able lesson: Never make your protagonist sexually maladroit.rnYou will get nothing but pit)’ing stares from friends and tears ofrnmortifieation from your mother.rnLike my doughtily dysfunctional hero, I did go home, forrngood. And for better. I have written about this at length inrnChronicles and elsewhere, so to nip your “there-he-goes-agains”rnin the bud, I will say only that healthy, life-giving parochialismrnexists in even the most dispirited and quotidian places, thatrnwe — or at least I — can only ever really love the familiar, andrnthat rage arrd anger require the anchorage of love lest they becomernexhausting and poindess hatred.rnToiling for a maverick liberal drove nre not to drink but tornlibertarianism, yet the motive force of ideology has long sincernfaded for me, the more deeply embedded I become in my nativernplace. I would rather write a booklet on Batavia’s greatestrnarchitect and excavate the life of a lady painter, my great-grandmother’srndear frierrd, aird write our county’s bicentennial playrnor just drive around picking up donated ratty furniture for thernhistorical societ”s yard sale than rail against the state. I wouldrnrather practice an arrarchy based on love than preach a sterilernliberty. All right—that’s enough oithat. Miss Barr)’more.rnI think the disjunction between Washington conservativesrnand real American places is summed up in the first 15 secondsrnof the Rush Limbaugh show. Those who endure Rush knowrnhis theme song, which is always cut short before it gets interesting,rnas with Rush’s show itself The music is from the Pretenders’rnsong “Back to Ohio,” in which Chrissie Hynde describesrna return to her hometown of Akron, Ohio, where “all nryrnfavorite places” have been urban-renewalized into memory. “Irnwent back to Ohio / but my city was gone / There was no trainrnstation / there was no downtown . . . “—a bitter and sardonic observationrnon how the destruction of landmarks erodes a sense ofrnplace, of loyalty. But this is not sonrething that the happy-talkrnright of the Fortune 500 wishes to hear.rnWell, Chrissie did not move back to Ohio. Like Gary Bauer,rnshe probably woidd not have made nearly as much money sittingrnaround in the Firestone parking lot, in the words of a sisterrnAkronitc. She might not have been famous, and that is whatrnreally counts, isn’t it?rnIt is too easy for an annoying note of self-satisfaction to creeprninto the narratives of those who do return home. On the otherrnhand, we as obser’ers are sometimes made uncomfortable byrnwhat seems a suicidal adherence to principle.rnElmer Kelton, the dean of Western writers, wrote a terrificrnnovel some years back called The Time It Never Rained, about arnWest Texas rancher named Charlie Flagg who stands alone inrnhis county in refusing government aid during a seemingly endlessrndrought. He is wiped out by his stubbornness, but he retainsrnhis soul, at least.rnFlagg’s example is a constant reproach to his neighbors, selfstyledrnrugged individualists who, in taking Washington’s dollar,rnhave essentially turned over the management of their ranches tornthe federal government. So he is resented in the way that menrnofttimes garrote saints. Or the way the Progress Gang spewsrnvenom at Wendell Berry: Hiis critics would like nothing betterrnthan to see Berrv’ chained to a Barcalounger and force-fed microwavernburritos and Starbucks coffee while he watches AdamrnSandler movies and his grandkids frolic about the den in HardrnRock Cafe T-shirts playing Pokemon. hi his integration ofrnwork, family, home, and local patriotism, Berr)’ is the old Americanrndream made flesh, and his example is a rebuke to everyrntypewriter agrarian, high-rise loealist, and Georgetown bar-hoppingrnsecessionist. Or as the Jack Nicholson character says tornWyatt and Billy in Easy Rider, “They gonna talk to you and talkrnto you about individual freedom, but they see a free individual,rnit’s gonna scare ’em.”rnLike Wendell Berr)’ scares ’em. Or Carolyn Chute. EdwardrnAbbey. Gore Vidal. Pat Buchanan. Or the homeschoolingrnfamily that refuses to raise its children to be querulous consumersrnor good Microsoft employees.rnhi The Time It Never Rained, an exasperated Charlie Flaggrnexplains, “Pm not sayin’ any man is wrong because he doesn’trnpattern himself after me; what anybody else wants to do is hisrnbusiness, not mine. I just want to live by my own lights and bernleft the hell alone.”rnIf only it were possible. But Charlie Flagg is not left alone,rnany more than Edward Abbey’s brave cowboy was left alone; arnsplinter sect of the Seventh-Day Adventist church down inrnFlagg’s Texas was not even left alone. So do we have any choicernhut to march on Washington, to write our congressmen, to concedernthat, like it or not, Washington matters? Place-ists do.rnThere is a wall out there, located somewhere betweenrnRonald Reagan airport and the FDR Memorial, on which is inscribedrnthe names of 50,000-plus farmboys and working-classrnwhites and Southern and city blacks who were not left the hellrnalone; who were offered up as a sacrifice by the “greatest generation,”rnas Tom Brokaw’s ghostwriter termed what in fact was,rnpolitically, the most conformist generation in American history,rnthe generation that destroyed the Old Republic, the generationrnof urban renewal and IBM and the suburban high school andrnbringing the Great Society to Southeast Asia and electingrnFranklin D. Roosevelt four times and regarding long hair andrnrock music and pot-smoking as sinful but sending your boysrnhalfway around the globe to die for Robert McNamara as arnsupreme act of patriotism. (I should say that I exempt my familyrnand friends and the family and friends of all readers fromrnthese strictures.)rnMy dad has a book put out by the Cold Star Mothers ofrnGenesee County containing pictures and brief biographies ofrnthe Genesee boys who died in World War II. I look at theirrnfaces and think of them dying alone halfway around the globe,rntheir guts spilled into some foreign soil or depressingly vastrnocean, and I wonder about the lives they would have lived hadrnthe American side of the great debate of 1940-41 prevailed.rnNunzio working at Doehler-Jarvis, Judd taking his father’s placernat the bar. Would we have been spared the bad habits and destructivernpatterns of behavior picked up in our subsequent yearsrnof empire? In my hometown, the greatest generation—the onernwe had, not the one we might have had —came home and inrn1946 knocked down all the trees to widen Main Street, thenrnknocked down Main Street itself because “experts” with collegerndegrees told them to, then they sent their children out to beg,rnsit, and roll over to earn those same degrees, whereupon theyrntook jobs far away from dad, so distant that in millions of sad casesrnthe job of “grandparent” has been stripped of any functionrnbeyond shipping videogames to the little brats come Christmas.rn(Or winter holidays, should I say?) But at least the grandkids attendrngood schools with lots of computers and high averagernSATs. Hit ’em high, hit ’em low, go-ooo. Columbine!rnThis whole notion of moving somewhere to take a job is onernof the sharpest and cleanest of class dividers. Virtually everyonernwho lives and works in Washington or on Wall Street has migratedrnfor money or power, “the vain low strife that makes menrn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn