Author: Bailey Reutzel

West Virginia

In Charleston, West Virginia’s capitol building casts its shadow on the state museum. It’s oddly fitting given the historical context. A similar shadow loomed over West Virginians during the Great Depression, when the state levied a penny tax to build the $10 million politician’s den, equipped with seven different types of marble, Italian alabaster and an impressive 4,000-ton chandelier. The rest was paid for with the insurance money from the past two capitol buildings which both burned to the ground. I could think of better uses for the pennies, especially since nowadays West Virginia congressional delegates only spend January through...

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When you ask people about the state they were born in or the state they live in, they usually tell you about the beautiful scenery, the off-center local dive bars or the eclectic music scene. They don’t tell you about the large corporations, the Walmarts, the global banks. Because those institutions are just bland, facades scattered among residents with interesting ideas. These institutions might provide jobs to the locals, but these employees have lives and passions outside their work. So why, in America, do we treat these institutions as if they were an integral part of our cultural identity?...

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I’m Googling cheap massages in a parking lot in Fayetteville, Arkansas, when I look up to find myself outside the co-op grocery store, Ozark Natural Food. What’s a co-op doing so close to Walmart’s turf of Bentonville? Spencer, a store associate at the co-op, wonders the same thing. “There’s definitely a Walmart culture here in Arkansas,” he says. “People don’t care where they get their food or how it’s made; they just walk into Walmart because they want the cheapest thing.” He’s chipper and more than happy to talk about the benefits of the co-op and his job there,...

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Am I us? Or am I them? Do I have to answer that? To call the 3.8 million square miles that is the United States united is dismally laughable. We’re always fighting the ‘them’, whether that’s conservatives, liberals, Mexicans, Muslims, blacks, whites. It’s daunting to be in a constant state of asking, ‘Who’s ruining the country today?’ “To learn from history you have to listen.” Wanda Lee is sitting at a small table wearing a bonnet, a long dress and a white apron, all of which have gone out of style. The farmhouse doors are open, exposing the men in military blues sitting under a tree reloading their muskets with blanks. Our conversation is interrupted by kids on field trips meant to interest them in the history of Chalmette, Louisiana, where Americans defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans, uniting the nation in a bid for continued westward expansion and control of the mighty Mississippi River. “I think we do learn from history,” Wanda Lee says. “But most people only pick out what suits their beliefs, positions and race.” But it’s only both sides of a story that will help us see the full picture. For instance, in the War of 1812, Americans attacked the British first. It seems we have a history of aggression. About that time, a man, maybe late 30s or early 40s comes...

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“Here I sit in this big lonely dump…”

Six Flags-New Orleans closed in preparation for Hurricane Katrina more than a decade ago. It never reopened, but remains a hauntingly beautiful reminder of America’s throwaway culture. Quotes courtesy of Scrooge McDuck. “You know, I bet those Incans could have minted a whole lot more coins if they hadn’t tried to make each one unique.” -Scrooge McDuck “I didn’t get rich by being stupid.” “No man is poor who can do what he likes to do once in a while! And I like to dive around in my money like a porpoise! And burrow through it like a gopher! And toss it up and let it hit me on the head!” “If they think they can get between Scrooge McDuck and his three cubic acres of cash, they’ve got another thing coming.” “I can’t go on like this – losing a billion dollars a minute! I’ll be broke in 600 years!” “That’s the trouble with you young scallawags of today. You expect to start in at the top instead of working up from the bottom, like I did!” “A day without looking at me Money Bin is like a day without sunshine!” “Well, you get an A in home wreckonomics.” “A deal this sweet should be against the...

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“It’s corporate America,” the woman beside me says. We’re in a cafe in Oxford, Mississippi, and she’s talking about her job with Winchester Ammunition. “The people are secondary to the production.” Although, she says the company is trying to change that. For instance, she heard a C-level executive talk to the staff about hurting 30 people on the job this year and how that’s unacceptable. For a company as big as Winchester to care about the safety of 30 people is pretty amazing. But Cindy’s inclination on corporate America has broader significance. Do we see all the other humans as cogs, put...

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