Strangers in Their Own Land

Strangers in Their Own Land

by

Arlie Russell Hochschild

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Mike Schaff Character Analysis

An oil worker who moves to Bayou Corne for retirement before his new town is swallowed by a giant sinkhole caused by a Texas Brine drilling disaster. Schaff grew up in a two-room house among family on a former plantation and worries that “big government” is destroying Louisiana’s tight-knit local communities. After the sinkhole, he became a reluctant environmental activist—he did media interviews, wrote to his representatives, and even spoke at protests with tears in his eyes. He did so because he felt deeply nostalgic for the neighborly love he found, and lost, in Bayou Corne—it was the model of his ideal community, a “nearly wholly private world” where government played little role. He works with General Honoré to found The Green Army and tries unsuccessfully to convince fellow Tea Party supporters to add environmental protections to their policy agenda. Mike exemplifies the Great Paradox (irresponsible drilling destroyed his life, but he still rejects EPA regulations) as well as the endurance self that Hochschild sees underlying the paradox—he maintains a loyalty to the Tea Party, strong religious beliefs, and a disdain for government and its beneficiaries. By the end of the book, Schaff has found a new house on the water, like his place in Bayou Corne, but finds out that fracking wastewater is about to be dumped nearby.

Mike Schaff Quotes in Strangers in Their Own Land

The Strangers in Their Own Land quotes below are all either spoken by Mike Schaff or refer to Mike Schaff . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the The New Press edition of Strangers in Their Own Land published in 2016.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Looking out the window of the truck, it’s clear that Mike and I see different things. Mike sees a busy, beloved, bygone world. I see a field of green.

Related Characters: Arlie Russell Hochschild (speaker), Mike Schaff
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

At least the authors of the protocol were honest in what was a terrible answer to the Great Paradox. “You got a problem? Get used to it.”

Related Characters: Arlie Russell Hochschild (speaker), Mike Schaff
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

“We need Mikes.” Don't be a Cowboy in enduring pollution, he seemed to say. Be a Cowboy fighting it.

Related Symbols: The Bayou Corne Sinkhole
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

The “federal government” filled a mental space in Mike's mind—and the minds of all those on the right I came to know—associated with a financial sinkhole.

Related Characters: Arlie Russell Hochschild (speaker), Mike Schaff
Related Symbols: The Bayou Corne Sinkhole
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mike Schaff Character Timeline in Strangers in Their Own Land

The timeline below shows where the character Mike Schaff appears in Strangers in Their Own Land. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 – Traveling to the Heart
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Louisiana native Mike Schaff drives Hochschild around the old plantation where he grew up, showing her where his... (full context)
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Mike Schaff proclaims his loyalty to the Tea Party. Hochschild first met him at an environmental... (full context)
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Hochschild suggests that her confusion might stem from an “empathy wall” between her and Mike. (An empathy wall is “an obstacle to deep understanding of another person” that prevents people... (full context)
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...more money from the federal government than blue (Democratic) states, but many Louisianans Hochschild meets—including Mike Schaff—want to keep that federal money away. Like Schaff, many Louisianans deny climate change science... (full context)
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...believes that it is too convenient an explanation for the political beliefs of individuals like Mike. (full context)
Chapter 7 – The State: Governing the Market 4,000 Feet Below
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Hochschild meets Mike Schaff in his 350-person town of Bayou Corne. Like him, Schaff’s neighbors enjoy fishing in... (full context)
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Hochschild meets Mike Schaff at his home on Crawfish Street. He apologizes for his lawn’s poor condition and... (full context)
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Mike talks nostalgically about Bayou Corne’s tight-knit community as he shows Hochschild around the abandoned town.... (full context)
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When Hochschild mentions this report to Mike, he is unsurprised: “there it is again, more bad government.” He suggests that, instead of... (full context)
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Hochschild still cannot wrap her head around how Mike thinks “a total free-market world and local community” can coexist. After all, she notes, the... (full context)
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Hochschild asks Mike whether he is grateful for anything federal government has done for him—he cites hurricane relief... (full context)
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Hochschild wonders “what image of the government was at play” in Mike’s mind, and she compares his disdain for government services he nevertheless uses to “Berkeley hippies... (full context)
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But Hochschild sees another, deeper cause behind Mike’s feelings about government. This is the idea that “the federal government was taking money from... (full context)
Chapter 8 – The Pulpit and the Press: “The Topic Doesn’t Come Up”
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...and the press. She wonders whether people feel the same way about the church as Mike Schaff does about his community, where the government seems to be unnecessarily interfering. “Nearly everyone”... (full context)
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...has not heard about many of the environmental catastrophes that people like the Arenos and Mike Schaff are facing. Massey tells Hochschild that she is “so for capitalism and free enterprise”... (full context)
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...like family to me.” Fox “stokes fear” about issues “with little direct bearing on politics.” Mike Schaff told Hochschild that “a lot of liberal commentators look down on people like me”... (full context)
Chapter 9 – The Deep Story
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...to the people she has met, and they strongly affirm her picture of their predicament. Mike Schaff says, “I live your analogy,” and Lee Sherman tells Hochschild that she has “read... (full context)
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...their own definition, they clearly were not.” They think of racism as explicit hatred for blacks—Mike Schaff even admits to being a “former bigot” who “used to use the ‘N’ word”... (full context)
Chapter 12 – The Cowboy: Stoicism
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...Brother Cappy and Sister Fay Brantley’s Sunday dinner in Longville, just north of Lake Charles. Mike Tritico has invited Hochschild to the dinner, and the onion is Cappy’s “half joke and... (full context)
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...the local Longville Pentecostal church, live on a compound with much of their extended family. Mike Tritico, a longtime friend of Cappy and Fay’s, even jokes that they “have adopted us!”... (full context)
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The guests serve the food and say their prayers. Donny and Mike Tritico sit across from one another; they are both “white, churchgoing residents of Longville” who... (full context)
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Mike agrees with the government’s calls to close the bridge, adhering to the “precautionary principle” that... (full context)
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Mike says that Condea Vista should “have to pay” if they are found responsible for weakening... (full context)
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Mike explains that he does not want to regulate everything or avoid any risk at all;... (full context)
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Mike wonders, “how could it be my own fault that I got hurt or killed?” Donny... (full context)
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Hochschild notes that Donny and Mike’s debate reflects a broader trend about Louisianans’ fears of pollution. She notes a 1997 study... (full context)
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...also have differing perspectives on honor. Donny sees honor as a function of bravery, but Mike “wanted to reduce the need for bravery.” Hochschild argues that Mike’s environmental activism—which once led... (full context)
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...but Brother Cappy never has to reach for the onion. As they finish up dessert, Mike asks Donny how he would “feel about crossing the I-10 bridge.” Donny’s reply: “If my... (full context)
Chapter 13 – The Rebel: A Team Loyalist with a New Cause
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...protestors at the state capitol building in Baton Rouge. This is where she first met Mike Schaff, who wore a yellow “Bayou Corne Sinkhole” T-shirt and introduced a fellow sinkhole victim... (full context)
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...the state legislature, largely run by current and former oil industry leaders, tabled the bill. Mike also protested on a number of related issues, such as Texas Brine’s later request to... (full context)
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After the sinkhole first opened, Mike organized a group of residents and got in touch with General Honoré. Honoré worked with... (full context)
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Mike dedicated himself to the oil industry all his life but saw his income stagnate while... (full context)
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After a lifetime of hard work, Mike was thrilled to finally retire and find “time with his new wife, time fishing and... (full context)
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Mike finds that his past in the oil industry makes him a dangerous foe to it... (full context)
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Mike wants to bring the Louisiana Tea Party to his side. His state has 40% of... (full context)
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But both groups of Tea Party activists were confused by Mike’s environmentalism—the environment “was a liberal cause.” Mike suggests that environmental advocacy is compatible with Tea... (full context)
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To some degree, Mike agrees: perhaps they need “a skeleton crew at the EPA.” But he thinks that global... (full context)
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Another one of Mike’s complaints against the federal government is that it “wasn’t on the side of men being... (full context)
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Mike has a part of each type of endurance self: he is “a fighter but not... (full context)
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Once, at night, Mike noticed that all the houses in Bayou Corne were dark. One of the few other... (full context)
Chapter 14 – The Fires of History: The 1860s and the 1960s
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...coming to the United States after 2015. Lee Sherman suggested incarcerating them in Guantánamo Bay, Mike Schaff thinks they should have stayed and fought in their own country (as he says... (full context)
Chapter 15 – Strangers No Longer: The Power of Promise
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...of Hochschild’s friends in Louisiana backed Trump. Janice Areno and Donny McCorquodale were ardent supporters; Mike Schaff preferred Ted Cruz. Jackie Tabor, Harold and Annette Areno, Sharon Galicia and others Hochschild... (full context)
Chapter 16 – “They Say There Are Beautiful Trees”
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...can be to overcome that empathy wall. Opposing sides can also easily cooperate on particular issues—Mike Schaff, for instance, recently adopted a conventionally liberal disdain for “big money” in politics. (full context)
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Harold and Annette Areno open their front door in October 2014: Mike Tritico stands on their porch and explains that their class-action lawsuit was thrown out after... (full context)
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Lee Sherman continues to maintain his old racecars and campaign for anti-EPA Tea Party candidates. Mike Tritico and Donny McCorquodale continue their lively discussions over dinner at Brother Cappy and Sister... (full context)
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...others moved to larger Louisiana cities, and many are still nostalgic for their old town. Mike Schaff’s old house there fell into disrepair, but he recently bought a beautiful new one.... (full context)
Afterword to the Paperback Edition
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Mike Schaff was busy working on his new house, but he still visited his old one... (full context)
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Hochschild brings her son David to meet Mike—the men “were polar opposites in nearly every way,” from their political beliefs to their regional... (full context)
Appendix A – The Research
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...larger sample of Louisiana Republicans. She also met various conservatives through campaign events, tapped into Mike Tritico’s network of anti-environmentalist friends, and encountered activists like Mike Schaff and General Honoré at... (full context)