Hedges is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and Sacco an award-winning cartoonist. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt combines Hedges' investigative exposé with Sacco's graphic novel skills to tell the stories of four "sacrifice zones" of late-modern capitalism. Sacrifice zones are places and populations that have been locally exploited--sacrificed--for capitalistic growth and corporate greed elsewhere. Media attention rarely, if ever, dwells upon these sacrifice zones, thus the vast majority of Americans are wholly unaware of the costs of capitalistic greed and the rise of the market state, what we might call capitalistic imperialism, where markets and corporate profit are seen the highest goods in a given society.
The four sacrifice zones described in Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt are the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota; Camden, New Jersey; Welch, West Virgina, and Immokalee, Florida.
These are four the poorest places in America today and they tell the story of four different ethnic groups and how each has been exploited and sacrificed for corporate profit: the Native Americans, inner city blacks, rural whites, and Mexican immigrants.
The story of the Native Americans is a story about land and mining rights, how the Native Americans were pushed off their lands and quarantined on reservations so that corporate American had access to silver and other mining rights in places like the Black Hills, a place sacred to the Native Americans like Jerusalem is to the Jews or Mecca to Muslims. The Black Hills were given to the Native Americans in official US treaties, ratified by Congress, to be theirs forever. As in...forever. That is until silver was found in the hills. Corporate greed then set the genocidal wheels of the American government and its military in motion. Guns and government in the service of capitalism. The effects of this profit-driven genocide are still being felt on Indian reservations which have some of the high addiction and suicide rates in the nation.
The story of inner city blacks is the story of Camden, NJ, once a thriving multiethnic working class community. That is until cheap manufacturing labor was found oversees, breaking unions, shuttering factories, and creating chronic unemployment in many local communities. With massive job loss middle and working class class communities like those in Camden were destroyed, creating ghost towns where libraries and schools were boarded up.
The story of rural whites is the story of how coal mining in the Appalachia mountains has destroyed forests, poisoned water supplies, and covered small towns in coal dust. More, as the labor in the mines was increasingly mechanized rural Appalachian communities suffered massive unemployment hits. Some of the poorest people in the nation along with some of the highest drug use rates are in these rural mountain communities.
The story of Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, is the story of the Big Agriculture, where cheap labor is being so exploited that it borders on slavery. In many cases it is slavery as workers are locked up and supervised with men holding guns. Florida is ground zero for slavery in America today. Let alone the fact that without unions and collective bargaining power these workers work in some of the most chemically hazardous workplaces in America today (due to pesticides and fertilizers). All to keep labor costs cheap so that corporate profits can be increasingly maximized.
Hedges' narrative keeps the book moving with facts but in each chapter Sacco's artwork is used to tell, graphic novel style, more personal and intimate stories of loss, devastation and despair. Each chapter and the human stories leaves you will a feeling of rage--this book is not for the faint of heart--but Hedges and Sacco season this with anecdotes of people fighting for and recovering their dignity and humanity in the midst of capitalistic ruin and rubble.
The book finishes its tour by visiting Occupy Wall Street in Liberty (Zuccott) Park, New York. The book ends with the hope that the OWS movement, in the wake of its evictions from city parks, is the beginnings of a movement that will grow in both strength and numbers as the people try to reclaim an America where the collective and public good of the 99% is valued more highly than the corporate profit and greed of the 1%.
I'll end this review with the statistics cited by Hedges and Sacco at the start of their book to highlight American exceptionalism. Yes, we are #1:
Among advanced Democratic nations, American has....
The highest poverty rate, both generally and for children;
The greatest inequality of incomes;
The lowest government spending as a percentage of GDP on social programs for the disadvantaged;
The lowest number of paid holiday, annual and maternity leaves;
The lowest score on the UN’s index of “material well-being of children”;
The worst score on the UN’s gender inequality index;
The lowest social mobility;
The highest public and private expenditure on health care as a portion of GDP, yet accompanied by the highest:
The shortest life expectancy at birth (except for Denmark and Portugal);
- Infant mortality rate
- Prevalence of mental health problems
- Obesity rate
- Portion of people going without health care due to cost
- Low birth weight children per capita (except for Japan)
- Consumption of anti-depressants per capita;
The highest carbon dioxide emissions and water consumption per capita;
The lowest score on the World Economic Forum’s Environmental Performance Index (except for Belgium), and the largest Ecological Footprint per capita (except for Belgium and Denmark);
The highest rate of failing to ratify international agreements;
The lowest spending on international development and humanitarian assistance as a percentage of GDP;
The highest military spending as a portion of GDP;
The largest international arms sales;
The most negative balance of payments (except New Zealand, Spain and Portugal);
The lowest scores for student performance in math (except for Portugal and Italy) (and far down from the top in both science and reading);
The highest high school drop out rate (except for Spain).