Faith, Nostalgia, and Hurricane Capitalism

St. Philip’s Catholic Church in Battle Creek, Michigan. Temples like this serve as empty refuges from the crucified American Dream.

Battle Creek, Michigan used to have factories. It doesn’t have many of them anymore. As The Guardian’s Chris Arnade writes in his profile of Battle Creek’s disenchanted voters, “with the economic backbone broken, with hope in the future dimming, faith has become more central as a source of community, solace and hope.”

American society has reached a very real tipping point. Capitalism’s creative destruction has left millions of people with nothing more than amorphous notions of “faith” to lead them through the penury-stricken Land of the Free. Those just retiring are hoping to scrounge together what little benefits they have left, while those just starting out are facing the bleak reality of a future without any retirement at all. If you were a betting person, however, you’d know that rolling the dice on faith usually means giving away your chips to the House.

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In America, We are all Florida

The Florida Man Twitter feed is the most American thing ever, because Florida IS America.

The Florida Man Twitter feed is the most American thing ever, because Florida is the most American thing ever.

America is the place where people from all over the word come to live the American Dream. But in America itself, people move southward to live out something far more American than the American Dream: the Florida Dream.

Florida is where the runoff from America’s cultural stream settles into a fetid, stagnant pool of low taxes, cheap property prices, an endless supply of immigrant labor, cold weather-fleeing geriatrics, and trigger-happy right-wing politics. For decades, Sunshine State boosters have wrapped up the Florida Dream in a carefully marketed vision of an overly humid, sunburned paradise bolstered by an economic tripartite of hospitals, condominiums, and a gigantic, anthropomorphic mouse. And Americans can’t get enough of it.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman and the Historical Triumph and Tragedy of American Movies

Philip Seymour-Hoffman won a Best Actor Oscar for his role as Truman Copote, the brilliant but tortured American writer whose life provided perfect fodder for American cinema.

Philip Seymour-Hoffman won a Best Actor Oscar for his role as Truman Capote, the brilliant but tortured American writer whose life provided perfect fodder for American cinema.

On February 2, 2014 — Groundhog Day — America lost Philip Seymour Hoffman, whom many critics considered to be “the best actor of his generation.” The forty-six-year-old actor was found dead in his New York City apartment building of an apparent drug overdose; a reasonable conclusion given the needle that still pierced his arm. Thus, in a turn of events that has long since become tragically clichéd, Seymour Hoffman joined many a brilliant artist from all mediums and from all parts of the world whose genius was too large a burden, driving them to self-medicate and self-destruct.

Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death spurred an outpouring of grief and well-wishes both from the film industry and from the general public as well; a testament to the profound influence his screen-presence rendered on American culture. Indeed, the tragedy of Seymour Hoffman’s death speaks volumes about the unique role the film industry has played in shaping American culture since the early 20th century, for better and for worse.

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