Berry, with an insistence that defies despair, is still carrying out his calling. He notes the discouraging odds his kind has faced not just now but in the past. Imperial presence in whatever its forms has long imperiled the agrarian ideal.
These are not compassionate times—not in the public square, and not in all too much of our increasingly chaotic private life, though I think many people are trying. Mr. Berry knows this very well. And so about halfway through the book, he takes a few pages to acknowledge he was told, more than once, that his reputation would be marred by showing any sympathy to the life or plight of any Confederate.
If I attempt to follow Berry’s underwater route too closely, I’m afraid I will drown. Rather than try to summarize it, then, I will instead distill from it a set of guidelines for improving the quality of our language. The shouters who dominate our public discourse are unlikely to heed Berry’s advice, but those of us who are weary of shrill denunciations have much to learn from Berry’s sanity.
No one can be whole alone; no one can be free alone. Rather, Berry holds that “[t]o be whole and free is…to be at home in a place and in a community where one knows and is known,” and where its boundaries include soils, waters, plants, and animals.
In their newest incarnation, American racial preferences are advertised to the public as compensating for prior pro-white discrimination and promoting racial diversity. Problems of definition persist under the new order of things, however. There is still no central race bureau, but there is no shortage of guidelines and administrative decisions trying to find the boundaries between preferred races and non-preferred ones.
The 1619 Project states that its purpose is to remember the history of slavery and racism that American schools have sometimes tried to forget. But mostly it teaches students the wrong way to go about remembering. It abuses remembering to promote forgetting America’s history of reconciliation and unity on race, so as to frame the nation’s identity as irredeemably stained and systemically, irreparably flawed.
We academics unfortunately often fall into the trap of pride (particularly of the self-involved, self-satisfying, institutional kind), and hence a humbling such as this conference delivered was probably much needed. I have a Christian duty, as an educator and as a member of a Christian community, to think systematically about how I can live up, as a teacher and scholar, to the values of inclusion and equality
It is perhaps that personal search for contentment that makes this book a notable contribution to the literature on the American racial problem: Milliner’s “penitent Midwest regionalism” is first of all an attempt to heal within himself the disease and discontentment produced in those of us who have been told that what matters about us is that we are white.
My least-favorite bumper sticker of all time reads, "If you're not outraged you're not paying attention." As a remedy for this sort of dopamine-fueled attitude, the author suggests that we refuse to bow to the media outrage machine.
The imagined student’s intentions are honorable: to promote racial justice. But when the conversation begins, she has already set herself against the teacher and the course. The task of the teacher is to encourage her pursuit of justice while showing that the Great Books are not enemies, but allies. If this can be done, the student and teacher may even realize the same about each other.