Never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I guess I regret not having Rod Dreher to kick around any more. When our own self-styled (and always stylish) "crunchy con" departed from the editorial page staff of The Dallas Morning News last December to work for the John Templeton Foundation in Pennsylvania, I guess I thought he had "gone over" forever to the other side of the Mississippi. We here in the West would never think of him again. But how wrong. Now I hear from people every couple of days who have made sightings.
For example, over the weekend I bumped into a peer at Home Depot who had spotted Dreher in a New York Times op-ed piece by Samuel D. Freedman on all of the ignorant crap people have been saying about voodoo in the wake of the Haitian earthquake. Freedman cites something Dreher wrote on Beliefnet after televangelist Pat Roberston blamed the Haiti earthquake on voodoo. On January 15, 2010, Dreher wrote: "The kind of religion one practices makes a huge difference in how the community lives -- for better or for worse."
My Home Depot source happens to know Freedman, a journalism professor at Columbia, and called him to point out, just for grins, that Dreher actually believes in a syncretism of voodoo, Catholicism and vegetarianism (hence, Crunchy!), according to things he wrote here in Dallas.
I am unable to provide a link to The Dallas Morning News story that was perhaps the best example, an October 31, 2004 op-ed epistle headlined "A ghost in the family," but I can summarize: Various trailer-park-seeming misadventures the Dreher clan in Lousiana involving embezzlement, senility and late-life conjugation can be blamed on ghosts that had to exorcised by a Cajun lady who started vibrating violently and burned her hand when she touched the photo of the dead slut who had come back to haunt the socks off Rod. My Home Depot comrade felt that Dreher was not the one to be looking down his Coonass nose at Haitians and wrote to Freedman to tell him.
Dreher is now in charge of "communications" (normal or spooky, I do not know) for the John Templeton Foundation. For an overview of that outfit, see Mark Oppenheimer on the Huffington Post a couple years ago. It's a fairly balanced piece that gives the foundation points for having done good works in the past in its support of research, etc. but also says it has a weird spooky aspect as well. Oppenheimer says the main purpose of the foundation is to serve as an ongoing vessel for the beliefs of its founder, Sir John Templeton ("Sir," in spite of being from Tennessee).
Oppenheimer sums up Templeton as, "the anti-Seinfeld, loathing irony, and the anti-Carlin, loathing impropriety. I never met the man, but by all accounts he was a Puritan, devoted to thrift, given to lectures on virtue, and never one to laugh about any of it. Sir John was gentle, touchingly spiritual, awed by the universe, financially shrewd -- and totally uncertain why anyone would make light of his passions."
A weird, humorless, smart, spooky, self-rightous, puritan wingnut. Sounds to me like Dreher is home at last, home a last!
Received another sighting recently from Jeff Siegel of the Wine Curmudgeon, citing a post by Dreher on Belieftnet about problems he had suffered recently trying to buy a dry Reisling at a Pennsylvania state liquor store. Dreher describes the state liquor store as the "Soviet Socialist Keystone State Wine Shop," because government employees can't give you good wine tips. Good point. Excellent point. In fact, that is why I personally would would never ever ask a government employee for a wine tip.
I would make fun of Dreher's name-calling -- linking the poor liquor store clerks to Stalin -- except that I think Dreher is actually stealing this stuff from me: I myself often have engaged in tasteless hysterical hyperbole comparing local agencies of government with the Soviets. I believe the most recent instance involved the school board.
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And, what the heck? I'm a liberal. (But, Rod, c'mon: You really do need to get your own material.)
I noticed another piece on Beliefnet in which Dreher was flailing himself for having cracked a new $100 ceramic Dutch oven by leaving it on the burner too long. He says of himself, "Idiot, idiot, idiot."
Hmm. Here's another case of my not wanting to go too hard on him too for fear of the pot calling the kettle cracked. I do stuff like all the time, and I always come to the same conclusion he did. Plus, as for embarrassing family episodes, I could match him trailer park for trailer park any day. With one hand tied behind my back. At least he's got the guts to put it out there and even tell people he believes in ghost-sluts, which, of course, is like daring somebody from the cracker factory to come throw a net on him. I like the moxie.
So I guess it's this: He's a weird guy. And I miss him. Maybe when I cross over, I will see him again, on that glorious day when all the souls that have been saved, according to my definition of saved, will be united again in Philadelphia.