How Conservatives Won the Heart of
I first heard about this book from Garrison Keillor. Keillor was in my home town,
Then a few weeks ago I was browsing at the Harvard Book Store and couldn’t resist adding the title to my small collection of purchases. If this book was about
At times Frank’s narrative lost me, I have to admit. I couldn’t tell if he assumed his reader would be more of a political insider or if his logic went a bit askew here and there.
At any rate, I can say that his characterization of
Even though I was the typical teenager wrapped up in my teenage issues, I was busy soaking up the special angst of
It’s no wonder that the “Summer of Mercy” is a blur. That was the same summer that I stepped out of
Even my trip to
I have no idea how deeply my father pondered my request. Did he worry about the cost? It was a significant sum. Did he worry about my safety? Would he miss me? In our household of six kids and a rotating cast of dogs, I never gave the latter a moment’s consideration. I don’t remember how much I bothered him about it. But I do know that I set my heart on it. I decided that it was possible for me to go. And that made it almost imperative in my mind. I still have that streak in me. If a thing can be done, and it is a worthy cause, then it should be done. I do remember using the “once-in-a-lifetime” logic. He gave his permission.
Suddenly I was part of something much bigger than the irregular rectangle of
I was so caught up in the excitement of sleeping in a college dorm and joining forces with my fellow ambassadors that I barely had time to think of my family already so far away even though I had yet to leave the country. I did manage to call them just once before leaving for the three-week trip. In my exhilaration I had exhausted myself before we even arrived to Dulles airport. It is no wonder then that I somehow I got my hand pinched in the luggage conveyer belt as I tried to retrieve my things from the security screening. It must have smarted, and my pride must have been wounded too. Here I was about to embark on a world journey and I carelessly pinch my fingers. Suddenly I was lonely and I gave in to my tiredness. I cried as I dialed home. I cried as I left a garbled message about my hand getting pinched and goodbye and it really hurts. I did not call my parents again while I was abroad.
At the time, I didn’t find it strange that I never called. My friends took advantage of weekly or even more frequent opportunities to phone. I always refrained out of a kind of self-discipline. It was expensive to call. I would not indulge myself in such an extravagance. My parents had sacrificed to send me and I didn’t want to cost them any more than necessary. My parents never told me not to call. I am sure they assumed that I would. In my way I was trying to be grown up do the right thing by saving on the expensive call. I was trying to be frugal with their money. Now I see that my failure to call was really the product of a teen’s callous self-absorption. I only thought of their financial, not their emotional needs. Oddly, it made me feel “grown up” to restrain myself from calling.
The buildup and the experience of spending three weeks in
I was young. I had seen the world. I was eager to be grown up. Abortion was a grown up issue. The Pope condemned abortion; so did I. It was grown up to accept the teachings of the church. It was puerile and pathetic to rebel against the wisdom of the Holy Father. I did ask questions about abortion: but not the kind that ever considered a non-canonical viewpoint. I wanted to know more about what the church taught, not why they taught it or why other people (who were those people?) had different ideas. It wasn’t about ideas anyway. It was about babies being killed. I thought that I was being grown up by taking the moral high road. I thought that I was joining a noble fight, a fight that made my own life more worthwhile and more sophisticated. It gave me character. Instead of being a kid, I was a teen with a cause. Some kids drank beer and had sex to rebel against their parents; I never drank or had sex to rebel against a world that used such distractions to get young people like me to waste our lives.
I was a
My memories of that summer are a tangle of Russian folk dancers, dark tea and fresh raspberries in the mountains of
Frank comments that his experience growing up in
(page numbers from paperback edition)
“The [conservative] movement’s basic premise is that culture outweighs economics as a matter of public concern—that Values Matter Most, as a one backlash title has it.” (6)
“What divides Americans is authenticity, not something hard and ugly like economics.” (27)
“The people who were once radical are now reactionary.” (76)
“All claims on the right, in other words, advance from victimhood.” (119)
“Indignation is the great aesthetic principle of the backlash culture; voicing the fury of the imposed-upon is to the backlash what the guitar solo is to have metal. Indignation is the privileged emotion, the magic moment that brings a consciousness of rightness and a determination to persist.” (122)
“Conservatives are only able to ignore economics the way they do because they live in a civilization whose highest cultural expressions—movies, advertisements, and sitcoms—have for decades insisted on downplaying the world of work.” (129)
On growing up in
“Ignoring one’s own economic self-interest may seem like a suicidal move to you and me, but viewed a different way it is an act of self-denial; a sacrifice for a holier cause.”(168)
patois (provincial speech, local dialect)
puissance (strength, power)
bonhomie (good-natured friendliness)
mulct (v. to defraud of money; swindle)
sedulous (accomplished with great perseverance; diligent)
calumniate (to utter maliciously false statements, charges)
quislings (traitor—Vidkun Quisling died 1945, Norwegian who collaborated with Nazis)
adulate (flatter excessively)
mansard (a type of roof: http://www.m-w.com/mw/art/roof.htm)
doppelgängers (double, alter ego)
anomie (personal unrest, alienation comes from lack of purpose or ideals)
depredation (plunder, ravage)