Top positive review
28 people found this helpful
Illuminating insights into rural paranoia
on May 28, 2001
Understanding why Timothy McVeigh acted as he did is beyond most people. Similarly, most urban Americans know little of the "Republic of Texas", the militia movements, the "common-law courts" and sundry other manifestations of rural anger and paranoia. To a European like myself it is even more incomprehensible.
I chanced on this book when I was in a bookstore in Champaign, IL and heard the author speaking. I am glad that chance meeting took place as reading this book has given me more understanding of the American rural mind (or at least a portion of it) than anything else that I have read on the subject.
Joel Dyer is the editor of the Boulder Weekly and is a sensitive editor well tuned to all his readers' shades of opinion. It is all too easy for people to dismiss these more extreme beliefs as those belonging to wackos, weirdos and lunatics. Dyer has at least treated adherents of these views with respect and done them the courtesy of listening to them and analyzing the underlying causes of their frustration, resentment and seething anger.
He presents a fairly convincing picture of why those who are tied to agriculture are so paranoid about government in general and the federal government in particular. He explains patiently and convincingly why there is a feeling of desperation. He shows how for many people desperate times call for desperate measures and how these people have sought to rationalize and justify their actions. Dyer is understanding while not approving of the aims or means employed to achieve the ends.
It would be easy to descend into simple mockery and condemnation of extremists. Whilst Dyer concludes that extreme beliefs and actions are wrong headed, his respectful analysis acknowledges the colossal pressures facing these people. He points out the urgent need to do something about their plight. His non-judgmental fact gathering has allowed him access to people whose voices are rarely heard other than through their most strident and extreme mouthpieces.
Dyer concludes that America is sitting on a powder keg. Unless governments heed their rising voices, then we can expect the Oklahoma bombing to be only the first of many large scale outrages designed to force people to pay attention to a neglected section of the community.
The style of this book, as befits an editor, is journalistic. However, Dyer recognizes the value of his research for those with more scholarly interests and there is a susbstantial section of notes and references at the end to allow those interested to further research the issues.
A worthwhile and sobering read.