The Way Home

Wendell Berry’s latest harvest of essays contains characteristically wise observations on mobility, industrial agriculture, and other maladies of our age, but it also displays a Berry seldom glimpsed—that is, Wendell Berry as a rural Kentucky Democrat reluctant to quit a party that long ago quit rural America.  He even titles one short piece “Some Notes for the Kerry Campaign, If Wanted.”  (They weren’t.)

Like the men of Port William in his novels, Berry is a yellow-dog Democrat.  He refuses to give up on the party “because of its name.”  Not a bad reason—probably better than mine, which is a sentimental attachment to the Loco Focos, William Jennings Bryan, and Gov. Al Smith—but Democrats in the age of Hillary Clinton bear the same relationship to democracy that George W. Bush’s empire-loving Republicans have to the republic.

Berry reproves the Democrats for their smug secularism.  The “stereotypical ‘liberal’ view of the religious people of the ‘red states’ is that they are provincial and stupid,” he writes, opining that “the Democrats’ failure to appeal to intelligent Christians” is a grave mistake.  He offers the best response I have read to the intelligent design versus evolution squabble: Let schoolkids read both Darwin and the Old Testament, for “no young mind...

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