I’m so glad to see a new book coming out by Chris Arnade, whom I haven’t seen online in at least a couple of years. Right around when Trump was elected was when I discovered him, and that was also pretty close to the time that he took a break from online life. I can see why he did so now.
His reflections on rural, poor communities are unique because of his own professional background. Before traveling around America to photograph and document the lives of those whom American culture has deemed “back row,” he was a trader on Wall Street.
Here’s an excerpt on First Things from his upcoming book, Dignity: Seek Respect in Back Row America:
With a great job and a great apartment in a great neighborhood, it is easy to feel we have nothing for which we need to be absolved. The fundamental fallibility of humans seems outdated, distant. It’s not hard to imagine that you have everything under control.
On the streets, few can delude themselves into thinking they have it under control. You cannot ignore death there, and you cannot ignore human fallibility. It is easier to see that everyone is a sinner, everyone is fallible, and everyone is mortal. It is easier to see that there are things just too deep, too important, or too great for us to know. It is far easier to recognize that one must come to peace with the idea that we don’t and never will have this under control. It is far easier to see religion not just as useful, but as true.