In the current issue of Columbia Journalism Review, Rick Perlstein recalls Tyler Cowan’s Tribes of America, an out-of-print book about the 1970’s “culture wars.” He heralds Cowan’s ability “to probe where those he disagreed with were coming from while still understanding why he disagreed with them” as a token of the author’s “moral seriousness and his comfort with moral complexity.”
The divide between the left and the right as Cowan describes it sounds eerily familiar:
In the fall of 1974, in Kanawha County, West Virginia, Christian fundamentalists enraged at the imposition of “blasphemous” textbooks in the public schools demolished a wing of a school board building with fifteen sticks of dynamite. When the board insisted on keeping the books in the curriculum, homes were bombed and school buses shot at. “Jesus WouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Have Read Them,” read one of the slogans of a movement whose leader, a preacher, would soon face charges of conspiracy to bomb two elementary schools.
Into this whirlwind stepped Paul Cowan, a shaggy-haired, bespectacled, left wing New York Jew, trying to make sense of why he felt sympathy for the side that was laying the dynamite.
(Many thanks to John for the link.)