Deneen, Beer and Wilson Meet in Three Dimensions

Tonight – on the eve of FPR’s first birthday – I received a most interesting note. It reads:

My brother and I enjoy reading the Front Porch website and your columns
in particular.

Nevertheless, there is one small, but important problem. Even
though political websites are probably necessary, the fact remains that
participating in the Front Porch Republic web site, considered seriously,
involves a contradiction with respect to the philosophy of many of the writers
on the site. To the extent that politics could potentially be about
considerations of community and friendship, writing on a website means making a
choice against rooted social interactions and instead preferring an audience
based on considerations of personality, philosophy, or style.

Unfortunately, many people now – by choice, and often not really by choice –
live already uprooted from potentially viable community life. For them, they
cannot choose, or cannot easily choose, to rejoin or strengthen community
bonds. Under these circumstances, it is possible for a website to help people
to realize what they might want, and do not have. So I am not criticizing FPR,
but still, the contradiction exists.

More than actually submitting pieces for publication at FPR, I think I would
very much prefer to actually talk to people who take these sorts of ideas
seriously. In the flesh. Aside from the armies of people whose points of view are grafted to
the political parties, it is sometimes possible here to find interesting and
serious leftists. I like talking to them. But it would also be nice to talk
to people who try to think for themselves, but along other directions. I have
no idea where to find anyone of this sort here. The only people I have met in
here that call themselves “conservative” are nothing of the sort. They think
that “conservative” means

* cackling with satisfaction while talking about “Climategate”
* identifying politics with cults of personality (around Bush, Palin, Obama…)
* ill-defined critiques of the state and blindness to the existence of
corporate power

Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.

This particular reader hails from Boston. Yet, his particular plea must also be true for FPR readers around the nation (and globe). It speaks to me with particular force – I enjoy my “virtual” friendships with FPR columnists, but I live at a fair distance from most of them, and even have yet to meet a number of my fellow authors. Truth be told, I have too few local people to talk with about these kinds of subjects.

To evoke the great Kurt Vonnegut – why not form some granfalloons?

So what about it – could we be the vehicle to form some FPR-ish salons, maybe even the spark to flame some friendships (who knows, even romances)? If you’re interested, write to us at We’ll see if we can’t do some virtual matchmaking. Never let it be said that the internet was entirely deracinating (OK, Peters would say that, but even he drunk-emails me).

And, here’s hoping there are some of you from in and around Washington D.C. It’s hard to believe right now as we still await the melting of the last of the snow from the recent blizzards, but grilling season is just around the bend…

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture


  1. Caleb and I finally met up when he visited Wichita, some months ago. I owe him a return visit, next time or the family get up to the Kansas City area. Anyone who likes a serious discussion about serious things and who is driving through the great state of Kansas, give either of us a shout; a Kansas populist/localist/reactionary/socialist granfalloon would be a fine thing.

  2. Prof. Deneen,

    Perhaps we could organize some sort of salon in two-plus weeks, after Blond’s talk or after the roundtables? I think that my cohort alone will comprise at least seven people, at least four of whom regularly read FPR.

  3. Now if there were only some Porchers (or whatever name we might come up with for them) here in China….

  4. Cliques! We need to form cliques where we can get together offline and look down our noses at people who don’t think for themselves, i.e. who don’t think the way we who think for ourselves think. Can FPR help us do that?

  5. As I approach my 22nd birthday (March 4), I reflect that growing up for me and much of my generation has been constant alienation and a divorcement from any conceivable form of roots. I was always envious of my parents when they talked about growing up with neighborhood barbecues, picnics, gatherings, football games, etc. I had none of that. When I was very young everyone kept to themselves and we didn’t know our neighbors. Everyone was too “busy”. I was even more envious when I heard my grandmother’s stories of growing up on a farm in Oklahoma. and as I talk to many of my own age, I find many similar envies and complaints. We have been a generation without place, without “home” and many of us without a true sense of family.

    I have been a reader of FPR for several months now. This site is a breath of fresh air with many inspiring writers. It has given me hope that the Front Porch ethos still exists in the hearts and minds of the websites writers and readers.

    I am in Denver, Colorado, attending a local community college near where I have lived all my life. It would be interesting and inspiring to meet and talk with fellow front porchers.

    Brandon B.

  6. Yes! This is a great idea. I’ve turned a few of my friends here in Norman, OK, on to FPR, but it would be great to find others. I have many other FPR-reading friends, but most of them live in South Bend or Milwaukee or some other place far away.

    The Reticulator (come on, at least use your real first name), you can make snarky comments about cliques, but here in Norman it is the reality that almost no one here thinks for herself in terms of place. Almost everyone thinks that small towns are bad, most of all those from small towns; they are grateful that they had a chance to “get out.” Those from Norman or Tulsa think Oklahoma is bad, and always talk about leaving to go to a “real” place. There are exceptions, but this is the pervasive attitude- I am asked on a frequent basis why I live here, after going to school away/at an elite school. Honestly, it’s a real impediment to friendship or companionship of any meaningful sort. It would be nice if there are any other FPR readers from Oklahoma to talk about how to enact many of the ideas on this site, because most people here aren’t interested.

    RAF- perhaps we could get an Oklahoma/Kansas thing going? Wichita is only 3 hours from Norman. In fact, I am going there for a retreat in 2 weeks.

    Prof. Deneen- I am fairly confident that there are FPR readers in DC. I know for sure there are people with FPR-type ideas at the JPII institute- but perhaps they actually don’t use the internet much. Let me know if you need help finding people.


  7. Anamaria–

    You mention that everyone thinks small towns are bad where you at in Norman. On the contrary, I think Oklahoma small towns are some of the greatest in the country. I have many Okies in my family and visit them at least once every year. When I return to the Metropolitan hustle and bustle of Denver, I often find myself daydreaming about the time spent during the summer in those Oklahoma small towns. I find they have the feel of home to them.

    Brandon B.

  8. Anamaria, when and where is your retreat? Anyway, I’ll be around Wichita all month. Let me know specific details, and maybe we can work something out. And maybe, if we beg hard and long enough, Caleb might truck down from northeast Kansas and we could be happy threesome, if only for an hour or two.

  9. I think FPR needs to organize an annual “Family Reunion.” It would have to be somewhere rural, with local food, and lots and lots of booze. Lots of booze.

  10. I think FPR needs to organize an annual “Family Reunion.” It would have to be somewhere rural, with local food, and lots and lots of booze. Lots of booze.

    Which I guess I’d just have tp have my own little dry FPR reunion over in the corner. D.W. could come over and mock me, occasionally.

  11. Now now Fox, perhaps you are right and to be honest, a year ago, my general distribution of abuse toward your tribe would have been more than occasional. However, after having had the pleasure of engaging with the assorted host here for a year, I found myself reading some article in the Sunday N. Y. Times magazine where the writer was describing a brief proposal to cancel Senior Year in the Public High Schools of Utah as a budget cutting measure. The eastern pencil-neck writer used the pejorative “joyless” to describe the folks in my long-ago home State. This directly caused a florid gnashing fit generally reserved for my discussions of the FEDS. “Joyless”….fercryinoutloud, Ho Ho Ho. Utah may be many things in the mood department but “joyless” it aint. I can’t say parties with the family Saints were quite as hilarious as with the Black Irish side of the genetic mud puddle but any conclave with the Mormon side was never “joyless”. Far from it. My Uncle Abe , the Ideeho Chicken Rancher was about as Joy-struck as anybody I ever met, except with chicken rustlers. So it is here…even when wound up or inside out, this place is fundamentally about Joy and Community and thats about as close as I’ll go to bearing my testimony in mixed company.

    I’ll bring the Jello.

  12. Brandon- Glad to hear you love small town Oklahoma (what part, btw?). They are quite nice. My point is not that no one likes them, but that people who are from small towns believe that success is in leaving them, at least the ones who do leave.

    RAF- my retreat is at the St. Paul/Newman Center on March 13. We are driving in that morning and retreat activities will last most of the day, but we are not in a hurry to get back the next day.

  13. Anamaria said: “The Reticulator (come on, at least use your real first name)…”

    I don’t know how using my real first name helps you, but I decided to take you up on it because it gets me out of a quandry that I have on FPR and on almost no other internet forum. The Reticulator is one of two internet identities that I’ve used on my blogs and on forums in the past few years. My real name is not hidden very deeply anywhere, for the rare person who actually cares. But FPR cuts across my interests such that I have a hard time knowing which of my identities to use here. Until now I honestly hadn’t thought of using my real name to solve that problem.

    “…you can make snarky comments about cliques, but here in Norman it is the reality that almost no one here thinks for herself in terms of place. Almost everyone thinks that small towns are bad, most of all those from small towns; they are grateful that they had a chance to “get out.” Those from Norman or Tulsa think Oklahoma is bad, and always talk about leaving to go to a “real” place. There are exceptions, but this is the pervasive attitude- I am asked on a frequent basis why I live here, after going to school away/at an elite school. Honestly, it’s a real impediment to friendship or companionship of any meaningful sort.”

    I question your sampling method. I have no doubt that it seems to you that most people have the attitude you describe. But I’ll bet you didn’t do a random survey. And so what if it is a pervasive attitude? How can that possibly be an impediment to friendship or companionship? You don’t make friends only with people who are like you, do you?

  14. Anamaria–

    As yes the mass exodus prompted by the joys of mobile meritocracy.

    My family is mostly located in the towns along highway 412 from Enid to Woodward. I also have family in Stillwater, where I contemplated going to college at one point.

  15. To John Gorentz (a.k.a., The Reticulator),

    Yes, no-one wants “cliques” – except nearly everyone. It’s natural to want to belong to some group of people larger than oneself. One thing we debate here on FPR is how that is possible in an age that is very good at generating “cliques” but not necessarily community.

    I think what lies behind your (yes) snarky dismissiveness (very uncharacteristic among commentators at FPR, where disagreement tends to be thoughtful and well-articulated, and why your condescension doubtless stuck out) is suspicion toward self-selected groupings of the like-minded. I would agree – this is a major problem of our age (and the internet does not help). And, yes, it’s ironic, if not a bit contradictory, that FPR exists in the internet-world. It was in the hopes of putting some flesh on the incorporeality of this venture that I thought this modest proposal was justified. And, in the end, this is about living locally, so if we can assist in making some introductions in the various places where our readers live, then all the better.

    But, I would caution you against concluding that those involved with FPR constitute any such kind of a homogeneous clique (you’re evidently an avid reader, after all). We have some severe disagreements among ourselves here, as one would expect in any kind of undertaking where disparate people find themselves interested in a similar set of concerns, but nevertheless bring highly distinctive approaches and understandings. We struggle with boundaries – what views are suitably “FPR”-ish, and what lie beyond the pale? How far can we expand our disagreements and still be be a common enterprise? So, be careful of attributing a kind of mindless group-think to this little project. As with any human community, there is as much debate here as there is agreement – which may be one feature that finally differentiates a community from a clique (or, then again, maybe it’s just size).

  16. Patrick Deneen,

    I presume the standard of civility was set by the person who was allowed to have the following said here: “The only people I have met in here that call themselves “conservative” are nothing of the sort. They think that “conservative” means…”

    The rest of that particular snark doesn’t need to be repeated, since it’s an accusation without evidence.

  17. DALLAS, TX

    Although it’s a slow process, made slower by my Moses-like eloquence and Isaiah-like inclination for social appropriateness, I’ve helped a couple of my friends break from the false dichotomies of left/right, socialism/capitalism, us/them, here in Big-D. If anyone else around these parts has similar stories I’d love to exchange them over a tall glass of Texas-made red, or Shiner Bock. I use far less commas and far worse humor in real life.

  18. FPR identifies itself as an online magazine. How would its being a print magazine “localize” it? Is the New York Times convincingly more “rooted” than FPR?

    I’ve been pressed for time these past few months, and haven’t had time to address these longstanding questions of integrity, but they are worth posing and talking about. For my part, unless FPR’s position is specificially that the internet per se destroys local communities and alienates human beings from their natural communities, then I fail to see the irony in FPR using the internet in lieu of paper to publish its bile.

    FPR readers in the North East are encouraged to come see Jason Peters speak on Flannery O’Connor and St. Augustine on March 25th at Villanova University (7pm Driscoll Hall Auditorium). This and other events to follow.

  19. John Gorentz,

    I asked you to use your real name because internet is often a forum for “identities” that having nothing to do with our real identities. Using your real first name doesn’t help me at all in knowing who you are, but it is a step towards making things a little more real and a little less fake.

    Thanks to Patrick Deneen for covering most of the major points concerning cliques and like-minded people. I would just like to add a few words. I’m friends with plenty of people I disagree with on a variety of issues, including how to live (and this is especially true of my local friendships). It is nicer to have friendships with people who agree on basic tenets of how to live (like other people who think that making our own entertainment is good vs. people who want to go see movies all the time) for a variety of reasons. But it’s another thing altogether to try to be friends with someone who is constantly thinking of leaving, and who thinks staying is equated with failure.

    I have no idea if this idea is representative or not, but I do meet a variety of different people in a variety of different places. It is slightly skewed towards those who are from Norman, because I know them from high school. And those people are generally the most discontent with living here (because they were never able to “get out”).

    Matthew Wade- Norman is 2.5-3 hours from Dallas. Maybe we can get John Medaille to speak somewhere, invite our friends, and have a Texas/Oklahoma alliance (it’s possible).

  20. Anamaria–so you might be free the evening of Saturday the 13th, or sometime on Sunday the 14th? Let me check with my family to see what’s going on, and if I’m not already committed, let’s work out a meeting before you head back to Oklahoma.

    Matthew–if you (or Anamaria, for that matter) do pull together some sort of Texas/Oklahoma gathering, be sure to invite us Texans. I’d love to meet John.

    D.W.–as always, your basic human decency shines through your rough exterior.

  21. Perhaps in the interim some sort of hierarchy of values could be established? Modern organizational behavior recommends objectives, strategies, and tactics, each one being successively more concrete, practical, and detailed than the next-highest level. So “Place, Limits, Freedom” is a great set of objectives.

    Strategies? “We recommend no one spend more than they make.” “We recommend no corporation grow to a size that favors ownership by non-workers, and favors labor by non-owners.”

    Tactics? “We recommend that extensive financial consideration be given to potential buyers/borrowers not only in the lending process, but also in public awareness campaigns about the effects of debt on wealth creation.” “We recommend a steeply progressive tax-rate structure on newly-formed corporations (all corporations?) that seek to expand beyond _x_ locations, factories, or geographical locations – certain industries excepted.” “We recommend tax preference credits (or at least deductions) for purchases of, contributions to, and withdrawals from employee stock-ownership plans.”

    I know the sentiment around these parts is to shun what seems to be anything corporate/capitalist/global, but why not take the truths inherrent in everything and wrench it from the false context?

    Agree with these or not, that’s not the point. The point is a structure in which to formulate the next logical step in a blossoming “movement”. I worry that gatherings of like-minded people may just turn into complaint fests similar to late-nigh talk shows. It doesn’t seem too hard to do some of this over the internet.

  22. Fox,
    The Technical term for the “rough exterior” is a Carapace. Like a lobster, bottom feeding and habitue of dank places of decay. Don’t know if I turn red whence dunked in boiling water though. The insufferable Cheeks already claims I turn red when reading Medaille.

    And here I thought the reference to Jello, the Utah National dish would have gotten at least a mild retort.

    G. Samsa

  23. What does one say of a man tied cheek to jowl with the Mormons who has loved and won the love of a Jewess whose blood is that of the Levant, who reads Augustine and now Voegelin with a perfervid panache, and embraces his planet with the love of a Berry?
    One might begin by recognizing a child of God. A man with possibilities of wisdom.

  24. With sufficient warning I would gladly make the 3 hour trek north to a DC salon.

    If any are closer to the Tidewater, I’d be happy to host such on the back porch of my quaint house (the front porch has an unfortunate view of the Newport News Shipyard, not quite the erforderliches Milieu there for FPR for obvious reason… I live in the shadow of the giant blue crane).

  25. Reticulator John, on cliques, I’d recommend C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves, the chapter on friendship-love. There you get the bad and the good news. And Amen to your gripe against this Boston person’s broad-brush snipe against the self-identified conservatives like myself who comment here. I don’t think Pat was meaning to endorse that swipe, although a wee qualification/observation on his part would have been appreciated.

    DC-area porchers, I’d be happy to meet you, although my, yes, busy-ness, makes it not terribly likely, and there are surely much better porches down here in Lynchburg. This is a fine idea, though, and I hope it works. I know y’all would welcome a friendly critic or two.

    You know what you really ought to try, however, is a big CAMP MEETING in Kentucky or somewhere. Berryville for a month! Extended bluegrass festival! Get Wendell and some others to come and pontificate, have a few salon nights, and maybe Matt Crawford motorcycle-repair workshops, but primarily designate the time to family-friendly summer loafin’ and such. Shut down the internet FPR for the time being, and post a pyschedelic poster in its place that says: ARE YOU GONNA BE THERE, AT THE PORCH-IN? Hey, I’m only 3% mocking here, and mostly day-dreaming. If anyone could pull-off such a Porch-In, I’d be sure to come on by. Hell, my wife and I would even sign-up for KP duties.

  26. “The only people I have met in
    here that call themselves “conservative” are nothing of the sort. They think that “conservative” means…etc”

    I’m a relative newcomer around here but I don’t think this statement above is generally acurate. Pinning down just who is the conservative and what is conservatism in these perilous times of “big news, the bigger the better” is risky business. About the best short primer I have seen in a dog’s age on the subject is the Deneen article in the current issue of American Conservative. Run, do not walk, to put your hands on it. If you are a ‘National Greatness’ kind of a conservative, you will find yourself confused, which is always a good start. If you are not of that persuasion, in the main those around here, you may be left wondering how much of the original pith is left, or is recoverable, in the words.
    It would indeed be a fine thing to slake thirst with some or all of the folk whose stuff I read around here. There is a pleasure evident in the exchanges that is satisfying, but for a certain generation, not satisfying enough. I can never quite rid myself of the notion that the screen is an enemy, something to be given up for Lent, if not forever. “The medium is the message” as McLuhan famously said. Maybe it is, we don’t want it to be, but maybe it is. I don’t believe I understand what McLuhan meant precisely in what he said, but I feel in my bones that there is truth in it, and warning, and something to be resisted. The bigger the medium, the greater the danger. I do like drinking beer in old bars without televisions, in small cliques.

  27. @Jim Dooley

    Just to clarify, I think that by ““The only people I have met in here that call themselves “conservative” are nothing of the sort. They think that “conservative” means…etc””, the writer-in meant that that’s what he experiences in Boston, not here at FPR


    I do like drinking beer in old bars without televisions, in small cliques.

    Amen, sir!

  28. I am new to FPR and feel quite at home. However, I feel a bit unprepared to join the discussion. Can anyone suggest some good books on politics/economics/culture consistent with the FPR philosophy? Anyone here in Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho?

    • Deanna,
      Welcome to the porch. Your question about reading material is a good one. Maybe start with a collection of essays by Wendell Berry. See “Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community.” Also, try E.F. Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful.” If you go to the author page of the editors, you will see a link to “books recommended.” You will find plenty more suggestions.

      By the way, I went to school at Gonzaga. My parents live in Coeur d’Alene. I assume you live in the Spokane-CDA area?


  29. Deanna, Dr. Mitchell is a smart fellow but if you desire to know the ‘porch’ read Wendell’s Port Homer books. If you know those folks first, you’ll know what these folks SHOULD BE aiming for.

    • Deanna,
      Mr. Cheeks is showing either the effects of age, a hangover, or the influence of some author other than Berry. Port Homer is, as best I can tell, a place in Alaska. Maybe there is a writer there who writes “Port Homer” books about the lives of native fishermen, but Berry has written a series of novels set in the fictional town of Port William, KY. They really are a delight to read.

  30. Thank you, Mark for the correction and so nicely rendered too!
    Actually, the problem may be related to two fingers of Maker’s Mark, plus as my wife informed me this afternoon I “talked over her,” resulting in a certain sullenness directed my way. Which, of course, is righteous.
    Yes, Port William…Port William…Port William. Ya know if he’d quite messin’ with them horses and write another it’d be fresh in my mind.

  31. BTW, buster, down river a few, short miles is beautiful “Port Homer” Ohio which I’ve always confused with Port William, Ky, also on the Ohio River. That’s my story..and I’m stickin’ to it.

  32. By way of update, we are collecting and collating responses. We hope to at least inform those who are geographically proximate of the presence of other readers. Alarmingly, there are a good many concentrated here in the DC area. Alas, political gravity is a powerful force….

  33. Mark,

    Thank you for the book suggestions. I am going to start with Wendel Berry.

    I live in Spokane Valley, and graduated from Gonzaga as well, in 1991. It was a different University then. With the selection of Fr. Spitzer as President, the University has embraced some of its religious and educational heritage. I was sad to see him leave.

    I see from your profile that you have three sons. I have seven sons, but God saw fit to give me two daughters as well. Your wife and I could probably swap some great stories.


  34. John,

    I sympathize with your response. Sweeping assumptions about the activity/lack thereof of peoples’ minds is a little distasteful. On the other hand, being around people with whom you share almost nothing in common can be frustrating and demoralizing. Getting together occasionally with like-minded people need not be the nose-upturning self-satisfied event you assume it will be.

Comments are closed.