five minute book review
over the past couple of weeks i have been overwhelmed by both the power of Jesus' teaching "not to judge, lest you be judged with the same measure" and my apparent inability to live without making snap, often vicious, judgments of others. my sensitivity to such judgments was part of the reason i posted that indefensible brief piece about tony la russa last week. like keith law said on espn insider,* drunk driving is a much more dangerous and life threatening mistake than pumping up anabolic steroids. thousands of people whose lives, including my own, have been impacted by drunk driving can attest that driving after you've had too much, even if that means sipping three glasses of wine instead of two, is not only a personal mistake but a wholly indefensible anti-social act. so the point of that post was to poke fun of myself for my irrational judgments and try to walk a mile in a bonds' supporters shoes.
anyway, i cannot talk my bent towards irrational and spiteful judgments without briefly referencing the deep prejudice i have lately harbored towards those who support the gop. seven years ago, i was incredibly ambivalent about the election of george w. bush and even found myself thankful for his apparent leadership after 9/11. however, after an apparently poorly executed war in afghanistan, an unnecessary war against iraq and six years of fiscally irresponsible and ethically challenged governance by the gop, i have begun to assume that all republicans are bellicose, neo-con, rampant individualists who care little about the collective good and are much more concerned with joey shacking up with donny than they are about responsible fiscal policy and discerning international policy. in fact, over the past couple of years i grew so weary of bush, his neo-con handlers and the reagan republicans that i even voted for john kerry, which, i must admit, was not something i really wanted to do.
i mention my rancor not to stir partisan debate,** but to confess that my tendency to paint all republicans with the same brush is air-tight evidence of my foolishness. i've never been more convicted of my foolishness than i was after i finished devouring crunchy cons by rod dreher.*** in rod's wonderful, progressive-republican manifesto he constantly challenges the moral libertarianism of the left, the free-trade at all costs, sit back and trust the market economic libertarianism of the right and, most importantly, calls the readers to actively subvert the mindless consumerism and meaningless relativism of our culture by thoughtfully conserving the elements of our personal, political and communal lives that are most beautiful good and true. if i could make every democrat and republican i know read this powerful little tome, i would. though i do not agree with dreher on every point (i.e., i wonder whether it makes much sense in the current environment to support an administration which superficially supports many of my ethical stances while actively attempting to unravel the mores and folkways of foreign nations; and i'm not convinced that well-intentioned educational separatism is the best way to approach our children's education) by the time i closed the book i was convinced that i had much, much more in common with crunchy conservatives than i do with many liberal democrats.
i've already gone past my five minute limit, but should probably note that dreher not only utilizes his pages to carefully explain how crunchy conservatives approach topics such as consumerism, food, education and the environment, but he also tells story after story of crunchy conservatives who are raising excellent organic meat,**** building a persuasive case for animal rights and developing family lives that are focused on blessing the world instead of cursing it. here are a few quotes from the book to whet your appetite.
"the first idol crunchy cons have to smash is efficiency, the guiding principle of free markets, but an unreliable guide to building institutions that serve human nature and human community. we have to start living by our ideals, judging things not by what works most efficiently, but by what's good, what's true, what's beautiful - in other words, what's right" (ibid., 229)
"crunchy conservatism is a way of life that calls for a change of culture. it's about returning to tradition, in the face of rampant and energetic consumerism, to reclaim a way of life that's richer, more satisfying, more grounded, more sustainable, more meaningful and, in the end, more authentically joyful than what mainstream american life offers" (238)
"when we had matthew, we moved to a slightly bigger place in brooklyn, but a year or two later, when matthew became mobile, our cozy cobble hill apartment seemed awfully crowded. thus did the dream of home ownership take deeper hold of our imaginations.
(i know, i sound like a commercial for a mortgage broker, but if you're like me, you'll find as you grow older a strange new respect for the middle-class cliches you spent your smart-ass youth making fun of. knife. fork. crow" (97-98).
okay, i've gone on for waaay more than five minutes. but i hope you read this book. i believe that crunchy cons focuses more on what binds us together than the ideologies than rend us apart. for that reason, i think it's a wonderful companion to barak obama's the audacity of hope.
* a pay only site that i loathe and yet cannot seem to separate myself from.
** which i will not participate in after i post this steaming piece of shit.
*** many thanks to rick for the recommendation.
**** oh how i wish i could frequent texas supernatural meats!