“If any of you came here this evening with the idea of hearing how well we’re all doing in America these days, you want to leave now.” So began Bradley Graham, owner of Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., introducing Chris Hedges during a recent talk and book-signing event.

Hedges, a veteran journalist and Truthdig columnist, spent much of his early career as a foreign correspondent but in recent years has turned his incisive eye toward the United States. His new book, “America: The Farewell Tour,” details a nation destroying itself through an array of ills: xenophobia, the opioid epidemic, economic inequality and the rise of the far right, among them.

“Civilizations, over the past 6,000 years, have a habit of eventually squandering their futures through acts of colossal stupidity and hubris. We are not an exception. We are entering this final phase of civilization,” Hedges writes of America. At his Aug. 22 book talk in Washington, he described the reporting process that led him to this conclusion and discussed interviewing Americans in every region as he traveled the country to write the book.

Hedges spoke to workers in an Indiana town who voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary and then backed Trump in the general election because they remembered Bill Clinton’s support of NAFTA, which took away their union jobs. They are among millions living in towns decimated by decades of globalization.

He also described his interviews with Americans whose families and towns were wrecked by opioid addiction, and told of being around a bonfire with members of the alt-right, a gathering where he and his research assistant felt so unsafe they eventually fled.

Hedges said reporting and traveling around the country keep him “intellectually honest” and challenge his long-held beliefs. He urged those in the audience to get out of their own comfort zones.

Watch the video of Hedges’ appearance at Politics and Prose below.


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