sacco has created his own unique sub-genre of graphic novel journalism.  In his best works Sacco visits various hot spots in the world just as the average journalist does.  But instead of writing stories about what he sees and who he interviews, he draws comics in a graphic novel form.  His work is unique as his drawings often capture scenes and faces in a way that makes the people that you read about seem more real, perhaps more human, than they would be if you were just reading about them in print.

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” is a collaboration between the liberal writer Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, who provides the illustrations.  It is a fascinating look at current conditions in the United States.  In the past all of Joe Sacco’s works have taken place in far flung places around the world that are desperate in some way.  The West Bank, Yugoslavia during the civil wars there, Iraq, but this book is placed right here at home.  Sacco and Hedges visit four of the most economically depressed places they can find in the USA.  Each spot seems to be a perfect representation of the problems that face different types of people in our country.  The problems of First Tribe Native Americans are shown by visiting and talking to people who live on the reservation at Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  Then we visit Camden, New Jersey, a formally thriving industrial center that is now a wasteland, which seems to represent the plight of African Americans.  Then Hedges and Sacco visit several small towns in West Virginia that have been decimated by hilltop removal mining.  The residents of these towns are all white and many remember the days when the unions were strong.  Finally they visit the town of Imoakalee Florida, a center of migrant workers who work in virtual slavery, to represent the plight of Latinos in this country.

The book shows four distinct areas in the country, and four distinct ethnic groups, and yet they are all linked by the fact that each area has been destroyed by the economic greed of corporations and capitalists.  These are the people where the social safety net has completely failed and they seem to have no hope.  This is a deeply disturbing and grim book.  It’s not light reading.  It also is unapologetic about representing an extremely liberal point of view, especially in Chris Hedges writing.  In many ways it shows how effective Joe Sacco’s own work is.  Chris Hedges is an excellent writer but sometimes his prose seems so one sided that there is little room for any grey areas or debate.  Joe Sacco’s drawings however, let the characters tell their own stories, and it’s up to the reader to interpret them in their own way.  Their two different approaches work well together and seem to strengthen their argument that something is terribly wrong with the economic structures that are in place in the USA.  There have been many reviews written about “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” that say it’s one of the most important books that has come out about the current state of our country.  If nothing else it is an amazing eye opening look into four cities in the USA that seem to be more like they are from the third world than our own country.  After reading this you might find it hard to believe that these cities and conditions like this even exist in our own country.  But they do.

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