Thursday, March 6, 2014

Look Homeward, America!

Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists
© 2006 Bill Kauffman
250 pages


"The Little Way. That is what we seek. That -- contrary to the ethic of personal parking spaces, of the dollar-sign god -- is the American way. Dorothy Day kept to that little way, and that is why we honor her. She understood that if small is not beautiful, at least it is always human."  p. 39



           Look Homeward, America collects the stories of eccentric individuals who, in a century marked by the advance of corporate and state power, rebelled against the machine. Planting their flag above small towns and in the countryside, they held on what they regarded as valuable and defied or attempted to resist the march of a more inhumane world. Bill Kauffman is a sympathetic soul, a die-hard "placeist". He calls himself the anarchist love-child of Henry David Thoreau and Dorothy Day, and Look Homeward is his tribute to peaceable troublemakers like his 'parents'. They are farmers and social workers, politicians and miners, men and women whose faith is the family and the local community. They champion self-reliance, local interest, and peace; they scorn war, industrial agriculture, big business, and government bureaucracy.  The expression thereof varies; some are hands-on activists, like Day and Mother Jones,  others very frustrated political candidates, still others authors who sing the song of their places and peoples in novel and verse.No political labels apply here; although most are out to protect traditional expressions of civil society, or are vigorously insisting that the powerful leave them be, these conservatives and libertarians are joined by men like Eugene Debs. A book that can honor the six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist party in the same breath as Wendell Berry (a Kentucky farmer, novelist, and proponent of agrarianism)  is wonderfully eclectic. A strong sense of the meaningful life pervades and is carried forth by both religious personalities (Catholic Dorothy Day, featured prominently) and the irreligious, like Robert Ingersoll.   (The great agnostic only receives a mention, which is too bad; his view of the American republic was quite Jeffersonian.) The expression of this common spirit differs from In essence, Look Homeward is a lively championing of localism, a tribute paid to people whose lives were a great raspberry in the face of war and modern alienation. It's a ball to read, not only because Kaufman is so personable,  but because of his colorful-but-not-obscene vocabulary.

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"....this institution of the home is the one anarchist institution. That is to say, it is older than law, and stands outside the State. By its nature it is refreshed or corrupted by indefinable forces of custom or kinship."  - G. K. Chesteron, What's Wrong with the World?



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