51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2007
It's not often that I read a political book that's so personal. If you are a Conservative, you will be nodding repeatedly while reading the stories, thinking "Yes, that happened to Me!" If you are Liberal and or Progressive, you will gain a deeper understanding of your rightwing acquaintences who seem like nice people but, hey, there must be something wrong with them since how could they vote for George BushChimpHitler?
In most cases the writers had an 'Aha' moment. Whether or not it is Stanley Kurtz reacting to protesters who were threatening to kill cops, Heather Mac Donald realizing that her training in deconstructionism was preventing her from actually understanding or even enjoying the books she was reading, Dinesh D'Souza flinching at the sexual propaganda from the University Chaplain at opening ceremonies, or Joseph Bottum looking at a young mother struggling with her child, each of them had a moment where they realized that their was something amiss with their surroundings and were motivated to take action.
Revolutionaries are traditionally associated with the Left. These writers are the Revolutionaries of the Right. Worth reading if you're interested in politics, no matter what your point of view.
57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2007
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I have been historically disappointed with these types of collections. For example, I thought the volume Backward and Upward: The New Conservative Writing edited by David Brooks was only mediocre. This book, on the other hand, really grabbed me and held my attention. The writing is excellent. Further, and more importantly, the stories are all engaging and very different. Each of the writers took unique journeys and arrived at different places. For example, David Brooks' brand of conservatism and story of arriving there is very different from Joseph Bottum's or Dinesh D'Souza's (or the other 10 writers).
Though I do not qualify as a baby-boomer, as someone who discovered in my 30's that my true home was on the political Right, I found a great deal in this volume that I could relate to and learn from.
This book is probably better designed for persons who are already conservatives or leaning towards conservatism rather than as a persuasive tract designed to convince those on the political Left of the errors of their ways (though some on the Left may relate to some of the essays and find them persuasive--especially Danielle Crittenden's, whose essay is excellent).
For the many conservatives who are down in the mouth right now, this volume is an excellent reminder of why we think the way we do.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2007
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I am a bit skeptical of edited books, probably because I have read so many that were poorly done. But I confess, Mary Eberstadt did a wonderful job. Not only were the writers across the conservative spectrum, but the premise of the book, leading conservatives discussing their own personal journey turned out to be both interesting, enlightening, and reflective of some of my own experiences.
Without going into detail about each of the writers, and the personal journey's they experienced, one thing is clear. Like all political philosophies and affiliations, there are many strains of thought. More importantly, how each person arrived at those beliefs is certainly unique.
And so we have 12 conservative thinkers/writers who discuss their coming around to being a conservative. For some, like Sally Satel, what draws them to conservatism are issues that are crtitical to her (psychiatry). Otherwise, many of her positions would be considered liberal. Or Richard Starr whose journey to conservatism was aided and abetted by President Jimmy Carter. There is Rich Lowry who, wouldn't you know, a life long conservative, although he didn't realize it until college. Or Heather Mac Donald who revolted against what academia had become. Each with his or her own story.
And in each story, a little bit of what many readers will have experienced themselves. This is by no means a book about how a group of leftist radical hippies turned out to become leading conservatives like David Horowitz. What you do find is are people that grew into conservatism. Much like, I suspect, many readers of this book.
I highly recommend.
35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2007
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This is an interesting collection of essays by a dozen "baby boomer" men and women of contemporary conservative letters. All the essays were written for this publication, so it is not a grab bag of bits and pieces written at different times and places. Thus it's a good sampling of current opinion(s). For the most part it is light fare; the sort of book one could read while on an outing at the beach, or relaxing on the backyard patio.
I doubt very much that anyone with political views to the left-of-center will read this book. It definitely "preaches to the choir." Those who are already convinced will find their conservative convictions reaffirmed in a highly readable manner. I found the book to be light and refreshing; a nice breather from wading through the polemics of geopolitical analyses.
There is P. J. O'Rourke's wacky humor. (I'm still not sure if he's a conservative or a nihilist.) Richard Starr of the Weekly Standard writes a more serious essay, averring that "Jimmy Carter made me the conservative I am today." The pious Carter believed that the "setbacks America suffered under his command were turning us into a better nation." Starr rightly perceives that the great modern liberal temptation is to believe that "threats are imaginary and enemies nonexistent."
The contribution by David Brooks was, I thought, the best article in the book. Among other literary pursuits, Brooks is the token conservative columnist for The New York Times. I was taken aback by Brooks' forthright declaration that he believes America's "foray into Iraq is one of the noblest endeavors the United States , or any great power, has ever undertaken." This is a courageous stand by a thoughtful and knowledgeable man.
The above are just a few examples of the kind of ideas contained in this engaging and enjoyable book. Leo Strauss it is not (although Peter Berkowitz has several pages devoted to exposition of Strauss's ideas). I liked the book, and if you are a conservative I'm sure you will like it. If you are a liberal, please read this book to find out what it feels like to be able to think clearly.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2007
Mary Eberstadt has done a fine job with this. It's breezy reading, for the most part, but the collection is consistently diverting, sometimes funny, and occasionally moving. As a group, the essayists demonstrate the ideological range of the brand of conservative thinking found in "National Review," "The Weekly Standard," and, to a lesser extent, "The American Spectator." Some of the most interesting writers in here could be described as moderates or old-fashioned liberals (pre-counterculture, pre-Great Society, pre-McGovern debacle) driven into the conservative camp by the excesses of the academic and activist left. What the contributors share is a belief in personal responsibility, a rejection of moral relativism, and an understanding that all free societies depend on strong institutions and some sort of respect for some sort of tradition.
Tod Lindberg provides a nice description of a young John Podhoretz, with whom he shared a college dorm, while Richard Starr writes charmingly about Emmett Tyrrell and scathingly about Jimmy Carter. Rich Lowry's selection is notable for its description of his high school years--"I would be watching a videotaped episode of 'Firing Line' and trying to follow the niceties of a discussion between Bill Buckley and . . . Malcolm Muggeridge, when my friends would pick me up at home for a bout of drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon behind the local strip mall"--and for the end of the piece, when he discusses how reading Whittaker Chambers' "Witness" influenced his religious faith. Dinesh D'Souza, of whom I generally am not a fan, serves up some tasty anecdotes about "Dartmouth Review" antics and about the hilarious (and irreplaceable) Jeffrey Hart: "When I first heard of the French Revolution . . . my reaction was that I was against it."
P. J. O'Rourke is funny as usual, but underlying his humor (basically, "I was a college lefty for the girls and the scene") are telling truths about how much people's politics depend upon the images they would like to project. Danielle Crittenden explains how feminism was hijacked by radicals, who now seem to be as enthusiastic about surrendering to the imams as they once were to the Soviets, despite the extreme, umm, inconspicuousness of women in the Politburo. Sally Satel, who would be considered a social liberal if the left still had most of its marbles, describes how she became a pariah among psychiatrists for daring to believe in individualism, personal responsibility, and the institutionalization of the stark-raving mad.
Speaking of insanity, Stanley Kurtz recounts his years in the academy, and includes many useful observations about intellectual freedom and severed pig heads. Heather Mac Donald, who just might be the best reporter/thinker in America (see "The Burden of Bad Ideas"), also delivers a well-justified drubbing of the academy, with the not very Reverend Sharpton thrown in for fun. David Brooks's essay, which is excellent, explores the tensions between American conservatism, eyes cast forward, and the rear-view vision of Burke and Kirk and most European conservatives. Peter Berkowitz is a liberal, but a kind of Straussian liberal who recognizes liberalism's debt to a source of value (or virtue, as Berkowitz would have it) that cannot be derived from liberalism itself; his essay led me to his "Virtue and the Making of Modern Liberalism," a book I also recommend. Joseph Bottum is a good bit more socially conservative than I am, but his piece is the literary highlight of the collection, powerfully and vividly written.
If you're looking for a collection of vomitous Ann Coulter-style screeds, this is not the book for you. If, however, you're a truly open-minded (dare I say liberal-minded?) person interested in finding out why a number of bright people don't mind rejecting the prevailing intellectual orthodoxy, "Why I Turned Right" is well worth reading.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2008
Although I am neither a conservative nor a postliberal, I read some of these stories with interest, particularly the stories of Heather Mac Donald and Sally Satel of their intellectual revulsion at the cognitive insanity of many parts of academia.
The people in this volume are not the only ones who have changed, however. In the 1970s, liberal ideology began to metamorphose until it had changed into something quite different, even antithetical: an illiberal ideology that should be called "postliberalism."
Stanley Kurtz in his essay gives a play-by-play of this transition. The first break with liberalism came in the 1970s with the policy position that not all groups are to be treated as equals. Some are to be treated as "more equal" than others. As a result, groups given unmerited advancement did poorly. Since some liberals objected to abandoning equality as a goal, this policy was coupled with the position that it was okay to impose the group's will on dissenters through mass action. The failure of the "more equal" strategy led to the postliberals accusing America of hidden, widespread racism. In the 1980s came the break with freedom of speech with dissenting speakers being shouted down. This necessitated the position that "democratic principles are a cover for white male oppression." By 1995, what used to be called "liberal" was being excoriated as "conservative." (p. 150)
The academics and media people continued to call themselves "liberals." As a result, almost all former liberals accepted these changes and believe that this illiberal ideology is "liberalism". And most conservatives don't know the difference.
These three saw that it wasn't. Why don't other liberals figure out that they've been had? Maybe because these three liberals were in graduate school in the 1970s, which means that they had more-or-less conventional schooling for their K12 and college years. Today's college students have been drilled in mind-numbing exercises like what color is math and if you feel a statement is true, then it is true. How could college students with that background think their way out of anything?
What we really need is a book like this one that tells the stories of today's college students who have shifted from postliberal to conservative--if indeed there are any such students!
I was, however, saddened by certain similarities between the thinking of some of these conservatives and the conceits of postliberals, namely, the perception that the majority in this nation are leaning THEIR way, together with elaborate explanations for why this shift is occuring.
This is particularly curious at the present time (2008). The Democrat Party's Presidential race has sifted down to only two candidates--both avid postliberals. The Republican race has sifted down to only one candidate--a combination of centrist social policy and military foreign policy. This is hardly evidence of a massive shift to the right.
(P.S. If you want the details of the shift from liberalism to Dhimmism, they can be found in the second half of While America Sleeps: How Islam, Immigration and Indoctrination Are Destroying America From Within ).
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2007
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I almost gave it a five, but when you read a series of personal pastiches, some are always better than others. I liked them all and was amazed at the "thread" that connected all of the personal experiences. No extreme kooks here, just people who "when they grew up" as some never do, were not afraid to examine their earlier predjudices and misgivings. I would enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone, and especially to extremists, except most extremists probably never read anything except what they write themselves anyway.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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This quick read is also must read for any political junky. The book teaches the reader that there are many paths to conservatism but a whole lot of conservatives began moving to the right as a reaction against over-reaching on the part of liberals at one of our country's many fine universities. Practical experience in the real world does a lot of changing of political minds as well (that was the case for me).
It also teaches the reader that there are lots of funny conservatives out there. P.J. O'Rourke's essay was a stitch. Danielle Crittenden's is funny and rings true to every parent.
Joseph Bottum's observation are not really humorous, but they are some of the most profound as he discusses society, the respenct for life and how said it is that the 10 Commandments have been replaced by in our society by the two new great commandments: "Be Nice and Be Cool"(p. 156). this observation is so dead on and obvious to this public school teacher that I'm embarassed that I didn't think of it myself.
A pleasure to read.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2007
A terrific collection of inspirations, insights and road-to-Damascus-style epiphanies, this book shows how the logomachists on the right side of the American political spectrum got where they are today. For some it was the amorality and vapid pangamy of college life. For others it was later on, as the dissonance between professional/intellectual honesty and cherished liberal shibboleths ultimately midwifed a transformative reevaluation of their weltanschauung.
WITR is an entertaining and illuminating read. Even if you disagree with a PJ O'Rourke or a Sally Satel, their reflective stories will give you pause and provide fodder for lengthy and lively discussion.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2011
I leafed through this book on a whim, and I couldn't put it down!
So much of the accounts within were similar to my own experiences!
I grew up in a house of whining, snivelling leberals, ...in a prediminantly liberal region, in a predominantly liberal state...
...Lots of pessimism, pre-concieved ideas, and unwarranted sense of entitlement.
In college, I went to observe all manner of leftist seminars and campus groups: youth for socialist action, MPIRG, Amnesty International, college democrats, etc...
...I was curious as to what all the controversy was about, so I listened to their points of view.
What kind of people did I see?
-Lots of malodorous individuals with miscelleneous fishing-tackle in their faces, bizarre colors dyed in their hair, wearing generally ragged, unkempt, unwashed clothing.
-Lots of people who hate America (their own nation), hate the military (and veterans such as myself), hate Christianity, hate capitalism, and hate Republicans in particular...
-Morbidly obese vegetarians.
Then there is the "alternative life-style" factor:
-Of all the most flagrant leftists I have known: 3 died of AIDS, 5 died of drug over-dose, 3 comitted suicide, 6 are/were in prison, and one was murdered by his "pimp"...
-All of my liberal relatives are either alcoholics and/or dope-smokers.
So based on what I have observed DIRECTLY over time, ...I really came to gravely dislike liberalism and liberals in general.
"Its not that liberals are ignorant, its just that they know so much that ISN'T SO."
I researched a considerable quantity of leftist "literature", ...then I read FACTUAL information. I came to realize that the overwhelming majority of leftist media is really composed of half-truths and blatant lies. At one time I REALLY, REALLY wanted to believe this stuff, ...but the REAL world dispels all propaganda, no matter how idealistic that ideology may be.