Skip to comments.(Vanity) Confessions of a Crunchy Con, or, You Can't Judge a Conservative by his Birkenstocks
Posted on 10/01/2006 6:35:05 PM PDT by grey_whiskers
If I recall correctly, the term crunchy con does not refer to someone who has stolen a box of Captain Crunch. It refers to the term crunchy conservative and was popularized (if not invented) by Rod Dreher of National Review. For a sample discussion, check out this link. Yes, I know what youre thinkingFirst William F. Buckley comes out for legalization of drugs, and now supposed conservatives are talking of Birkenstocks! Fifth Columnists, all of them!
I wouldnt blame you for thinking like that. I used to think that way myself. But that was before I joined the ranks of the crunchy cons. And, like so many others, it was not a snap decision or crisis conversion; nor was it the result of long, arduous soul-searching. It was rather, in the words of C.S. Lewis in Perelandra, the moment at which a man realises that what had seemed mere speculations are on the point of landing him in the [Crunchy Conservatives] -- the sense that a door has just slammed and left him on the inside. There were a number of small, almost playful indulgences I allowed myself; these hardened into habits; and before long, I found myself surrounded by so many little things that (had I but admitted it) my entire lifestyle was different.
Perhaps a couple of examples will help. The first one was going to school in Minnesota. Yes, I know, big mistake. But growing up on the East Coast, all I knew was that Minnesota was in the Midwestthe home of traditional values. And of course, the land of 10,000 blondes. I married one alrightbut it turns out she wasnt even native Minnesotan. Last time I checked, we were married 20 years. (Hi, Rabbit!) But, to return to the point. Minnesota actually voted for Mondale (favorite son) for President as opposed to Reagan. And the main political party there is the DFL (it stands for Democrat Farm-Labor, not \Dumb Friggin Liberals, by the way). So in an environment like that, and with all the abundant nature and wildlife, was it any wonder my stereotypical commitment to right-wing appearances began to waver? My first step was when my wife bought me a pair of Birkenstocks. No harm, I just wanted to not stand out so muchand besides, she assured me it made my legs look great. And if you dont know, Minnesota is one of the few places where it is common to see people sporting shorts and a parka at the same time. Strike One!
The second change happened late during my time in Minnesota and has since gotten worse. I have developed a love for bicycling. (Yes, I realize it sounds strange to speak of bicycling in a place where the average temperature seems to be about freezing for six months of the year. But let me assure you, those two days of summer are heavenly.) It was not a matter of trying to become an eco-weenie, or to save the planet. It was a way to save money on transportation while a young, starving student. But after doing it for awhile, I realized it suited me. It was a way to get time alone; it made the commute relaxing instead of a disaster for the blood-pressure; and it was a way to exercise without chewing up my knees. (Did I mention I only have one carit is amazing how much money you can save by only having ONE car payment, one insurance payment, ONE gas tank to fill ) I have continued cycling to this day; my record was commuting to work 15 miles each way during a cold snap on the East Coast, when I got up at 5:30 with lights, wool hat under a helmet, and gloves to pedal 15 miles in 15-degree weather; and here in Arizona, biking home 20 miles in 110 degree heat. Uphill. Both ways. Strike TWO!
The final, and most important, event, in my transition to crunchy-conship (you didnt really expect me to say con-dom, did you?) was an indirect result of my wifes job. This happened after I had reluctantly moved to Arizona for a new job (I hate the heat and my wife is a snow bunny.) With all of the retirees down here, the health care industry is rather important; and my wife took a job in a wellness-related firm. This firm emphasized treating people as custom-designed works of craftsmanship: rather than wait for them to break, and ordering expensive repairs, why not engage in regular preventative maintenance as it were? Naturally, this rubbed the conservative (and to some extent, the scientist) in me the wrong way: why, the approach practically reeked of such heresies (and liberal-leaning) practices as chiropractic, yoga, yogurt, and other tomfoolery. Beef, beer, and potatoes forever! right?
Well, I went in for the reduced-cost evaluation (as a family member of an employee). I had an interesting discussion of diet, exercise, and the like, and was given rather an odd recommendation for supplements. They suggested I take fish oil capsules. Fish oil? What in the world, I already eat tuna fish several times a week. But what made me decide to do it was that they gave me a couple weeks worth for free. So I had nothing to lose by trying. I stalled for a couple of days. Later in the week I had been up at work quite latearound midnight, and had got to sleep around 1:00 AM. I figured that was a good time to try the fish oil. (Not that I was stacking the deck or anything, you understand. I just wanted to make sure any placebo effect would be minimized.) To my amazement, my energy came roaring back. It was as though my batteries had been recharged! Like I hadnt stayed up in the first place. I could tell that it wasnt like Red Bull or anything, I wasnt running on nervous energy which would leave me even more exhaustedinstead, I had a feeling of being cleansed and restored and of course, being a scientist, I had to admit that if I had been wrong about so many other things, maybe more of this non-traditional stuff was worth another look. STRIKE THREE!
So that was the beginning of my status as a crunchy-con. In a later piece I will endeavor to lay out (in Republican or libertarian-friendly terms) some of the things which the crunchy part of me feels may have gone awry within American cultureand some surprising solutions.
That's very true. But don't think that just because someone has failed ONE of your weirdness tests, that they will fail ALL of them.
Free Republic ought to be proof of that :-)
Full Disclosure: Have you contributed to the FReep-a-thon yet ?
I must be a crunchy con, too. But we ARE a minority, LOL!
How many children do you have?
(I looked on your Freeper page. I will refrain from comment except to ask "How did you DO it?")
Check out the link to Rod Dreher's piece I posted in the vanity article. I'd say if you agree with most of those points, you're a crunchy con ;-)
Crunchy con ping!
Rod is a friend so will mark and ping
Frankly, we'd love to live 'off the grid' as much as possible, not only to reduce fossil fuel use for the environment, but to save money, too! There's nothing particularly liberal about wanting to keep the environment as nice as possible; don't know why we should cede that to them.
I don't think being concerned with health and exercise is in anyway at odds with being a conservative. Most conservatives I know make an effort to take care of their bodies.
Insisting on cycling to work, wearing birkenstocks, and patronizing non-traditional medicine have historically been the province of the left.
Wait for my Part II in a couple of days, you'll either agree completely or start shouting at your computer screen :-)
I see a chiropractor, a massage therapist, and take supplements as opposed to prescription meds. .. not doing so well in the exercise department) intend to work on that soon.
Hah...This is comforting to know. My wife and myself have joked for twenty years that we are probably the ONLY VRWC sporting "Birkies" and driving SAABS (3). It's good to know we are not alone.
I actually like, gasp, clean air and water. I'm partial to trees, too, but I don't hug them. I don't buy most of the environmentalist left agenda, but I believe conservation is conservative, so I guess that makes me a crunchy con.
My comment was mainly directed at Rod Dreher, who would, I feel, have less time and money for his Aesthete routine if he had more productive things with which to occupy himself.
Color me one, too. Birks - check. Cod liver oil - check.
Well, he and Julie have 2 kids, and they homeschool. Hey, it's a start :o)
Thanks for the ping! Why should the libs have all the good causes right. lol j/k
Ordinarily, a person's family size wouldn't be any of my business. However, Mr. Dreher identifies himself as a "natalist," a family-first ideologue, even to the point of believing that the government should subsidize that lifestyle over others. He's also written about how difficult NFP is, which suggests that the two-child family was deliberately chosen, and some other value chosen in the place of offspring.
My very strong opinion is that the "crunchy-con" thing is simply the glorification of personal preference, a shallow ideology that elevates appearance over content.
This is not to say that the Drehers aren't outrageously swell people! It's only that I find his socio-political-religious intellectual construct, based on his published writings, to be lacking in coherence and consistency.
Mr. Whiskers, going back to your original post, I'd say that you're a "Dreherite" only if you think that the government should subsidize your health-and-fitness choices at the expense of others.
(Truth in advertising: I make my own granola and use flax-seed oil. I wear SAS sandals in the summer and loafers in the winter. And Brooks sneakers; I couldn't run in Birkenstocks with my weak ankles.)
Have to bike to work--I think it'd be better for the government to subsidize (not MANDATE) prevention rather than pay through the nose for those who didn't take *some* effort to stay healthy. That's better than subsidizing 350-lb bozos for their years of killing themselves, after they have diabetes, etc. etc., at *MY* expense.
(Bike paths, subsidized vitamins and routine preventative physicals, that kind of thing. Give incentives to nudge the free market...you just inspired another opinion piece.)
You both have made excellent points. Mr. Whiskers, I believe you were talking about "taking back" conservative (and conservation) issues that the lefties stole from us, and Tax-Chick, you are objecting to Dreher's idea of government sponsorship of a particular lifestyle. Both your viewpoints have great merit, but I don't believe they are irreconcilable.
(Full disclosure: herb-tea drinking, yoga-practicing, environmentalist vegetarian Republican here, LOL!)
My own opinion that "Crunchy Con" was an interesting and thought-provoking small article prematurely expanded into a thin and loosely-reasoned book, lacking sufficient muscle tone to carry the ideological position it defends. It does read, in places,like a style piece asking for a more quirky and refined consumerism.
Rod's better than that. Some of his stuff at Dallas Morning News has verged on heroic.
I'll save my free-market screed for the response to that piece, then :-).
I've been impressed with some of his writing, too. He reminds me of Peggy Noonan - at their best, they're really good, but using facts and reason to direct emotion and intuition is not their strength.
Rather than "outing" my dear wife's Crunchy-Connitude, I'll just let her comment on her own when she gets home.
[crickets . . . abject silence]
And gingko biloba...and fish oil capsules...and Super Opti-Vue (with Lutein!)...and exfoliating loofah sponges (it's twue)...
Thanks for the ping.
TTW (Totally Tag Worthy)
LOL... Frankly, if someone has issues with my crunchy connitude it's their issue. I'm not in anyone's face telling them what to do. So happens I do own a pair of birkenstocks because stepping in skunk poo isn't cute.
I'm a crunchy con if there ever was one.
I do yoga at work in between breaks. It saves my back because I'm a nursing aide. I'm getting back into the green tea thing because I'm all about life extension using the most natural means available. I'll never eat meat again ever for health and ethical reasons either. I do happen to run into a lot of liberals who are surprised at my granola crunchiness though.
Yoga is the ONLY thing that keeps my neck flexible, and keeps my stress level down.
The crunchy con label appeals to me, but it sounds like where Dreher and I part ways is that I am NOT a big consumer. I'm into doing it myself, doing for myself, and making do with what I have, or less. My parents and my hubby's parents were children of the Depression, and many of their "frugal" ways must have rubbed off on me.
FReepmail to follow in a bit.
No, that's liberalism: I resisted becoming a crunchy-con for a LONG time simply because I suspected it of being a "shallow, personal glorification" thing.
I only accepted it when I found on empirical grounds, that there were elements of it which had a great deal more substance than I had ever suspected.
See also this link.
I think you're confusing what is indeed factual, such as the benefit of certain nutritional supplements, with the ideology that claims certain foods, shoes, or other consumer products are "conservative" in a special way.
Not exactly; it is just that, "stereotypically", conservatives are against 'dainty' things like organic food, or non-traditionally-Western approaches (chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga, etc.); such historically being the province of hippies.
(See this Victor Davis Hanson thread on Europe for a loose example of the stereotype.) Cheers!
"don't think that just because someone has failed ONE of your weirdness tests, that they will fail ALL of them. Free Republic ought to be proof of that :-)"
I'm still thinking on this. I think what gets me about Mr. Dreher's writing on the subject is that he seems to think his particular decisions on diet, exercise, clothing, housing, etc., are Anointed, while the rest of the world - shopping at Wal-mart, living in tract subdivisions, drinking beer in lawn chairs in their driveways - are the Unenlightened.
(Anoreth says we really want to drink cheap wine in the driveway.)
Although he's only hinted at the idea that the redneck trash should be required by the government to subsidize his Chosen ways, I think the urge to coerce is there, and I'm not comfortable with calling it "conservative."
(Ping, Steve, related to our exchange on the Sowell thread.)
I don't know enough to comment either way :-)
(Part II coming up in the next day or so...)
Here's the link to Dreher's original National Review article. In my opinion, and I speak - as I said - as a person who makes granola and takes dietary supplements, and runs, and homeschools, and breastfeeds, and dreams of a goat farm in Missouri ... the article is a total snob-fest.
Come back and talk to me, Mr. Dreher, when your other choice is living in an apartment with eight kids. (Hint - nobody will rent you an apartment when you have eight kids!)
Yes, I read the article, and I see what you mean about snob-fest.
There are points I agree with implicitly ("What hooked me then, and continues to hold me, and what is the underlying theme of the contemporary liberal side of this aesthetic, is authenticity," she said. "I read a piece in American Demographics a few years ago about this, that the hook for progressives is this concept of 'authenticity,' the distrust of mass-produced sentiment or materials.")
That will be a large part of my Part II, though not perhaps in the way that you think.
In the meantime, to assuage your feelings, I enclose a quote from Garrison Keillor(*) (ugly liberal extraordinaire and host of Prairie Home Companion), from his book Lake Wobegeon Days:
"I pour a round of light Lowenbrau, being careful to not to pour along the side but straight down so the beer can express itself, and they say, 'Did you ever try Dockendorf? It's made by the Dockendorf family from hand-pumped water in their ancient original family brewery in an unspoiled Pennsylvania village where the barley is hauled in by Amish families who use wagons with oak beds. Those oak beds give Dockendorf its famous flavor.'..."
I think that is the type of snobbish air you mean. Wonderfully authentic on the inside, boring from the outside...
(*) I used to think he had a great insight into human nature. As it turns out, he just has an uncanny ability to mimic and portray representative scenes, behaviour, and dialog. When you realize that he is remembering or imitating, rather than inventing, his work loses much of its power....
Beef stroganoff (again) with beer.
Will reply later tonight; and THEN get back to my 2nd vanity...
thanks for the ping!
Let's recap. I've been on the crevo threads and it's nice to find someone to *agree with* for a change.
Ten or fifteen years ago, any introduction of neocons, let alone "crunchy" cons into a serious political discussion on the right would have met (rightfully so) with utter derision.
Minnesota's own Hubert Humphrey (a flaming liberal in his day) would now be derided as a "mind-numbed robot" by the left.
To that end, Dr. Sowell's use of the terms, "anointed" and "unenlightened," as well as his characterizations of the constrained and unconstrained visions are as locally accurate as and far more temporally durable than "conservative" or "liberal."
I prefer "self-annointed" or, even better, "precious".
Adopting stricter attitudes toward diet and health, more liberal modes of dress, and communing with nature does not a political stance make. It is the fact that those we call liberal behave in these ways as a collective imperative that makes the political statement. It is when one attempts to impose the behavior on others by governmental fiat that makes a political statement.
Joe Sobran referred to the left collectively as "The Hive".
One of the most insightful articles I have ever read.
I think the separation of the values of diet, health, dress, and communing with nature, ("crunchy") with a free-market, government-hands-off approach ("con") is what does it. The problem is when one gets so...well, *frustrated* with people (say chronic smokers who sue over lung cancer) that the temptation to intrude government becomes unbearable. Think of, who was it, Rousseau? His line "forced to be free" has a certain chilling logic.
About to start that vanity now, I promise.
Thanks for the wonderful, thought-provoking, and DEAD-ON comments. :-)
Excellent summary of the last few days' points. Dr. Sowell is America's Greatest Living Intellectual, of course, and the rest of us (including Rod Dreher) are chopped liver in comparison :-).
Looking forward to your new commentary!