A review of The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice (Shoemaker + Company, 2022) by Wendell Berry

I had heard of Wendell Berry for quite some time, and though I had an idea of what he was for—‘what I stand for is what I stand on’—I had never read him. I believe that my very first introduction to him was in one of Clyde Wilson’s ‘Sayings By or For Southerners’ articles: ‘I do not see the national flag flying from the staff of the sycamore / Or any decree of government written on the leaves of the walnut.’

Mr. Berry is not just a capital-A Agrarian writer and philosopher, but actually lives a small-a agrarian life on a sheep farm in his birthplace in rural Kentucky, wherefore he has been entitled ‘a Southern Thoreau’ or even ‘a Southern Emerson.’ (We at the Abbeville Institute may quibble that Mr. Berry is much more of Roanoke than Walden Pond, citing Richard Weaver’s parallel lives of those ‘two individualists,’ but no matter, the compliment ought to be taken as it is given.) The sheer immensity and diversity of his body of work—he has been writing essays, poems, novels, memoirs, and more since the 1960s—was rather daunting, however, and so whilst he remained on my reading list I never quite knew where to start.

That is, until a friend of mine and fellow contributing writer, ‘Enoch Cade,’ informed me that in Mr. Berry’s latest book, The Need To Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice, he defended the Confederates and their monuments. None had yet—or has since—written such a book, and thus I reckoned that if I were ever going to read anything Mr. Berry wrote, this was it.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Berry divulges that in the course of writing this book, friends of his, worried that he was ‘at risk of some dire breach of political etiquette by feebleness of mind or some fit of ill-advised candor,’ warned him of the ‘retribution’ which he would face for ‘any interest that I may show in understanding the Confederate soldiers, or any revelation of any sympathy that I may feel for them, for any reason.’ Most of all, he was warned, he ought not to show any understanding for Robert E. Lee. As much as Mr. Berry appreciated his friends’ concern for his career, he wondered if they were aware of why he embarked upon that career—he calls it a ‘calling’—in the first place. ‘In my own judgment, I would be less honest, less human, and would have less hope of being useful, if I agreed to or bowed to the strange principle of total hatred or total anger,’ he explains, ‘or to its even stranger implication that we should condemn Lee absolutely, deny him any consideration or understanding as a figure of significance in our history, and yet keep him present and alive in our minds in order to hate him.’

As Mr. Berry’s friends foresaw, The Need To Be Whole has been practically blacklisted by the critics. Kirkus was one of the few presses which reviewed The Need To Be Whole, and the contrast with its past reviews of Mr. Berry’s work is stark: ‘A rambling and frustrating book from a normally reliable author.’ Yet for those who understand what Mr. Berry thinks, and moreover how he thinks, there is nothing ‘frustrating’ therein. As for ‘rambling,’ the book does have its share of digressions and repetitions, and whilst some are more pertinent than others, they are, for the most part, pleasant, and moreover, consistent with Mr. Berry’s style. If Mr. Berry had written a book which affirmed the anti-monument prejudice, I must say that I suspect that ‘rambling’ would instead have been written as something like, ‘He often takes the scenic road to get to his point.’

One other review, by Daegan Miller at Slate, went into more detail. ‘One of our most beloved environmental writers has taken a surprising turn,’ laments the headline. ‘The Trump era has messed with everyone’s head, including, it seems, Wendell Berry.’ (Everyone except Mr. Miller and the readers of Slate, it seems…) In short, Mr. Miller’s criticism is that Mr. Berry’s Agrarianism conceives of Agrarianism exclusively in environmental and economic terms and is not inclusive enough of social justice. Enough for now, though we shall return to Mr. Miller’s review anon.

The publisher of The Need To Be Whole appears to be uncomfortable with the book’s potential controversy and has concealed it as much as possible. According to the back cover, The Need To Be Whole is ‘a careful exploration of this hard, shared truth: The wealth of the mighty few governing this nation has been built on the unpaid labor of others.’ Now, this is truthful about one chapter, wherein Mr. Berry discusses the American ‘contempt for physical work and for the economic landscapes (our country itself) upon which such work was done,’ but this is not nearly truthful enough about the book as a whole. I also cannot help but notice that The Need To Be Whole was not published by Mr. Berry’s usual publisher, Counterpoint Press, let alone by Pantheon (where he has sometimes been published), but by ‘Shoemaker & Company,’ which from its name I assume is an imprint of Jack Shoemaker’s, but which has no website or catalogue that I was able to find.

I hastily bought a physical copy of the book, but I am on the road for work most of each day and listen to audiobooks to pass the time productively, so I also looked to see if one was available. Indeed there was, narrated by Nick Offerman, evidently an admirer of Mr. Berry, who was also the narrator of the audiobook version of The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry.

What follows is not a book review, but a book report more befitting of this book’s importance to those of us at the Abbeville Institute. Mr. Berry, a writer often hailed as the ‘conscience’ or ‘soul’ of the nation—a ‘national treasure,’ as they say—has, in The Need To Be Whole, pronounced the hatred of Confederates that has become a media mania a prejudice, and still more, admitted that he understands and sympathises with that hated enemy. That is worth the price of the book alone, to be sure, but there is so much more therein, and although I am still new to Mr. Berry, it seems to be a summation of his entire life’s work. (It is certainly his largest book to date.)

Mr. Berry may be agnostic about his own Southern identity, preferring to identify with the people and place that he knows personally instead of an ideological or geographic category, but his is nonetheless a Southern philosophy. It is an unconventional continuation and combination of the Southern Agrarians and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, two comparisons that I trust he will take as compliments. There is simply nothing else like The Need To Be Whole in bookstores today, and to be honest, that is simply because there are few people like Mr. Berry left.

Mr. Berry conceived of The Need To Be Whole as a continuation of The Hidden Wound, his book on the harm which race prejudice in American history has inflicted upon white people, following a conversation with ‘bell hooks’ [sic: a pseudonym] and a correspondence from Eddie Glaude. ‘hooks’ and Prof. Glaude both admired The Hidden Wound, but Mr. Berry felt that he struggled to articulate to them his present thoughts on race prejudice, which he realised then had changed since that book was first published in 1969. In particular, Prof. Glaude had asked him to review his forthcoming book, Democracy in Black, and after writing down a dozen points of agreement and disagreement, it occurred to Mr. Berry that he had an outline of the book that would become The Need To Be Whole.

The seed-thought which grew into The Need To Be Whole is that, as damaging as race prejudice has been to blacks and whites in different ways, there is another prejudice just as deeply rooted in our history which has harmed us all in the same way. This is a ‘prejudice against community life itself,’ or the primordial bond between land and people. A ‘community,’ to Mr. Berry, is ‘placed or landed,’ comprised of a people who belong to that place and thereby to one another. There are problems which black communities face that are result of race prejudice, he is careful to admit, but there are also problems which black communities face that white communities also face, which cannot be the result of race prejudice. ‘In our public discussion of racial issues, such as it is now, there was too pronounced an assumption that black people and white people are entirely unlike each other in their history and their problems,’ writes Mr. Berry. ‘This cannot be entirely true, and it obstructs the possibility of thinking together about shared problems.’ We ought, he argues, to distinguish between what problems are the result of race prejudice and what problems are the result of prejudice against community life—in other words, the result of the social and economic system known as ‘Industrialism.’

Moreover, race prejudice, with the harm that it has done to non-white people, is related to other prejudices, which have done harm to white as well as non-white people. Race prejudice against the Indians, whereby they were expelled from lands which were regarded as expendable and eventually expended, ‘kept nearly all of us from recognizing in their cultures—and as a possibility for ourselves—the necessary sanctity of the bond between people and their homelands.’ Race prejudice against Africans, whereby they were enslaved to supply a demand for agricultural labour, denied their enslavers ‘the direct experience of their land and the knowledge of its best use and care—a contagious alienation that they finally communicated to just about all the rest of us.’ These prejudices against the social and economic bonds of agrarian life culminated after the Civil War in the system of industrial capitalism, wherefore all land and labour were, in effect, enslaved and exploited. As a result of Industrialism, we live in an ‘abandoned, unloved, toxic, eroded, and degraded country that most of our people have forgotten or never knew,’ and we ourselves are ‘uprooted, scattered, isolated in their multitude, frightened, angry, and as unhealthy as the land.’

Mr. Berry is adamant that the remedies to any prejudice, including race prejudice, can only come from ‘particular knowledge, common decency, and good manners,’ or in other words, ‘talking, working, and neighboring together for a while, maybe for a long time.’ For Mr. Berry, these virtues are only possible in a ‘living, functioning community,’ as in a ‘living, functioning household,’ which cannot come from the state. ‘If we want living, functioning communities,’ he writes, ‘we will have to make them ourselves in our own neighborhoods, starting with the means at hand and the nearest problems.’ The ‘score-settling’ of present racial politicks, in Mr. Berry’s opinion, does less good than old-fashioned ‘neighborliness in solving a local problem.’

From the back cover of The Need To Be Whole—‘the wealth of the mighty few governing this nation has been built on the unpaid labor of others’—you might assume that Mr. Berry is in favour of reparations for slavery, but that is not so. His argument on reparations is worth reviewing in detail, as it is a fine illustration not just of what Mr. Berry thinks but of how he thinks.

First, Mr. Berry makes the obvious point that not all white people are descended from those who benefited from slavery, and even if they were, he asks, is the iniquity of the fathers to be visited upon the children? Nor, he adds, anticipating an objection, was slavery a system which indirectly benefited all white people regardless of whether they personally owned slaves. Slavery harmed landless white labourers looking for work, and the crop-lien and share-cropping economy which succeeded slavery impoverished the mass of whites as well as blacks. As Mr. Berry stated earlier, he is well aware that race prejudice made many of the economic problems which blacks and whites shared worse for blacks, and for that matter, that those economic problems made race prejudice against blacks worse, but he remains adamant that the problems of race prejudice must not be conflated with the problems of industrial capitalism. Inasmuch as all wealth in our economy is derived from the exploitation of land and labour, Mr. Berry holds that it would be futile to attempt to identify wealth derived specifically from the exploitation of slaves, and suggests instead that reparations ‘are called for, though not exclusively to one category of people,’ and not even ‘exclusively to humans.’

Second, Mr. Berry argues that reparations as they are currently conceived—monetary payments to black people—would be worth less than self-employment, which is to say economic freedom, a precondition for the pursuit of happiness. ‘What would be repaired?’ he asks of monetary payments to black people. Well, he answers, such reparations would perhaps increase the consumption of the recipients, perhaps boosting GDP and creating some jobs, ‘and all of us, all the races, would remain as depressed and diseased, and as economically vulnerable and helpless, as we were before.’ To Mr. Berry, the reparations that are owed to all of us modern ‘slaves’—not just the descendants of chattel slaves but living ‘wage slaves’—ought to resemble the freedmen’s fabled ‘40 acres and a mule,’ which ‘would have approached as nearly as possible to an actual repair of their condition.’ (Bowing his head to the complexity of history, however, he recognises that between Southern white resistance to military occupation and Northern white division over racial equality, this particular policy was not a missed opportunity because it was never a possibility.)

Third, Mr. Berry argues that race-based reparations would be ‘ruinous’ politically. ‘It could be done only as another contest, like the Civil War, that would divide us again into winners and losers,’ he warns, ‘and along a line of difference that would be racial and racist—a disaster.’

When it comes to the resolution of conflict, Mr. Berry believes in clarity over victory. ‘Clarity is what we owe in honesty and goodwill to one another,’ he writes. ‘Victory can only divide us again into a party of winners and a party of losers, thus preparing us for further confrontation and combat.’ If we have clarity, then we can ‘know’ and ‘understand’ one another, which may not make agreement possible in every case, but will at least make empathy possible, thereby preventing disagreement from becoming destructive. Clarity is precisely what is needed to make progress on race prejudice. ‘If we hope to have clarity, we will have to submit to complexity,’ adds Mr. Berry, yet he is saddened to say that our discourse on race prejudice is conducted ‘in terms highly generalized, unexamined, and trite: bare assertions and accusations, generalizations, stereotypes, labels, gestures, slogans, and symbols.’

A significant challenge to obtaining clarity on race prejudice, writes Mr. Berry, is that it ‘cannot honestly be simplified or specialized or treated as a single subject.’ In a word, it is complex, too complex for our stunted and oversimplified ‘public language,’ which thereby stunts and oversimplifies our ‘public knowledge’ thereof. For example, words such as ‘equality,’ ‘justice,’ and ‘love’ now dominate our publick language about race prejudice, and whilst these are needed as abstractions, to give breadth to a matter, they are just as needed as particularities, to give depth to a matter. ‘Among other things it does,’ writes Mr. Berry, ‘knowledge of particular persons sets a cleansing fire to prejudices and stereotypes, which grow like weeds among our ideals and principles, so that we may see through them to actual human faces.’ To understand the necessity of particularities, Mr. Berry asks us to imagine a scene wherewith the media has made us all familiar: ‘A public demonstration—in fact a public allegory—in which the self-denominated side of love has confronted the side of hate, believing that a victory of love over hate will secure equality and justice to people who have been oppressed because of their race.’ Aside from the contradiction of a ‘side’ of ‘love’ in the abstract defining itself in opposition to a ‘side’ of ‘hate’ in the abstract—that is, hating hate, including the haters—Mr. Berry reminds us that such a conflict is only possible between people ‘who do not know each other.’ Thus, reiterates Mr. Berry, to make progress on race prejudice, we must clarify our publick knowledge, but in order to do that we must first clarify our publick language, eschewing slogans and categories of ‘love’ and ‘hate.’

Mr. Berry believes that racial conflict arises from a lack of people knowing one another, which itself arises from the loss of a human scale of living where such personal knowledge is possible. Just as Mr. Berry earlier objected to Prof. Glaude’s attribution of the death of an urban black community in Chicago to race prejudice, having witnessed the deaths of many white communities in rural Kentucky from the same social and economic forces, so Mr. Berry objects to another statement of Prof. Glaude’s that ‘fears of black men had always existed among white people,’ having himself grown up unafraid of black men (and women). ‘I wanted to tell him, for what it was worth,’ he writes, ‘that in the countryside and rural towns where I grew up and where the races knew each other familiarly, I was not taught to fear black men—which I assumed was because we white people knew black people as individuals, not as representatives of a category.’

As Mr. Berry puts it, growing up he may have never heard the term ‘race relations,’ but he was having race relations daily, and whilst there was indeed race prejudice, it was what he calls ‘casual’ and ‘customary,’ certainly not ‘categorical.’ Even with this race prejudice, he recalls, most of everyday life was effectively integrated save for schools and churches, and he regrets that the desegregation of schools came after his own education and after many of the black people in his community had already left for new jobs in the cities. What if, he wonders, instead of valuing ‘efficiency,’ ‘mobility,’ and ‘utility,’ American post-war economic policy had valued the preservation ‘land- and people-preserving communities’? Would that not have made it easier to make progress against race prejudice? Would the land and the people alike not both be healthier? This is not ‘wishful thinking,’ avers Mr. Berry, but rather another way of asking one of the most profound questions of our time: ‘How is it possible for us to subject our lives and our shared life to the determinism of unlimited economic competition and unlimited technological innovation and yet preserve the values and rights necessary to the life of the community?’

Mr. Berry naturally comes to seek clarity about the legacy of the Civil War, epitomising as it does our failure to live with one another on one land. He is skeptical of the moralistic triumphalism about the war, which he understands complexly as a tragedy which did indeed have its moral triumphs, but which was nevertheless destructive and wasteful on a scale theretofore unprecedented and thenceforth unparalleled in our history. The emancipation of the slaves and the enfranchisement of the freedmen, ‘I readily affirm as good,’ he feels obliged to clarify, but his question is ‘how much of that good is net—once we have subtracted the cost in suffering and death and grief, the devastation and the lasting impoverishment of both races in the South, the continuance of white racism and disunion, and the persistence, even the increase, of other kinds of slavery and disorder after the war.’ Although he does not consider this question to be ‘answerable,’ he states that it ought to be ‘asked’ nonetheless, not so much to ask ‘what if’ about our history but so that we may learn from our history for the future.

Alas, writes Mr. Berry, we Americans are so convinced of our own goodness, which is itself another legacy of the Civil War (here he cites Robert Penn Warren’s ‘Treasury of Virtue’) that we have no ‘notion of preventability’ when it comes to past, present, or future wars, and in those wars ‘appear never to bother with the question of net good.’ As an example of this characteristick American disregard of ‘net good,’ Mr. Berry points out that the Union’s total-war tactics against the Confederacy—‘to hurt the people, the land itself was hurt,’ he quotes from Shelby Foote—thereby hurt the four million black people living on that land, perhaps more so than the white people, as in addition to poverty they had to contend with race prejudice. ‘A full year later, an English traveler found the [Shenandoah] Valley standing empty as a moor,’ he quotes further from Foote. It was, of course, as empty of for the blacks who had lived there as it was for the whites, not to mention empty of black people themselves. ‘We will remove and destroy every obstacle, if need be, take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property, everything that to us seems proper…and we will not account to them for our acts,’ he quotes William T. Sherman, the great Union general who after the Civil War put this same theory of war to the test against the remaining free Indian tribes out west. ‘There is a straight line of logic,’ Mr. Berry returns to Warren, ‘leading from Sherman’s theory to Coventry, buzz bombs on London, the Dresden fire raid, the Tokyo fire raid, and Hiroshima.’

As a native Bluegrass Stater and like a true Agrarian, Mr. Berry’s understanding of the Civil War begins at home in Kentucky, where it is clearest to him. He denies that he is a ‘historian’ who has done ‘systematic research’ and discloses that his knowledge is a combination of ‘formal knowledge stored in books,’ such as those that he has on hand, and ‘informal knowledge of the past that is gathered from conversation and personal experience.’ His humility does him credit, yet Mr. Berry’s formal knowledge appears equal, if not superior, to that of most professional historians at present. Moreover, while formal knowledge of ‘great events’ and ‘great men’ is necessary to orient our study of history, Mr. Berry’s informal knowledge, drawn from the remembrances of family members as well as some documents of family history, enlivens that history with particulars. In any event, however much of an amateur historian Mr. Berry may be, because of his commitment to clarity and complexity, he outclasses many professionals.

The history of the Civil War which emerges in The Need To Be Whole leaves one with the sickening suspicion that the means whereby that war was won did not end what caused of the war, and may have actually worsened it. ‘It is impossible to see how the state could have emerged from that experience into any slightest opportunity for interracial reconciliation and amity when its white people were so bitterly divided amongst themselves,’ Mr. Berry sadly observes, describing the violence which dominated Kentucky during the Civil War and the high ‘threshold of violence’ which remained long thereafter. ‘It is likewise impossible to see,’ continues Mr. Berry, ‘how anybody who knows much of this history can think of it as morally simple, with all the good on the side of the North and all the evil on the side of the South.’ As an alternative to this allegorical history, Mr. Berry relates the far more morally complex history of his county during the Civil War, supplemented with some family memories. I dare say that all of us could do the same, but according to Mr. Berry, even if we are ignorant of this particular history, we still ought to have enough experience from our own lives to know better than this allegory—that is, to know that human conflicts are too complex to be divided into good versus evil, that good and evil are in conflict within every human being irrespective of geography, and that such categorical divisions are naught but prejudices.

Here, it behooves us to refer back to Daegan Miller’s review for Slate. You have just read about Mr. Berry’s earnest struggle to obtain clarity on the complex legacy of the Civil War. Yet all that Mr. Miller sees is ‘revisionist history’ that is ‘largely unburdened by historical fact’ about slavery and ‘laced with resentment’ of the ruralite for the urbanite.

‘Since, in his view, the Civil War was a battle between industrialism and agrarianism, and since he has long held that agrarianism is the path to a virtuous human place on earth,’ reasons Mr. Miller, ‘the history he ends up telling feels uncomfortably like Gone with the Wind.’ Discomfiting thoughts are, in my experience, the beginning of clarity, but evidently not to Mr. Miller, who knows that anything that reminds him of Gone with the Wind must be a myth. Speaking of myth, Mr. Miller also engages in the canard of stamping anything which contradicts what he thinks he knows about the Civil War—in a word, his prejudices—with the label ‘myth.’ For instance, sneers Mr. Miller, there is ‘the old myth of Robert E. Lee as a tragic gentleman soldier who hated slavery but fought for his love of Virginia.’ I would be curious to know not just what he thinks a myth is, but why he claims that this is a myth. Mr. Miller may not believe in ‘the gentleman-soldier,’ but was that not an ideal in Lee’s time and place, and did Lee not meet that ideal? Did Lee not hate slavery, as he said? Did Lee not fight for his love of Virginia, as he said? Is Mr. Miller so ideological that he cannot even acknowledge tragedy in the life of a defeated enemy long since dead? Irritated that Mr. Berry attributes ‘sense of place’ to the Confederate soldier, Mr. Miller goes so far as to deny that ‘the South was a region that prized a sense of place,’ because cotton and tobacco depleted the soil and displaced the people westward. Yet Southern reformers have always been aware of this problem, and Mr. Berry is but the latest a long line. One example of this tradition can be found in Taking Root: The Nature Writing of William and Adam Summer of Pomaria, edited by Prof. James E. Kibler and with a foreword by Mr. Berry. Mr. Miller ought to give it a read sometime.

Mr. Berry’s effort to clarify the complex legacy of the Civil War naturally leads him to the current controversy over Confederate monuments. I summarised Mr. Berry’s argument in my ‘Open Letter for the Arlington National Cemetery Confederate Monument’—the subject whereof has since been desecrated by the government—and so shall not further belabour that here, except to cover some material which was not included in that letter. I invite you, dear reader, to judge for yourself whether Mr. Berry is ‘utterly incurious as to why masses of Americans might find statues of Confederate generals objectionable and so be inspired to pull them down,’ as Mr. Miller complains.

Mr. Berry doubts that any clarity can come from ‘repeated contests, descended from the Civil War, that divide people into two militant sides, one entirely right, the other entirely wrong,’ and he deplores this ‘further division between winners and losers, which only leads to more polarization and the renewal of hostilities.’ If, as he believes, achieving clarity is a more effective way of resolving conflict than one side winning and the other side losing, then the controversy over Confederate monuments has been handled about as divisively—and thus destructively—as possible. In this controversy, the Civil War is not ‘a wound somehow to be healed,’ but rather, he laments, ‘to be widened and deepened by both sides as evidence of their virtue.’

Here, in my opinion, Mr. Berry sounds one of the few sour notes in The Need To Be Whole, where, trying to be non-partisan and even-handed, he really misses the truth. There is no equivalence between ‘both sides,’ none whatsoever. The anti-monument movement has the moral and material support of the main American left-wing politickal party, all mainstream American mass-media institutions, and major para-governmental organisations such as the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. The pro-monument movement, although oftentimes holding majority or at least plurality support in polls, has zero institutional support—not even from the right—and is regularly censored by social media and defamed by the news media. Accordingly, the anti-monument movement has been able to impose its will absolutely, and whether that absolute power has corrupted the anti-monument movement or merely revealed its true nature, that is the side that is doing all of the ‘widening’ and ‘deepening’ of wounds.

In addition to equating the power of ‘both sides,’ Mr. Berry equates the motives of ‘both sides.’ The anti-monument movement may identify itself as the side of ‘love’ against ‘hate,’ but as Mr. Berry wrote earlier in The Need To Be Whole, love to be love must be personal and particular, yet here it is all abstract, reducing people into categories rather than knowing them in all their complexity. Moreover, the division which the anti-monument movement makes between itself, ‘the side of love,’ and other side, ‘the side of hate,’ is absolute, allowing no complexity. Thus, their ‘love,’ in fact, tends towards ‘hatred of hate,’ and ultimately towards hatred of those categorisable as ‘haters’ themselves. It is, in a word, a prejudice, even if it professes to be an ‘anti-prejudice.’ As a criticism of the anti-monument movement, this is correct, as far as it goes, but whereas Mr. Berry is wisely sceptical of the concept of ‘a side of love,’ he seems more credulous of the pro-monument movement as ‘a side of hate.’ Yet it ought to be manifest that what motivates the pro-monument movement is not hatred, but love—love for the subjects of these monuments, our ancestors, and love for these monuments as objects, as beautiful works of art in their own right.

Mr. Berry criticises ‘both sides’ for seeing themselves as ‘entirely right’ and the other as ‘entirely wrong,’ but this criticism misses that it is the side with the institutional power—all of it—that has been utterly uncompromising, thereby turning this culture war into a reenactment of the Civil War. Why does this side not compromise by, say, offering to return these monuments to the still-active non-profits which originally entrusted them to these governments? Or by, say, raising new monuments to heretofore-marginalised historical figures to demonstrate progress, instead of insisting upon the razing of the old? The answer is that, as that side has absolute power, any compromise with the other side would necessarily be an act of good will, yet as they have categorised the other side as ‘the side of hate,’ how then could they, ‘the side of love,’ ever extend good will to hate?

Mr. Berry wishes to remind the anti-monument movement, obsessed as it is with what it believes is justice, of the forgotten virtue of forgiveness. Justice is, ideally, balanced—by, say, truth—but when justice is politicised, ‘instead of balance there comes a sort of rhythm of retributions passing back and forth between two hostile sides.’ Forgiveness, by contrast, makes the forgiver as well as the forgiven whole—that is, wholly human. Herein lies the meaning of the book’s title. When we forgive, we not only recognise the actual sins in others, but also the potential sins in ourselves, and thereby wholly embrace our humanity whilst leaving justice to God. In other words, to Mr. Berry, to err is human, and to forgive even more so.

To illustrate the redemptive power of forgiveness, Mr. Berry uses himself as an example. Once, he was invited to a meeting at Duke University, where he came across a statue of James B. Duke, whom he had been unaware was the namesake of that institution. The school may have known Duke as an industrialist-turned-philanthropist who was its benefactor, but Mr. Berry knew Duke as the head of the ‘Tobacco Trust’ which, in the early 1900s, monopolised the tobacco market, putting small tobacco farmers like Mr. Berry’s family out of business. Duke, Mr. Berry writes with palpable feeling, ‘embodied and enacted the “right” of concentrated wealth to prey upon and destroy the people and the land communities of rural America, a “right” that members of my family have done all in their power to oppose for the last hundred years.’ As Mr. Berry stood before the statue of Duke, ‘troubled’ as he was to remember the ‘grief’ and ‘fear’ that his family felt because of that man, he also felt ‘clarified.’ As he describes it, ‘That confrontation made plainer to me than before the actuality of that man, his life and fortune, our mutual history, and the difference between us.’ More importantly, that confrontation with a statue of his enemy forced Mr. Berry to ask himself whether he could forgive his enemy. ‘Maybe so,’ he says with admirable honesty. ‘And so,’ he concludes his story, ‘I do not have the least wish for that statue to be removed or for Duke University to change its name,’ although he notes that some at the school do wish to rename it and remove the statue, not because of how Duke impoverished small farmers of all races, but because his father owned slaves.

Yet lest he be misunderstood, Mr. Berry does not consider the Confederates to be his enemies. ‘Who were the Confederate soldiers?’ he asks. Mostly, he answers, they were ‘country people’ and ‘poor whites,’ that is, ‘the missing persons of the now fashionable urban-academic-liberal history of the Civil War and of the South before and after.’ They were also, he avows, patriots, fighting rather humbly for their ‘homes’ and ‘home country’ against total warfare. It is a tragedy, reflects Mr. Berry, that this patriotic defence of homeland was complicated by a defence of slavery, and likewise that the defeat of patriotism by nationalism was complicated by the defeat of slavery.

Those who do not see this history as a tragedy, however, and who do see the Confederates as their enemy, have, warns Mr. Berry, turned themselves into ‘war propagandists looking for a war, relishing the division of people into abstract or stereotypic categories of Good and Evil, placing themselves among the Good—the Good, as ever in such divisions, being divested of imagination, sympathy, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and thus another version of evil.’ As a matter of fact, Mr. Berry admits some astonishment at the present lack of empathy towards Confederates. ‘One might think,’ he writes, ‘that to consider the involvement of human love in history, and from that to make some offering of imagination and sympathy, would be almost second nature to modern Americans, who have made “empathy” one of their commonest bywords.’

If nothing else, declares Mr. Berry, the anti-monument movement ought to know, ‘You can’t clear your conscience by destroying the evidence.’ Such a conscience-clearing cover-up, Mr. Berry gives as an example, is the politickally correct bowdlerisation of ‘My Old Kentucky Home.’ In that song, written by Stephen Foster in 1853, the speaker is a slave who has been sold off to a proto-industrial plantation and is reminiscing about his earlier life on a small family farm. Foster’s song is ‘as fine, as fully imagined, and as moving as it needs to be,’ writes Mr. Berry, and is ‘a perfect indictment’ of slavery by showing rather than telling. Foster’s imagery of agrarian life in Kentucky, as recalled bittersweetly by the sold-off slave, is beautiful, hence why the state adopted it in 1928, but at the same time the song ‘as written, can lead us into a critical examination of our history that may be of some use.’ Yet whenever the song is performed today, such as before the Kentucky Derby, its lyrics have been rewritten to remove the word ‘darkies’—mere slang then, a dire slur now—thereby erasing the identity of the speaker and the story being told, reducing the song to sheer sentimentality. Mr. Berry calls this a ‘characteristic wish to substitute public relations for history,’ and adds that it is not merely ‘characteristic’ of Kentuckians but of all Americans.

‘If we are embarrassed by our past, which in fact is sufficiently embarrassing, we can forget it or ignore it, if we can just get rid of the visible or public reminders of it,’ Mr. Berry writes of this American characteristick. ‘Once the reminders are silenced or swept away, they can be replaced by an unembarrassed show of righteousness and modernity, as if we of the twenty-first century have been made vastly superior to our forebears merely by the omnipotence of progress and the passage of time.’ Mr. Berry is having none of this self-congratulatory moral complacency, however. ‘We are in significant ways worse than our forebears,’ he states unsettlingly, then adds with sarcasm, ‘If “we” had been born white south of the Ohio during slavery, “we” would have owned no slaves.’ By ‘obscuring the real complexities, ambiguities, and enigmas of our history by way of silence, ignorance, and the clichés of progress and self-righteousness,’ he continues, we have reduced our history ‘to an allegorical battle of Good versus Evil, in which “we” of course are now, and always would have been, on the side of Good.’

Speaking of this historical ignorance and moralistic arrogance, it again behooves us to return to Daegan Miller’s review for Slate. You have just read about Mr. Berry’s interpretation of ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ as an anti-slavery song. For giving credence to the song’s assumption that the slave had anything to long for in his old Kentucky home, however, Mr. Miller compares The Need To Be Whole to Gone with the Wind. For example, he accuses Mr. Berry of claiming ‘that slavery would have been a relationship of mutual affection between owner and owned, that an enslaved person would “emerge from the abstraction of market value to become a known person, known moreover as a member of the farm’s community of humans and other creatures.”’ As you just read, what Mr. Berry actually wrote was that this was a potentiality of slavery which was expressed in the song, in contrast to another potentiality which was also expressed in the song, and that however much the former may have been realised, the very existence of the latter made slavery immoral nonetheless. ‘He posits that abuse and cruelty must have been rare, because such treatment would have “wasted time” and that, after the day’s work was done, enslaved people were “relatively free” to venture as they wished,’ continues Mr. Miller. What Mr. Berry actually wrote is that whatever the everyday reality of slavery was like cannot redeem it because of what was worst in it, but that to understand slavery only in terms of what was worst in it is no less false.

‘We solved the one great problem of slavery while ignoring every issue raised by our manner of doing so,’ Mr. Berry writes of the outcome of the Civil War, and ‘when the slaves were “freed” we resorted to an industrial system that exploits and enslaves people in other ways for other purposes, leaving them stranded and hopeless.’ The former half of that statement refers to the constitutional and legal problems from the Civil War, such as executive encroachment upon the powers of the legislature and judiciary. The latter half of this statement refers to the victory of Industrialism over Agrarianism, which has left us uprooted and unfree, the ‘American Dream’ defined downwards from independent self-employment to mere employment and dependence upon an employer. According to Mr. Berry, one form of slavery thereby replaced another, and whilst the sin of slavery was abolished, the sins in slavery—pride, sloth, and greed—were not, and as a matter of fact became the values of American capitalism.

These sins amount to a prejudice against work—that is, against physical labour, and by extension those who do that work. Mr. Berry terms this the ‘Calhounian division of work,’ referring to a conversation between John C. Calhoun and John Quincy Adams about the Missouri Crisis.

In the spring of 1820, Adams, then serving as Secretary of State, described in his diary a conversation which he had with the Secretary of War Calhoun on their walk home. Calhoun granted to Adams that the ‘principles’ of equality which he had just avowed in a Cabinet meeting were ‘just and noble,’ but explained that in the South such principles were ‘always understood as applying only to white men.’ The ‘prejudice’ against labour was such, he said, that it would be a scandal if he were to keep free whites rather than black slaves as servants in his house. Adams answered that ‘this confounding of the ideas of servitude and labor…was one of the bad effects of slavery.’ Calhoun clarified that it did not apply to all labour, only the most ‘degrading’ fit for blacks and unfit for whites. Slavery, according to him, was thus ‘the best guarantee to equality among the whites.’ Adams’ reply was that ‘it is in truth all perverted sentiment—mistaking labor for slavery, and dominion for freedom.’ Contra Calhoun’s claim that slavery guaranteed white equality, Adams argued that the prejudice against labour which underlaid slavery degraded those white people who owned no slaves and did that labour themselves—‘the plain freemen who labor for subsistence’—a category which encompassed most Southerners as well as Yankees.

Mr. Berry observes with irony that whilst the slavery which Calhoun was defending to Adams has been abolished, this ‘Calhounian division of work’ has triumphed in our economy and society. ‘We all, black and white together,’ opines Mr. Berry, ‘want to be John C. Calhoun.’ With the progress of industrialised agriculture, ‘not just a master class but now everybody now would live, like the Calhouns, free of the degrading work of farming and land husbandry.’ Yet in enslaving others to do the ‘degrading’ labour for us, we have thereby enslaved ourselves, observes Mr. Berry, as we have become dependent upon others and thereby deprived of the happiness that Agrarians such as him have experienced from such work.

With this prejudice against work, which breaks the bond between a people and their land, patriotism (which Mr. Berry, invoking the historian John Lukacs, distinguishes from nationalism) is uprooted. What has replaced patriotism in this ‘nation without a country,’ according to Mr. Berry, is ‘anti-patriotism,’ a term which is not merely synonymous with ‘un-patriotic,’ but which he borrows from Lukacs for a particularly nasty kind of nationalism that sees its own country and countrymen as enemies. The conflict between ‘Republicans’ and ‘Democrats’ is a conflict which each side claims to be one of patriotism versus un-patriotism but which is, in fact, a conflict between enemy anti-patriotisms. Mr. Berry admits that for most of his life he viewed the Republicans as the anti-patriots, deploring the harm that their ‘corporate greed’ did to the land and those living upon it. Over time, he came to see that this greed was more urban than merely corporate, but it was not until the Democrats’ reaction to Donald Trump that Mr. Berry saw their anti-patriotism. Mr. Berry uses the work of Paul Krugman in the New York Times and Jonathan Taplin in Harper’s Magazine to represent this elite liberal anti-patriotism, but he also might have cited Nathaniel Rich, whose commentary on rural America and rural Americans in the New York Review of Books Mr. Berry found so prejudiced that he wrote that magazine a withering letter to the editor.

‘The conversation between Adams and Calhoun is essential to the sense of this book, but my disapproval of Calhoun’s view of slavery should not be taken to mean that I join in the currently fashionable demonization of all Southern apologists for slavery,’ explains Mr. Berry. ‘Like many humans who have been eminently in the wrong,’ adds Mr. Berry, ‘Calhoun had some qualities that were admirable.’ Indeed, one such quality being that Calhoun, despite his prejudices, was in Lukacsian terms a patriot who strove to preserve the Union through the concurrence of its constituents, and an enemy to the anti-patriots of his day striving for the consolidation or dissolution of the Union. What is admirable about Calhoun is what belonged to him and what still speaks to us today, whereas what is unadmirable about him is what belonged to his time and his place and cannot speak to us today.

Considering the ‘demonization’ which Mr. Berry acknowledges, however, it bears comment that the view of slavery which Calhoun expressed to Adams was not peculiar to himself. It was Adams who, historically, had the view of slavery that was peculiar to himself. Mr. Berry argues that the American tendency to divide our past into categories of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and to bring those categories into the present in a perennial moral dialectick is destructive, and if that is so, then it would behoove him not to use Calhoun’s name as an eponym for the sins that have been the cause of slavery throughout human history, from the time of Abraham of Ur to Abraham of Springfield. Using language like ‘Calhounian’ for pride, sloth, and greed only affirms commonplace prejudices about the moral categories of American history.

In closing, a note about the audiobook. It begins with the following disclaimer. ‘Because hearing certain slurs aloud carries a different weight than reading them on the page, some alterations have been made from the printed text.’

Considering how little our censorious politickal culture cares about context, I do not blame Mr. Offerman for not wanting to be recorded saying ‘the n-word,’ but I assumed that it would simply be abbreviated. As I listened to the audiobook, however, I felt that certain lines of thought were incomplete. When I would reread my physical copy of the book to take notes, I occasionally encountered pages and pages to which I did not remember listening. It was not long before I realised that rather than simply abbreviating the n-word, any section of the book where the n-word appeared had been expurgated altogether. This is a travesty, for these comprise some of the most interesting parts of The Need To Be Whole. Obviously, this is unacceptable, and for that reason alone I cannot endorse the audiobook of The Need To Be Whole.

In no small irony, Mr. Berry anticipated the mentality that led to these extreme editorial excisions. Writing of the contemporary ‘dumbfoundment of the language of race relations,’ Mr. Berry remarks of the n-word, ‘We regard it as people once regarded Biblical or Homeric signs and omens, as if the use of it may bring years of misfortune, the death of a family member, or defeat in war.’ This passage remains in the audiobook, but the five pages that followed it are removed. Therein, Mr. Berry responds to an article from the New York Review of Books asking whether William Faulkner is worth reading anymore due to his usage of the n-word. Because Faulkner’s usage of the n-word was duly quoted, the audiobook has answered this question for us: No.

Mr. Berry’s sympathy for the Confederate soldier and Robert E. Lee is certainly the most superficially controversial aspect of The Need To Be Whole. No one enjoys having his or her prejudices challenged, of course, but what his critics have missed is how he also challenges the prejudices of people like, well, you and me. I, who have a framed photograph of a monument of Lee and me on my bookshelf, had to put down the book and think when I read the following: ‘It is merely the truth that slavery set a limit on kindness and removed any limit on unkindness, as Lee himself demonstrated when he served as executor of his father-in-law’s estate.’ I had never heard it put that way before. Can Daegan Miller claim to have experienced any such doubts himself?

The legacy of the Civil War is just one aspect of The Need To Be Whole, however, and not even the most radical aspect at that. What are most radical are the ideals, whither Mr. Berry returns throughout the book, of community, clarity, and complexity. Community, to him, means a people who belong to one another, a people who belong to a place, and a place that belongs to a people. Clarity, to him, means ceasing the combative mode of politicks and, instead, making a good-faith effort to know and understand other human beings. Complexity, to him, means doing away with slogans and euphemisms which, by simplifying a conflict, degrade our ability to think clearly about it, and by polarising a conflict, degrade our ability to feel for the other side (them, the ‘side of hate’—as opposed to us, ‘the side of love).

Mr. Berry’s conclusion, of course, is not that we all ought to become farmers, as some critics have facetiously objected throughout his career. ‘The hardworking Amish farm he describes certainly sounds lovely,’ Kirkus wrote in its review, ‘but his prescription that we somehow build a country from that kind of model is as impractical as any bureaucratic approach he has railed against in the past.’ Such a critique, to put it politely, misunderstands Mr. Berry, who is not even Amish himself and so can scarcely be said to expect us to be Amish. To represent Agrarianism, Mr. Berry describes an Amish dairy farm, where several generations of a family work together to take care of a few cows. To represent Industrialism, he describes a factory farm, where anonymous masses of migrant workers (increasingly machine-replaced) process even greater masses of cows. His description of that Amish farm is indeed so ‘lovely’ that it moved me to start buying ‘Organic Valley’ (the farmers’ cooperative whereto that family belongs), which, as a matter of fact, is an example of one very easy change that we can make in our lives instead of, say, becoming Amish: Either help or do no harm to authentic Agrarians. Other changes that we can make in our lives are to cultivate a sense of belonging to a people and place, practise a politicks based on problem-solving and consensus-building, and speak a publick language healthful to publick knowledge.

As small as it seems, being in Industrialism but not of Industrialism is simply the best that most of us can do for the time being. What Mr. Berry calls ‘the unsettling of America’ was a generations-long social and economic process, the product of deliberate government policies disguised as determinism, to turn agri-culture into agri-business, a big business divorced from any authentic agrarian culture that sustained a land and a people. Industrialism, perversely, took root in a prejudice against work, which itself had taken root in a prejudice against race. It took generations to un-settle Agrarian America and it will take generations to re-settle it, if at all. In the meantime, as we re-learn to live with the land, we must re-learn to live with each other, which is what The Need To Be Whole is all about—how prejudices of all kinds have politickally unsettled us, and how patriotism, a love of the land whereon we live and of all that lives thereon, can resettle us.

James Rutledge Roesch

James Rutledge Roesch is a businessman and an amateur writer. He lives in Florida with his wife, daughter, and dog.


  • Harto says:

    Thank you for this review. I was introduced to Mr. Berry’s work (as well as the Southern Agrarians) by a professor in college – a traditional Catholic, Jeffersonian conservative, and all-around excellent human being. I credit his timely intervention with helping to quickly steer me away from the schoolboy leftism that afflicts so many college students.

    After reading this review, I will need to make a point to acquire Mr. Berry’s latest work in the near future.

  • R R Schoettker says:

    Excellent article Mr. Roesch, I also have never actually read Mr. Berry but I may begin with this book, if I can find it in this ‘cancelling’ obsessed society.

    • Harto says:

      I highly recommend Mr. Berry’s work. “What Are People For” is one of his most popular works if you’re looking for a starting point.

    • Dan says:

      Any of Mr. Berry’s works are an excellent place to start, but “What Are People For” is most frequently suggested as a solid introduction to his essays.

    • Harto says:

      Oh dear. I apologize for the bevy of duplicate responses. I commented this morning, but after almost the entire day the comments hadn’t yet appeared, so I assumed that something about my username caused the comments to get locked in “pending” status. Of course after I rewrote them, the original comments appeared. Just my luck!

  • scott Thompson says:

    ….American post-war economic policy …if this means getting a central power to do it, then I don’t think that was ever the plan and would be bad. state level issue. and this gem, ‘We will remove and destroy every obstacle, if need be, take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property, everything that to us seems proper…and we will not account to them for our acts,’ he quotes William T. Sherman, the great Union general who after the Civil War put this same theory of war to the test against the remaining free Indian tribes out west”….virtue? this is gangsterism and psychopathy. this is the result of central domination.

  • Dan says:

    Mr. Roesch,

    Thank you for the excellent review. I was introduced to Mr. Berry’s work (as well as the Southern Agrarians) by a particularly remarkable professor – a traditional Catholic and Jeffersonian conservative – when I was in college. I credit his timely intervention with helping to guide me away from the schoolboy leftism that afflicts so many college students. I will need to make a point to pick up Mr. Berry’s latest work.

  • Valerie Protopapas says:

    At 82, what I see here is not general arguments regarding a sensitive issue being brought to light, but the fact that today, alas, we as thinking people are not permitted to think “outside the politically correct box.” We are forced to believe the acceptable narrative ~ whatever that is! ~ or pay the consequences whether we are authors of books, reviewers or readers. In all of the kerfuffle about “race,” few look to see how that identity has played out over the long years of human development. Why? Because it is not permitted. Again why? Because to do so puts to death the claim that everything is the fault of (European) whites and that every other race or ethnic group on the planet would be living in a perpetual Eden were it not for said Europeans.

    Today Haiti is in the news again and whenever Haiti is in the news, it’s never good. Of course, the failure of this “black” nation is attributed to natural disasters ~ hurricanes, earthquakes etc. ~ but there can be no doubt that other nations in that geographic locality do not live as Haiti has lived since its inception. And, of course, no one is allowed to even suggest the obvious reason for this even more obvious failure to thrive. Why? Because it tends to point out ~ just as does the history of African nations ~ that this forbidden issue cannot be changed or overcome by words or opinions. As a political wag once pointed out, “if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, IT’S A DUCK! and no amount of trying to force reality into the desired narrative will prevail ~ that is, until reality itself has been made illegal by people who believe men can bear children!

    The mere fact that both Mr. Berry and his defenders must use so many words and concepts to try to “explain” something that knowledge of events makes abundantly clear shows that we have all become very sensitive to the rejection of the truth that has become global in our present “civilization.” We will NEVER overcome this until we stop personifying people as RACES. People are people. Good people are good people whatever their race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Bad people exhibit the same dynamics. If you cannot without fear openly proclaim the FBI’s report on crime statistics in the United States, if you constantly must refer to mobs of violent people as “youths,” and “teenagers” when so many of them are obviously adults, if your local police departments are sensitive not to crime or the victims of crime but how their involvement in any crime is seen by the media with relationship to the CRIMINAL, then nothing written however carefully and truthfully is going to be accepted, period.

    I cannot help but wonder how much easier it would have been to read and review ~ never mind write! ~ Mr. Berry’s book if all we had to do was to be literate, accurate and, above all, TRUTHFUL. As long as we continue to play with the race card, matters will never get better!

    • Harto says:

      Ms. Protopapas, you stated:

      “We will NEVER overcome this until we stop personifying people as RACES. People are people. Good people are good people whatever their race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Bad people exhibit the same dynamics.”

      This is true. Ultimately most racial identification rests on collectivist logic, that is, that individuals are defined by group characteristics rather than individual merit. It is natural for humans to stereotype based on any number of criteria, and indeed, we are conditioned to make snap judgements. This is not, in itself, inherently wrong; after all, it is normal to instantly suspect that the shady individual peering ominously out of a dark alleyway in the wee hours of the morning may be up to something nefarious, and that we should avoid approaching him. However, when it comes to uncontrollable circumstances of birth, such as race, I believe one should exercise more discretion when making such snap judgements.

      • Valerie Protopapas says:

        My problem here is not the obvious human tendency to see people as groups rather than individuals ~ sad as that is! ~ but the fact that this tendency has so affected our civilization that truth itself has been rendered unacceptable if it violates some aspect of that tendency. ANYTHING THAT SILENCES THE TRUTH IS EVIL AND WILL LEAD TO THE END OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION. This includes attempts to prevent “hate speech” (something that really means speech we hate to hear rather than speech motivated by hate!) and any use of emotional responses to silence what people don’t want to hear, see and/or believe. As long as we are silenced because the truth we speak is not wanted in the culture, you may rest assured that the culture is wicked.

        • Harto says:

          Well said. We have no freedom of speech if we cannot speak the truth, even if that truth makes some uncomfortable. Contrary to popular leftist opinion, hiding controversial and difficult topics behind the threat of social ostracization does not eliminate them from our consciousness. It simply allows them to bubble and boil beneath the surface and risk causing far more harm than if we had simply addressed said topics head on.

  • Barbara says:

    It seems that this book was written about a culture that has been engineered. The word “racist” is an invented word, invented by Marx I believe. Clearly it was invented to be used against white people since according to the culture only white people can be racist.

    I believe it is perfectly natural and desirable to see other races as “the other” and I don’t have a problem with it. Thinking otherwise seems to be to be a reaction to the cultural engineering. White people must create an agenda of “proving I’m not racist” as a result of the constant and continual accusations that we’re racist and anti-semitic. When white people do that then suddenly we are neutralized and other races run all over us. Our forefathers never intended for this country to be diverse. Why should the borders of every white country be open? And only white nations?

    We’re funding and supporting Israel’s genocide of Palestinians and I never hear Jews labeled as racist. They’re allowed to defend their borders and not only that but they’re always moving them and crowding the Palestinians out.

    I believe that White Homelands Matter. Our borders should be closed and all non whites deported with the exception of the descendants of blacks slaves and of course the American Indian who are here legally. We never consented to any other non whites.

    In the early 1900s a boatload of Jewish children were brought to our shores and Americans said no, they could not come here. Later a shipload of Jewish adults came here to escape Hitler and they too were turned away. We never consented for them to come here.

    Our current culture is not organic or natural. It has been created and engineered. The Jew owns and control all major propaganda machines. So Berry’s book is a reaction to a culture that is most unnatural because it was created for the purpose of poisoning us and destroying us. I’m glad I don’t have anything to prove. And those who fear speaking freely are victims of psychological warfare. And with good reason. People’s lives are destroyed everyday if they dare go against the powers that be and you should remember that people who wage psychological warfare against you are not your friends. Whomever you fear to criticize is who rules over you.

    • Sam McGowan says:

      Racist, racism, etc. are from the 1930s.

    • J. L. Allen says:


      When I read comments such as these, it makes me hesitant to share Abbeville articles with people who are contrary to the South. Truth be told, I find your comment pitifully ill-conceived and with a diminished telos of thought. First, let me address the ill-conceived nature of your comment before addressing the diminished telos.

      You begin by speaking of the engineering of culture. I agree with you in so far as I understand you. All culture is engineered, in a manner of speaking. Most of the time, this happens organically as the intrinsic development of likes and dislikes amongst individuals, families, clans, and regions shapes what we call culture. It is natural to us and brings forth beautiful fruit of diversity despite our having a monogenesis in Adam and Eve. Of course, sin also factors into these things, bearing customs contrary to God and man. However, there is a purposeful engineering, which I believe you are getting at, that seeks to dismantle traditions deemed verboten by hostile ideologues. I believe these people are inherently Marxist in their thought process and worldview.

      However, let us be clear about one thing in your opening comment: Marx did not invent the word race in order to attack white people. That is absurd and greatly misunderstands history. It is the equivalent of saying to a Darwinian evolutionist, “You believe we are descended from monkeys!” Saying such is a great way to show those who hold to such ideologies that you fail to understand their ideology. Karl Marx was German (yes, of Jewish heritage, which is not what causes his condemnable, evil philosophical invention). Friedrich Engels was also German. These men were, in other words, white. Has Marxism been used as a framework by which all other critical theories are rooted? Yes. However, Marx would not recognize his Hegelian-influenced philosophy and worldview in modern woke movements.

      To your next comment about what is “natural and desirable” when considering those of differing ethnic backgrounds. As a side note, I find it interesting that you use the word “race” which you state just above as an invention of Marx (or at least Marxists) to keep whites down. The word “race” has a much deeper history predating Marx by hundreds of years. Yes, I grant that the usage does start to change in the 1800s, but it is probably better associated with the changing views of biology (applied to society) with Darwin’s publications in the 1850s. But back to the point at hand. While I agree with you that seeing “others” is natural and, in some measure, good, it is not an excuse to necessarily separate based upon these things. I lament globalism and the loss of regional distinctives, but this has more to do with technological changes outpacing our ability to adapt or appropriate them.

      While it is true that our forefathers in this land (North America at large) did not foresee global diversity within one massive state (nation), they did not necessarily see it as a white haven for all European peoples either. The division of European peoples has been long, complicated, and bloody. Arguably, the most dangerous place to grow up and live in the first half of the 20th century was Western Europe. Adolf Hitler (and other European leaders or of European descent) is responsible for more deaths of European peoples than anyone else ever. So the idea of some sort of white harmony is a demonstrably false ideal and is samely applied to all broader ethnic groups. North America may have the only two nations, USA and Canada (to a lesser extent Australia and New Zealand), that have whites commonly grouped statistically, which is a novel thought. By the way, moderating what you are saying with better facts, groundings, and a better future outlook does not mean we advocate for open borders or something else foolish.

      I’ll not comment at length upon the issue of Israel’s complicated history. The only thing I will say is that, regardless of what you or anyone else thinks of Israel existing as a sovereign nation, Hamas and other terrorist groups deserve elimination and their ideologies excised from practice anywhere in the world. May God bring such groups to their just deserts. I’ll skip over the comment about deportation of all non-whites (with exception) at this time.

      I will comment on the boats carrying refugees from Nazi Germany to say that, I find the lack of compassion given the circumstances to be troubling. I gather you believe in Jewishness as a deeper problem behind greater movements of global powers (you may deny or defend, but I say as much now in my assessment), but that does not account for, even granting what I gather you hold concerning Jews, the fact that most Jews are not movers and shakers of major global themes. The history for the distrust of Jews is long and complicated, and, unfortunately, vitriol from both sides (Jew and Gentile, meaning all other people on the planet not Jewish) makes the conversation about such a topic undesirable here. I’ll say this, though. Many Jews fought and died to defend the Southland and all that she stands for. I’m not sure if you are a Christian, but I am. Christianity is the only explanation for the worth of any human being anywhere at any time with any ability or inability. That is because of the “imago Dei,” which every human being possesses. Turning away people to their doom in order to keep out the alien is a denial of the image of God in man. Again, such truth acted upon does not necessitate open borders. Do not mistake what I am saying.

      This is where I’ll address the telos. I’ll not address your last paragraph with regards to Jews and an engineered culture as I believe I have sufficiently addressed those things above. I’ll just offer this word of caution. You do have something to prove. We all do. You are proving it here. You seem scared of the changes happening around you and the erosion of the familiar vestiges of a world gone by. I don’t blame you for that if that is the case, and I believe it is the case. I’m scared, too. We live in an alarming time. We all have something to prove because we seek to be known by others and to know others. God created us as communal beings to live amongst one another, despite our differences. We also have something to prove, so to speak, before God’s throne of judgment. Either we stand on our own merit before God (fatal mistake for there is no amount of merit to expunge us of our sin in Adam and all the acting transgression therefrom) or we stand solely upon the merit of Christ on our behalf.

      Look, the South was right. However, the South lost. Yet even if she had gained her freedom, and the reforms and maturation necessary to create a free Confederacy had been achieved, we would still be looking at the erosion of our tradition and values. Not only this, but we would still have to all stand before God. Therefore, where is our hope?

      • Harto says:

        Mr. Allen, you stated:

        “The division of European peoples has been long, complicated, and bloody… So the idea of some sort of white harmony is a demonstrably false ideal and is samely applied to all broader ethnic groups. North America may have the only two nations, USA and Canada (to a lesser extent Australia and New Zealand), that have whites commonly grouped statistically, which is a novel thought.”

        This is very true, and the fictitious “pan-European” identity – often expressed by the slogan “no more brother wars” – is perhaps one of the oddest and most ahistorical concepts to arise out of the modern alt-right. If one were to step back in time and attempt to apply this concept to, say, a feuding German and Frenchman, they may, in fact, find themselves briefly united in their common confusion at the time traveler’s nonsensical logic, before promptly returning to their centuries-long feud.

        Also, I thank you for your sensible Christian witness tempered by common sense. Certainly we cannot fling open the borders as you correctly stated, but we, as Christians, must see the image of God in His creation, including the other. It is right and just to extend a helping hand when we can.

      • Barbara says:

        I stated that Marx invented the word “racist”, not race. And he did.

        I believe that the founders did indeed intend this country to be for their posterity. Clearly diversity does not work and if you change the demographics you change the country. Every civilization that was built by whites was destroyed as a result of bringing in non white slaves who eventually destroyed the civilization.

        If either you or Harto and others like you wish to help non whites you can become missionaries and go sacrifice your lives for them. But you do not have the right to rely upon the government or open the borders of this country and allow them to come in so that they can have better lives.

        Jehovah is simply a Jewish pagan god. I was saved on March the 11th, 1956 and have lived a Christian life but I no longer believe. I’ve learned a little about the European, white gods Odin and Thor and the rest of those gods and I like them a lot better than the Jew god.

        Thank you for your response though, I can see that you are sincere and seem to be a very nice person. But the fact is we should be allowed to discuss anything. There should be no sacred cows. A generation ago nobody would have thought of expressing the idea that there are more than two sexes but today it’s common for people to make the claim that you are whatever you believe you are. There are even litter boxes in some schools for children who identify as cats. When it becomes safe to speak the facts and truth about Jews everybody will speak out.

        The fact that people become frightened when even saying the word Jew is the result of their continual propaganda and psychological warfare. Stop enthroning them. When I was a child and went to Sunday School or Bible School I learned to love Jesus. Remarkably, I still love Jesus although it’s not logical. At the same time I learned about Jesus I learned from Corrie Ten Boom about the poor innocent Jews and their holohoax. I overcame that belief too. But still having love for Jesus shows the power of what children are taught and how it remains with them all their lives. Hillbillies are attacked daily on the internet. I recently had an encounter with Mark Chrispen Miller on his substack. For no reason he posted a photo of two Alabama women protesting during the struggle against desegregation and he did it for no reason but to attack southerners. If we deal with this stuff all the time then why shouldn’t we be allowed to discuss the actions of the Jews in our country? We should have as much freedom of speech as they do whether or not they like what we say.

        • THT says:

          @Barbara: “If either you or Harto and others like you wish to help non whites you can become missionaries and go sacrifice your lives for them. But you do not have the right to rely upon the government or open the borders of this country and allow them to come in so that they can have better lives.”

          First of all, Harto and others have not even remotely argued for the right to have government allow illegal immigrants in order to better their lives. Gigantic straw man.

          But, entertaining the straw man, that would imply that you seem to be saying that you, and others like you, have the right to rely on the government to close the borders and disallow them to come in so they have worse lives.

          Now, see, that negation would most certainly make me the target of vitriol and diatribes of anti-whiteness and anti-borders. However, I make that statement to analyze the issue further.

          Borders are a natural phenomenon of property. Property violations need not be discussed here as they are obvious, so I will deduce quickly in saying there can be no “open immigration” if a “property border” exists. However, the issue lies in the ownership of the property. When ownership of borders/property is public, it becomes the subject of redistributive politics. Harto, nor others like him, nor you nor others like you, have any rights and any say as to what the USG does. You may think you do because you get to vote. But your vote is about as valuable as a grain of sand at the beach. That is, you have no right to rely on the USG to do anything for you. The USG, however, has the right to tell you what to rely on. You can only rely on the USG to count votes, even if they are counterfeit, and to create credit, i.e. “print money”, even if it is counterfeit.

          Cultures are shared by means of exchange, transactions, and trade, thus cultures are exposed to each other and they inevitably will change as they absorb elements from each other. They tend to change more at the property borders where they converge. They can “change” peacefully and voluntarily or they can be dismantled forcefully and politically. Now, what we are seeing is just pure politics, that is dismantling.

          I would not say that your views on “white” have less value than “non-white”. That is simply your subjective value. If you value lower amounts of melanin produced in gene expression and wish to preserve it in your progeny, that is not a vice, nor a sin. It is completely acceptable and I logically and emphatically welcome and embrace such views. Nor would I dare to argue that genetics do not contribute to cultural elements. That is a lost argument. However, I can validly argue that “white” is not “a culture”. If it is, then “white culture” has historically shown to be highly volatile and unstable as it has warred against itself throughout history.

          And Valerie Protopapas brought up some interesting information on who coined the word “racism”. You may want to read it.

          • Harto says:


            Thank you for your words on behalf. I thought my words were sufficiently clear to show that I do not advocate flinging open the borders and crying “come one, come all,” to anyone who cares to march in, but perhaps not.

            I wanted to address your statement here:

            “Borders are a natural phenomenon of property. Property violations need not be discussed here as they are obvious, so I will deduce quickly in saying there can be no “open immigration” if a “property border” exists. However, the issue lies in the ownership of the property. When ownership of borders/property is public, it becomes the subject of redistributive politics.”

            This is a splendid explanation of the value in a private property-based order. Privatized borders erases questions of “open immigration” by limiting access to the property (that is, the community in this case) to the sole decision of the property holder. In essence, it makes migration a solely consent-based proposition, by both the party seeking to migrate, and the party holding the property to which the prospective migrant wishes to travel.

            In addition, you stated:

            “I would not say that your views on “white” have less value than “non-white”. That is simply your subjective value. If you value lower amounts of melanin produced in gene expression and wish to preserve it in your progeny, that is not a vice, nor a sin. It is completely acceptable and I logically and emphatically welcome and embrace such views.”

            Once again, I must agree. Every human being experiences some form of in-group preference, however what precisely the in-group entails varies from person to person. It could be racial, of course, but it could also be based on shared religion, language, economic status, life experiences, or any number of factors. One in-group preference is not intrinsically better or worse than any other. All humans have the natural right of free association and should be able to choose their preferred company freely. I would say where the evil enters is when the state compels – or prevents – certain forms of association regardless of individual preference. Forced integration is just as much a negative as forced segregation, as both deny the individual his right to associate freely and threaten his liberties with state reprisal.

        • Harto says:

          Ms. Barbara, you stated:

          “Jehovah is simply a Jewish pagan god. I was saved on March the 11th, 1956 and have lived a Christian life but I no longer believe. I’ve learned a little about the European, white gods Odin and Thor and the rest of those gods and I like them a lot better than the Jew god.”

          This is a deeply regrettable belief, and I am sorry to hear that you have surrendered the salvation of Jesus Christ in favor of the false promises and dead gods of Nordic folklore. Too often “I’ll pray for you” is thrown out as a catty insult, so trust that I have no ill intent when I tell you that I will pray for your soul.

  • Sam McGowan says:

    I would take Deagan Miller and anything he has to say with a grain of salt. He’s a far-leftist from New England who hates the South and everyone in it. He’s a fan of Berry because Berry is also a leftist. As for Berry being a “farmer,” he’s more a rural writer who wrote about gardening and the environment and who was heavily involved in protests. I doubt that his family was affected much by the War Between the States since they lived in north central Kentucky, not the Bluegrass or the Purchase. They were not in the Black Patch either.

    As far as the monument issue and other things happening today, they’re the result of left-wing infiltration of the academic world and the teaching of, particularly African, myth as fact. Academia, particularly history, is heavily influenced by New England schools, specifically Harvard and Yale. I once had a conversation with a NPS ranger who was a graduate of the University of North Carolina. He told me that history is written by Northerners and they see the South as inconsequential. He didn’t say it, but they think America was founded at Plymouth with the Mayflower Compact rather than at Jamestown and Williamsburg with the House of Burgess. By the way, blacks weren’t enfranchised by the war, they were enfranchised by Radical Republicans from states where blacks weren’t even allowed to vote.

    • William Quinton Platt III says:

      No northern State ever bought freedom for a slave…they just passed laws to rid the State of black labor in order for the State to attract more free White labor. Northern States gave ample notice to owners so the owners would be able to sell their stock at market prices, unaffected by a sudden surplus.

      Pennsylvania, as the first Slave State to end slavery in 1780 (4 years after the Declaration of Independence) crowed how they were above their neighbors in signaling virtue, until 1840, when PA DISENFRANCHISED its black citizens…of course, you can understand why PA would undo such a freedom, after all, blacks were becoming a burden at just over 1 percent of the population.

  • Valerie Protopapas says:

    The word “racist” has for a long time been the single most effective fear-word in the leftist and neoconservative arsenal. For decades, they have successfully used it in the political arena to slander traditionalists, shut down debate, and leave opponents running for cover. In the social arena, they have caused even more damage by using it to brainwash impressionable children and young college students, and to teach people to hate their nation, their cultural traditions, and worst of all, themselves. What surprisingly remains almost totally undiscussed, even on the hard-core traditionalist Right, is the word’s origin. Did it come from a liberal sociologist? A 60’s Marxist college professor? Perhaps a politician in the Democratic Party? No. It turns out that the word was invented by none other than one of the principal architects of the 74-year Soviet nightmare, the founder and first leader of the infamous Red Army, Leon Trotsky.

    In Trotsky’s 1930 work, “The History of the Russian Revolution”, from which shown above is a passage. The last word in that passage is “PACNCTOB”, whose Latin transliteration is “racistov”, i.e., “racists”. This work here is the first time in history one will ever find that word. My more doubtful readers may check the internet, the microfiche and microfilm at the local library, as well as the numerous books arrayed along the shelves there, but they shall never find an earlier usage of the word “racist” than Trotsky’s coinage of the word here. So the next logical question is what was Leon Trotsky’s purpose in inventing this word? To find out, let us look at a full English translation of the paragraph we looked at before. “Slavophilism, the messianism of backwardness, has based its philosophy upon the assumption that the Russian people and their church are democratic through and through, whereas official Russia is a German bureaucracy imposed upon them by Peter the Great. Mark remarked upon this theme: “In the same way the Teutonic jackasses blamed the despotism of Frederick the Second upon the French, as though backward slaves were not always in need of civilised slaves to train them.”

    This brief comment completely finishes off not only the old philosophy of the Slavophiles, but also the latest revelations of the ’racists.’” The Slavophiles which Trotsky alluded to were historically a group of traditionalist Slavs who valued greatly their native culture and way of life, and wanted to protect it. Trotsky on the other hand saw them and others like them as an impediment to his internationalist communist plans for the world. This man didn’t care one iota about the Slavic Russians whom he supposedly served. To him, Slavophiles, i.e. Slavs that committed the “crime” of loving their own people and trying to protect their traditional ways were simply “backward”, and others like them were simply “racists”. The reality of the word’s origin is indeed quite a far cry from the left-liberal version of the story: that the word was coined in bona fides to identify people who were just plain bigoted against certain racial groups, and as a rallying cry for good liberals to protect the racial minorities from the bigots. On the contrary, the actual concept behind the word (even though he hadn’t invented it quite yet) – that ethnocentric “backwardness” must take a back seat to “enlightened” internationalism – was often used by Army-Navy Commissar Trotsky as a rallying cry for good Red Army communists to embark upon murderous rampages against peoples who resisted having their traditional way of life paved over and replaced with an alien system.

    • THT says:

      Ms. Protopapas,
      I have been pondering how the word ‘racist’ seems to be somewhat absent in antebellum discourse. The word ‘race’ with myriad qualifying language abounds, but it seems that ‘racist’ does not.
      It seems that I was not too far fetched.

  • Robert Caffery Sr says:

    Valerie, you are correct that it was actually Trotsky who coined the term ‘racist’, and then (as now) used it to attack White people (in Trotsky’s time, White Russians, of course).
    Unfortunately too many White people are afraid to be called such, and react in a sadly defensive way.
    In-group preference is both normal and natural, and a biological fact of life…among all races, I might add!
    Best response when someone labels you a ‘racist’: SO WHAT!
    Thanks for your extremely thought-provoking posts, excellent as always!

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