Word is going around that Wendell Berry’s The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice has caused something of a scandal. And we can easily understand the dismay: In his latest study of land, culture, and society, Mr. Berry not only argues against pulling down Confederate monuments, but even suggests that some of the Confederates had redeeming qualities. This is hardly a fashionable thesis in the Year of Our Lord 2023, nor is it what we would expect from a writer who received the National Humanities Medal from Barack Obama.
Then again, nobody should have been too surprised by Mr. Berry’s latest remarks. Left-leaning or no, the man has always been idiosyncratic, and has always admitted that his agrarian philosophy owes much to the politically-incorrect Vanderbilt Agrarians of the 1930’s. As Mr. Berry saw fit during his 2012 Jefferson Lecture to quote the poet Allen Tate—author of Stonewall Jackson: The Good Soldier and poems like “Ode To the Confederate Dead”—it should come as no surprise that he disagrees with those who would have Tate “canceled.”
Read all of "Wendell Berry's The Need to Be Whole" by Jerry Salyer at The Imaginative Conservative.