On Giants' Shoulders

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Yet Another Book Review

For those of you who find my taste in books to be boring or odd, well you might want to skip this post. On the other hand, you might find this particular book more interesting. It isn't lit crit, as the last one was, it's truly applicable to life. It's a book that shows how sometimes we are fellow travelers with people we might not expect.

The title of the book is Crunchy Cons (and no it isn't about granola eating prisoners!). The author, Rod Dreher, is a writer and editor at the Dallas Morning News, and a conservative journalist. However, he's a conservative journalist who wears Birkenstock sandals, shops at a co-op, eats free range chicken, lives in an old bungalow in an older neighborhood in Dallas (not a McMansion in the suburbs) and is as opposed to modern industrialism and factory farming as our current congressman from Vermont (who is labeled independent, but is still pretty much a socialist). In other words, not your usual conservative. A right wing nature lover, is there even such a thing? Well of course there is, despite the fact that neither current political party seems to have a place for them.

I wish I could download a picture of the book's cover for you, but my "techie daughter" just headed off for a job interview and won't be back until this evening. So if you want to see the cover you'll have to go to Amazon or something. It's actually a pretty interesting cover with a picture of an old VW bus with a Republican elephant painted on it and a hand sticking out the driver's window flashing the "peace" sign. Below that it says "How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party).

So finally I know what I am: a Crunchy Con. I who spent my twenties and thirties reading both Christianity Today and Mothering Magazine, I who read Francis Schaeffer and John Holt, I who was a La Leche League leader who nursed her toddlers and voted for Ronald Reagan, I who read Mother Earth and Chuck Colson. I who married an environmentalist who also hunts deer and reads Outdoor Life. Here all this time I just thought we were weird, now it turns out there really are loads of other people like us. How cool is that!

Of course I'd actually known there were people like us out there. They were the folks who read Gilbert magazine and hold their noses when voting in presidential elections. I even actually have Crunchy Con friends like my "godmother", Ellen, who raises chickens, burns wood, homeschooled her kids, and is a totally pro-life, charismatic type Catholic who encourages her kids to read great books, not just hagiography. I also have traditional con type friends (although frankly most of them pretty much dropped off the map after I became Catholic), and some liberal friends (who do weird things like raise sheep and spin wool).

One interesting thing about Dreher's book is that he discusses the variety of lifestyles that crunchy cons have. They don't all live on farms, or even in the country. They aren't all Christian, although they do tend to be traditionally orthodox in their religious practices (no Cardinal Mahoney fans in this bunch, but at least one Orthodox Jew). They read people like Russell Kirk and G.K. Chesterton. Dreher is familiar with the distributists and the southern agrarians.

The back of the book has A Crunchy Con Manifesto. This sums up a lot of the ideas the book is supporting (while the book itself includes a lot of real life examples. Here's the manifesto:

1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore we can see things more clearly.

2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.

3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.

5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship --especially of the natural world-- is not fundamentally conservative.

6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.

7. Beauty if more important than efficiency.

8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.

9. We share Russell Kirk's conviction that "the institution most essential to conserve is the family."

It seems to me that many of the blogs I visit daily are on board with this. So I hope that at least some of you read the book and find it as challenging/encouraging as I do. I now have another book to recommend to my twenty-something friends who are disgusted with George Bush, even though they are pro-life, anti-cloning, and pro-traditional marriage.

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