Saturday, November 29, 2008

being thankful for mr berry

this article appeared in our local paper as a guest commentary piece on thanksgiving day.  a very well composed summary of wendell berry's insights into a life well lived.

here's a sneak peek.

Mr. Berry, who as a young man left a promising East Coast academic career to return to ancestral land to farm, write and raise a family, has long been both behind and ahead of his times.

Though to all appearances an old-time Democrat, his faithfulness to his iconoclastic vision makes him an uncomfortable presence among the mainstream left and has won him new admirers on the dissident right. He is a moralist hostile both to big government and big business. He is a Christian who can't be understood apart from his deep religious conviction that humankind is under divine command to be good caretakers of creation – the land, its creatures and each other.

If you build your politics on this foundation, you will find yourself standing outside the camps of our parties. Most Republicans don't care for him because he is a harsh critic of industrialism, consumerism and the unfettered free market as a destroyer of land, community and healthy traditions. Most Democrats regard him as out of touch because he is a religious man who holds autonomous individualism, especially the sexual freedom it licenses, to be similarly destructive of families, communities and the sacredness of love.

In short, the Kentucky gentleman is an ardent and prolific foe of liberty without responsibility. In that, he embodies Southern writer Flannery O'Connor's charge to "push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you."

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