Category Archives: politics

Book Review: Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser

Prairie Fires

As an avid fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s work, I felt I had to read Prairie Fires:  The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser.  While it is marketed as a new biography and even won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award for biography, it seems to be so much more.  In her work, Caroline Fraser not only takes the time to ground very personal decisions made by Laura and her husband Almanzo into the larger backdrop of American history, she takes it several steps further.  She analyzes decisions made by Charles Ingalls, Laura’s father, and Rose Wilder Lane, Laura’s daughter, against their political leanings and larger political climate.

Frankly, if a book looks at least reasonably well-written (not fan-fic) and promises new insight on anything related to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life and work, I am likely to pick it up.  However, that doesn’t mean that I agree with everything or there aren’t inherent biases in such work.  As much as I enjoyed Prairie Fires, there is one overarching issue I believe is being overlooked.

Before I get into the issue, which, as with all things controversial relating to Laura Ingalls Wilder and her work, involves her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, some background is needed.  First, I read this book this past spring.  I enjoyed it, and it just fermented for a while.  I couldn’t quite figure out what bothered me about the presentation of politics throughout the book, until I happened to witness another conversation about the book.

A month or two after I read the book, I happened to be having lunch with some friends from Mid-Michigan Writers when two other women came to have a conversation with my friends.  One woman began gushing over Prairie Fires and stated that she would love to have a political conversation around the book. While I do not know this woman well, her politics proceeded her due to several mutual acquaintances.  I didn’t join in the conversation other than to say that I loved the book; however, it finally came to me why I felt something was off.

For those who don’t know, Laura’s daughter Rose Wilder Lane is one of the founding members of the modern Libertarian party and all that that entails.  In fact, Rose deserves her own blog post or even series of blog posts.  There is that much material.  Early in the 20th century, Rose was the famous Wilder.  The political legacy she left is messy and quite complex.  While my own personal politics lean more towards that of Laura and Almanzo (center-right), particularly when considering fiscal matters, than Rose, I don’t feel that the Caroline Fraser understood any of the politics completely.  Caroline Fraser seemed to analyze the political tendencies of the Ingalls and Wilder families through a modern liberal lens.

The most glaring example of this bias for me comes when Fraser implies that Laura is perhaps a hypocrite for serving on a local farm loan board near her home in Mansfield, Missouri while not supporting the sweeping federal farm loan programs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Actually, I completely get it.  Laura and Almanzo favored local control of government.  I do as well.  The implication and omission of this distinction stood out to me.

If Fraser didn’t understand the politics of Laura and Almanzo, she didn’t know what to make of Rose Wilder Lane.  In all fairness, I don’t if anyone will ever completely understand her life.  In her life, Lane goes from supporting elements of communism and fascism to standing up for the founding principles of the United States of America.  She did all of this, of course, while helping her mother complete her famous series of children’s books.

Perhaps we will never know where Rose’s influence began and ended when it comes to the Little House books.  It is an enduring debate surrounding the series.  Fraser comes right out and describes the mother and daughter writing relationship as “incestuous.”  I came to a stop for a minute at that description, silently accusing Fraser of sensationalism.  Then I thought about it.  As I stated earlier, there is no way to know precisely what role Rose played in the series.  While I do not believe that Rose largely wrote the books, I do believe that the books would not exist in their current form without her influence.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the book.  Political bias aside, Caroline Fraser extensively researched her material.  Prior to reading Prairie Fires, I found Rose Wilder Lane to be a fascinating character.  After reading the book, I left even more intrigued.  As a fiscal conservative with libertarian tendencies, I can relate to some of Lane’s political ideas.  I love the fact that she promoted individualism, personal liberty, and self-determination.  Those ideas still hold value and are needed today more than ever in the face of increasing collectivism.  Can individualism and self-determination be taken too far?  Absolutely, and so can collectivism.  We need a balance.

By the way, I find talk surrounding the book to be politically divisive.  You can read a Slate review here (the reviewer really doesn’t get the politics).  In the book, Lane’s political activism is compared with the other two “mothers” of the libertarian movement:  Ayn Rand and Isabel Paterson.  You can read more about them here.  If you are interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder, American history, or politics at all, Prairie Fires is a must-read.

Libertarian

RWL Quote

Perception Is Reality

One of my former bosses used to say that perception is reality. At the time, I didn’t fully agree, but the more I thought about it, the more I recognized the fundamental truth in that saying. It goes along with the saying “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right” (Henry Ford). I have to keep telling myself this, but it goes beyond personal plans and self-determination. I took it a step further and realized that it definitely applies to politics.

Without getting too overtly political, all I can say is that whomever controls the narrative controls the perception of reality. This is why fake news and outright media bias is so dangerous. Does it happen on both sides? Yes, of course. I’ll leave it up to my smart readers to determine where the truth actually lies. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this gets to the heart of my political beliefs. It gets to why I believe what I believe. This is also why it is so difficult to change another’s political opinions.

More than anything, I am truly tired of people telling others what they should believe. Excuse me, am I not capable of making my own well-supported decisions? It doesn’t matter if it is politics or something else, I will not blindly follow anyone or anything. Will people try to persuade one another? Sure. No problem. I am always willing to listen to a well thought-out opinion. That is not what I am discussing here. I am talking about the arguments used by many that state if you are x, y, and/or z (for example, a woman, college educated, etc.), you must believe 1, 2, and/or 3 and lockstep with this politician or political party. It happens. It happens every single day.

This entire idea can be taken one step further. It explains some detrimental beliefs we have in our society. The one I want to talk about here is the belief that everyone needs a college education. While I don’t necessarily believe that college is for everyone, I do believe that everyone needs some kind of additional training or education after high school. Unfortunately, we as a society place a much higher value on a four year college degree than we do trade school experiences. The sad thing is that we need people to become electricians, plumbers, builders, and so much more. There are many people out there who much rather work with their hands than do straight academics. Unfortunately, many of those students are talked into four year degrees when they might be much happier learning a trade. In the end, our society loses. We have gutted the trades, and those who pursued a traditional four year degree instead are left with a mountain of unnecessary debt. By the way, there are so many other examples.  This just happened to be the least controversial example I could think of at the moment.

I suppose my biggest frustration is that so many people do not base their perceptions on the truth. The truth doesn’t seem to matter much anymore. This sad fact is precisely why we are not resolving any of our political, economic, or social issues. No one wants to listen to anyone else.

My Political Heart

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Yes, I will vote anyway.

Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that I will always be a political person.  I care too much.  As much as I would love to just ignore politics, messy as they currently are, I can’t help myself.  Frankly, it is tearing me up inside.  As a libertarian who is fiscally conservative and generally socially liberal, I am represented nowhere.  The politicians I support either are far too smart to run for the office of President, unwilling to play the necessary game, or already out of the running due to the same issue.  Any of those individuals could also be described as far too nice as well.

I’d love to become more politically involved, but I do not have the stomach for it.  I am so sick of the constant blame on all sides, the unwillingness on all sides to solve the real issues, and identity politics.  I refuse to be told how to vote due to the fact that I am a woman, the fact that I am a college student and a future teacher.  I am also a future small business owner who values fiscal responsibility, which by the way, I see from neither party.  I am extremely angry at a party leadership that does its best to suppress the will of the people and fails to address the real issues facing their party members.  By the way, I am talking about the leadership of both political parties.  Neither are working to address the real issues faced by younger voters, those who are struggling financially, or those who have given up.  On the left, Bernie Sanders garners popular support while realistically never having a chance due to the Democratic Party rules that allow for super delegates, helping Clinton pull away in the delegate count in spite of tepid support.  On the right, the Republican Party leadership – the “establishment,” whatever that is – is throwing everything it has at Trump.  Both political parties are ignoring the real issues facing their supporters.

What upsets me the most is that there is no room for compromise anymore.  As a result, nothing gets accomplished.  So many people get wrapped up in their political beliefs that they do not even want to talk to someone with different political beliefs.  It deeply saddens me.  I have friends with vastly different political views than mine.  I respect that.  Everyone has a reason for their political views.  I have deeply held beliefs and experiences that underscore mine.  Why is it so hard to believe that there is more than one way to look at the world?  Unfortunately, I am not sure when basic respect left political discussion in the US, but it most certainly has.

What am I left with in this situation?  I am not sure.  I can only hope that things get better.  I would love to get politically involved, but how do I do just that when I don’t fully support any of the current candidates?  Yes, the traditional political system is broken.  Here’s to hoping that it can be fixed and that we can all listen to one another once again.

politics 2

politics 1

The “L” Word – libertarian

libertarian_definition_bumper_sticker

It took me over a decade to fully admit that I have a strong libertarian bent.  When I first heard the term in high school, I simply did not understand.  I kept thinking that it must represent something I would never completely understand.  What is so controversial about wanting less government and wanting to give people more control over their lives?  I still do not understand the misconceptions.  For example, the idea that libertarians want no government.  Of course we need government for national security, infrastructure, etc., but the real question is why aren’t more people questioning the daily, routine intrusion of the federal government in our lives?  There is a pervasive idea, particularly among millennials, that government is the answer to everything.  It sickens me to recognize that so many people do not understand how government overreach can shutdown small business and job creation.  I actually lost a friend over such an argument – a man with whom I attended business school at that.  Most people do not see the connection between the two and think that government can create jobs.  It simply can’t.  It can only help to create an environment that is conducive to new job growth and business creation.

It saddens me just how politically cynical I’ve become over the last few years.  The person I would have loved to see elected President dropped out of the race recently.  I will once again hold my nose and vote for the person I perceive to be the lesser of two evils.  Neither, no matter who wins the Republican and Democratic nominations, will fully represent my political views.  I do not care much about social issues.  There is a role for government to create a safety net, but it is non-profit organizations, which deserve much more support, that are in the best position to make the largest impact.  As for issues such as gay marriage and abortion, what needs to be changed?  While I completely disagree with the idea of abortion, I recognize the necessity of legalized abortion and firmly believe that everyone should have fully control over what happens to his or her body.  I can’t imagine being told what to do with my body.  At the same time, there is much to be done to help support pregnant women who are thinking of having an abortion.  They need to know ALL of their options, not just abortion.  That type of work does not require the government at all.  As for gay marriage, now that it has been upheld by the Supreme Court, I fail to understand why it was such an issue in the first place.  If two consenting adults want to get married, why not?  Why should government be involved in marriage at all?

If I had to pin down my own beliefs, I would say that in theory, I am fairly liberal on social issues, even though conservative values have always shaped my own personal life.  The thing is that I’ve never expected anyone else to live by those values.  I cannot stand people trying to impose their values on me, so I try not to impose my values on anyone else.  Fiscal issues are altogether different.  I am a fiscal conservative.  Sadly, this is exactly where both parties fall far short for me.  Both spend like crazy and are doing next to nothing to rein in spending.  The way I look at it, the less money in the hands of the government, the more money in the hands of people like you and me.

I originally decided to write on this topic in an effort to better understand why libertarians are so misunderstood, why exactly I am so drawn to libertarian ideas, and why I believe what I believe.  It all comes back to the idea that I believe government is way too big and that our freedoms are slowly, surely being eroded.  If that makes me a rebel, so be it.

penn

The Iowa Caucus and Sarah Horowitz

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A Daughter Brought to Life – National Review

Teacher, Writer, Human Rights Activist Dies Unexpectedly at Age 44

What My Daughter Taught Me About Compassion – David Horowitz

Whenever I think of the Iowa caucus, I think of Sarah Horowitz.  I first learned about her during the winter of 2008 when she spent time campaigning for Barack Obama ahead of the Iowa caucus.  While I can’t pinpoint the exact online article that brought her to my attention, I will never forget her story.  As you can tell from the headline of her obituary in the JReview, she spent her brief life pursuing education, both as a teacher and as a student, and serving as a political activist.

In order to fully understand Sarah’s story, it is best to start with her father, conservative commentator David Horowitz.  Originally a product of the new left during the 1960s, his political views changed considerably over the decades, and during the 1980s, he became a well-known conservative commentator.  He is still well known in conservative circles, and the stark contrast between his political views and those of his daughter highlight the best and worst of our current political system.

I first came across David Horowitz’s work more than a decade ago when I was a certified political blog junkie.  I doubt that I would have ever came across his work today.  I would not know Sarah’s story if it were not for her father.  While deep political divisions have a way of tearing families apart, it is clear from his columns and everything written about his daughter Sarah that David Horowitz not only loved his daughter, he admired her too.  I suppose that is the larger point.  Both the left and the right have much to offer.  Why aren’t we all listening to one another?

After learning that David Horowitz wrote a book about Sarah’s life, I purchased it.  At that point, her life intrigued me.  The sad fact is that even though I’ve owned the book for over seven years, I have yet to read it.  Sarah Horowitz had Turner Syndrome, and the fact that she passed away in her 40s from heart complications quite frankly scares me.  Even though my personal political views are vastly different from hers and I can’t begin to imagine all of the physical complications (both from Turner Syndrome and additional causes) Sarah faced on a daily basis, I still see myself reflected in her story.  It is time I finally read the book.

Vision of Unity – Tablet – An interview with Sarah Horowitz published just prior to her death.

Included in Tablet interview, 2009.

Included in Tablet interview, 2009.