Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ruthie Leming: Low in openness

Our favorite backbiting coward Rod Dreher, fresh off the sting of having to take his kids to see the Duck Dynasty Robertsons instead of vice versa, turns to writing expert Will Wilkinson to once again drag his dead sister Ruthie's name through the mud now that she is safely beyond being able to talk back to him or otherwise stand up for herself

This Wilkinson graf, I think, explains why my sister had a permanent chip on her shoulder about something as trivial as my food preferences:

     My best guess (and let me stress guess) is that those low in openness depend emotionally on a sense of enchantment of the everyday and the profundity of ritual. Even a little change, like your kids playing with different toys than you did, comes as a small reminder of the instability of life over generations and the contingency of our emotional attachments. This is a reminder low-openness conservatives would prefer to avoid, if possible. What high-openness liberals feel as merenostalgia, low-openness conservatives feel as the baseline emotional tone of a recognizably decent life. If your kids don’t experience the same meaningful things in the same same way that you experienced them, then it may seem that their lives will be deprived of meaning, which would be tragic. And even if you’re able to see that your kids will find plenty of meaning, but in different things and in different ways, you might well worry about the possibility of ever really understanding and relating to them. The inability to bond over profound common experience would itself constitute a grave loss of meaning for both generations. So when the culture redefines a major life milestone, such as marriage, it trivializes one’s own milestone experience by imbuing it was a sense of contingency, threatens to deprive one’s children of the same experience, and thus threatens to make the generations strangers to one another. And what kind of monster would want that?

Well, there you have it, expert writer Will Wilkinson's best guess - until the next random opportunity presents itself.


  1. I was hoping that you'd tackle this one, Keith (and confident that you would). This piece has all of the classic Dreher piece components:

    1) The subject (country music) is something that he knows little about ("I am mostly not a fan of country music, so I don’t follow it.") but pertains to rubes in flyover country.

    2) Some other obscure writers, whose names he can drop in a way that makes us think that they're tight with Dreher like "TNC" or "PEG", did write about the subject in a way that reads like anthropologists studying a lost tribe of Borneo.

    3) The pieces can be block quoted wholesale.

    4) . . . and used to take another swipe at poor Ruthie while pimping TLWORL.

    5) While Dreher himself need not take a position on the premises of the article, but can throw it out for the fans to gnaw over. (Which they do, not hindered by themselves knowing little about the subject.)

    Perfect. There ought to be one of those automated Friedman column generators for Dreher to use, to save him the trouble of actually writing it.

    1. Pik, yeah, the country music thing was just another wrapper like I've pointed out before, the candy coating legitimizing the wholly unrelated poison pill within.

      A sycophant (is there a new in-house comment prize needing a name I haven't heard about yet up for auction on the blog these days? This guy sure must think so) named Turmeric or something drops low and underneath in front of Dreher to offer this without question:

      In short, Rod, by the very nature of your temperaments, you were able to affirm and appreciate Ruthie’s choices, whether you’d make such choices or not, but she was unable to affirm yours. This asymmetry exacerbated the differences already there. I think that’s often the case in families.

      [NFR: I think that's pretty much it. Well said. -- RD]

      Yes, that's pretty much it, class: "high openness" = "open-minded", "low openness" = "closed-minded". Cosmopolitan metrosexual brother Rod is open-minded, children. Spiteful, unforgiving country mouse sister Ruthie was and still is closed-minded. End of lesson. And take that, bitch.

      (So why, again, did so many people love Ruthie because of the way she changed their lives? Because of her "low openness"? And why does Rod fear a shallow bench at his own funeral? Just another mystery of the paranormal, I guess, one at least useful for selling books.)

      People may wonder at why I seem to "obsess" over Rod Dreher. The answer's simple: Rod Dreher is an ongoing, constantly self-refreshing example of how NOT to be a good and decent human being, a lesson that can't ever be taught too much or too often.

      Rod Dreher is an example parents would be wise to hold up to their children, and frequently:

      "See, Jason, you don't want to grow up to be a passive-aggressive, backbiting moral coward like Rod Dreher. If you don't like someone, be man enough to say so openly and straightforwardly. And if someone is bullying you, you fight back. You don't whine into your late 40's about how someone else should have saved you, covertly trolling for the pity of others. A man just doesn't behave that way, ever, no matter what. Whatever you become, don't grow up to be a Rod Dreher."

      "See, Beth, you don't speak critically of the dead after they're gone, ever, no matter what. You have the ultimate unfair advantage over them, and there's absolutely no way they can ever defend themselves against you. No decent woman who wants to call herself a lady will ever behave that way, ever."


    2. How not to be a good and decent person indeed, Keith.

      Sadly, Turmarion (a good name for a sycophant -- sounds like it came from Lord of the Rings) enabled Dreher to take another boulliabaisse-ish swipe at Ruthie:

      [NFR: My sister only listened to country. I seem to recall that 15 or so years ago, I tried to find common ground with her by making her a mix tape with some alt-country I had in my collection. I don't think she liked it at all. I think it was probably for the same reason that lots of people from Louisiana prefer Budweiser to craft beer brewed right here in Louisiana. -- RD]

      "Bad taste" is now recast as "low-openness". Said another way, if you don't like what I like, it is because you are too closed minded to have tried it.

      Whether it's Dreher's "alt-country mix", or such things as "exotic travel, hallucinogenic ecstasy, sexual experimentation, or challenging aesthetic experience" as the quoted piece asserts, it doesn't matter. When one conflates matters of taste with matters of truth, as Dreher commonly does, one gets on thin ice very quickly.

    3. Side-note: I always drink Budweiser around the craft idolaters.

    4. When one conflates matters of taste with matters of truth, as Dreher commonly does, one gets on thin ice very quickly.

      As many times as I'll end up describing the different "whats" that characterize Rod Dreher, Pik, I really doubt anyone will ever be able to distill a more essential "why" than you have here and elsewhere.

      This aesthetic imperative is the infinitely empty, self-contradictory sucking black hole that lurks at the center of Dreher and drives his every misbegotten lunge and blurt as certainly as that massive eater of suns at its heart drives the rotation of the Milky Way.

      Ruthie Leming was content to follow the religion in which she was raised and to carry out its commandments helping others every day of her all too short "low openness" life. For this Dreher projectively smears her as a "Moral Therapeutic Deist" while her spiritually and psychologically deformed brother, by contrast, has spent his own life on nothing more or better than the pursuit of his own aesthetic self-aggrandizement, from the most trivial of food imperatives - literally matters of taste - to a cometary demi-celebrity writing career to forever chasing the most aesthetically satisfying religious experience from one communion to another to another in vain like some doomed spiritual Flying Dutchman.

      This is the malignant engine that haunts and animates the composite Dreher creature and leaves him forever resembling that Edgar character from Men in Black: his entire life and being is driven by a self-contradictory lie - and no one knows it more immediately and intensely than Dreher himself does.

      To paraphrase the bug-man Edgar, Dreher's on a long, long trip, so that's why he's taking Ruthie with him. He'll need a snack.


    5. This is more evidence for my position which I voiced in my book review that Rod doesn't really think that Ruthie is some sort of saint.

  2. One day Ruthie's poor husband is going to blow and nobody will be able to blame him.

  3. Rod, she didn't like you because you wrote, and continue to write, "grafs" like this. There's no fancier explanation than that. And we get her; not because we're "country", or have "low openness", or like country music, but because we don't like you either.

  4. Two more thoughts: 1) Yes, your food preferences ARE trivial, Rod, so why have you made such a big deal about them over the years? Is it possible that if wasn't your preferences she objected to but the elevation of your tastes to absolutes/Platonic ideals?

    2) I detect some rage bubbling up between the lines here. It's finally settling into the man's mind that his book is pretty much a flop. So he's taking it out on the subject of the book. How typical.

  5. In a meeting today, I heard someone say, "You can't try to squeeze coherence out of incoherence."

    He was talking about incoherent RF signals, but the point seems equally applicable to this Wilkinson graf.

  6. Graf, graf, graf, graf, graf, graf, graf.........

    Just had to get that off my chest. Whew... I sure feel better.

  7. Pauli: "Graf, graf, graf, graf, graf, graf, graf"

    I've pretty much stopped paying any attention to RD.

    But there has to be a special and precise word for describing this whole crazy phenomenon where you have a windbag, narcissistic writer of middling talent who has managed to retain a coterie of followers who take seriously his every nonsensical pronunciamento.

    I mean, really, this whole picture looks like it could have been something out of a crazy Monty Python skit.

    1. But there has to be a special and precise word for describing this whole crazy phenomenon where you have a windbag, narcissistic writer of middling talent who has managed to retain a coterie of followers who take seriously his every nonsensical pronunciamento.

      Reality TV/celebrity exhibitionism.

      Dreher is the southernmost Kardashian.


    2. I don't know, in the internet age it seems awfully common. Mark Shea, Anchoress, practically the entire Patheticos lineup? There are a lot of feeble-minded religious people out there who lap this stuff up.

  8. "Rod Dreher is an ongoing, constantly self-refreshing example of how NOT to be a good and decent human being,"

    That's it exactly, Keith: indecency is the perfect word for his conspicuous nodding to the self-serving theory that he accepted his now dead sister while she didn't reciprocate.

    He's written a mountain of proof to the contrary, and the dishonorable way he's treated conservatives and Catholics is nothing compared to the way he keeps trashing his own family.

    His behavior is indecent.

  9. I would not describe Rod Dreher as the Southern most Kardashian. Given his birthplace; a more apt comparison would be a long-lost cousin to Jimmy Swaggart!
    Jonathan Carpenter

  10. Yeah, I saw this, Oengus, and for a moment I almost made a new post about it because it's such a great Dreher puzzler and because it illustrates so well both how Dreher teases and taunts his readership and how they accept him as blindly as Valerie Jarrett worships Obama.

    Let's's Thanksgiving, so naturally the localist Scrunchy Con heart yearns Nah: it yearns for L√ľke-with-an-umlaut-(not because New Orleans favors the L & O Group but because it's a pretentious shibboleth for foodies to master) oysters for dinner with a male triathlete friend.

    The next day, though, "we" had Thanksgiving dinner at...another John Besh restaurant, (this is the foodie equivalent of a Vegas casino tour or a romp through the Vancouver stripper scene) Domenica, where "we" had the traditional Thanksgiving

    heritage turkey stuffed alla parmigiana, with tomato confit and pecan vinaigrette. It was all delicious, but during this course, I had a mono crash, and pushed on through till the end. Now I’m back in the hotel about to take a long nap. Never can get away from this stuff, it seems.

    Poor lad. Mono crash, but he pushed on through stuffing his belly till the very end. What a true warrior.

    But who's "we"? Little Nora Dreher, eating heritage turkey stuffed alla parmigiana, with tomato confit and pecan vinaigrette for Thanksgiving? Maybe Ruthie widower Mike Leming and his girls? How about Mam and Paw? Of course: those two have been a-rarin' for some heritage turkey stuffed alla parmigiana, with tomato confit and pecan vinaigrette since the first of November. Right? Right: sickly ole Paw, who won't be around for too many more Thanksgivings, shined up his shoes and headed to Domenica on sonny-boy's orders.

    And they all stayed together back at the hotel. With Julie and the boys.

    Or maybe Mam, Paw, Julie, the kids, Mike and Hannah Leming and the other 2 Leming girls had themselves a traditional Louisiana family Thanksgiving back in Starhill, with normal turkey and dressing and green beans and pecan pie and all the rest.

    And Rod and and his companion "we" had their food porn Thanksgiving tour in John Besh's fantasy world.

    So what does tummy warrior Rod have to be "fairly stressed out for various reasons" about, then? After all, Doctor Who had companions, and some of them were even pretty girls.


    1. Oh, cut him some slack, Keith. I'm sure the stress came from the tragedy that struck him earlier in the week. Crushing.

      Of course, someone else was to blame:

      . . . one of the kids sat in the armchair the night before, and moved it forward a few inches . . .

      Fortunately, the majority of the official commenters enlighten Dreher about the concept of glue. He'll have to find someone to take care of that for him, especially now that he is indisposed.

      P.S. Why on earth does he think that anyone would possibly be interested in reading about his coffee cup? (I know . . . I know . . . .)

    2. Well, looks like I was partly wrong. Looks like tummy warrior took his nuclear family with him on his "pigs in shit" (Revisionist Rod has since replaced "shit" with "you-know-what" Thanksgiving eating vacation through Besh World like a ravenous larva tunneling through its edible host. Maybe Mam and Pap and Mike and Hannah and the rest had a nicer traditional family Thanksgiving as a result.

      Pauli, I'm telling you Dreher reads EQE religiously: that VFYT with his kid eating the quesadilla only went up after the comment I'm updating now.


    3. Pik, in a universe that had discovered glue there would be no never-ending Dreher life of self-pity, I mean, of the tragic sense of things.


    4. Keith, you very well may be right that he reads our stuff. But I have no hard evidence.

  11. I've been trying to figure out what rubs me the wrong way about Rod Dreher for a while now. I used to be a faithful reader of his, and unlike the authors & commenters of this blog, I found a lot of what he's written about to be of great value. Sure, in general, I'm so far on the left that Barack Obama looks like a right-winger to me, but that's not what's so cringe-inducing about him.

    So what is? To slightly edit a somewhat-well-known quip, "Rod Dreher cannot fail; Rod Dreher can only be failed". See, I was bullied pretty mercilessly for a while as a kid - in a Catholic school. But I've largely moved on with life. Sure, I despise bullies and authoritarians in general, but I tend to function decently well.

    Rod doesn't. Rod's a perpetually aggrieved teenager in a pushing-50-something's body. Rod keeps an enemies' list far longer than Nixon's and nurses his grudges like precious children. The world has failed Rod, and Rod is going to make the world pay. It's all about Rod. Rod Rod Rod Rod Rod.

    Think about the trajectory of his life since he's been online (which, thanks to his ridiculous personal oversharing, one can get a good sense of). He went to Dallas to do editorial work, but the newspaper industry started to go belly-up. This is the age of his Crunchy Con blog on Beliefnet. Irritating to some, I found it fascinating. Sure, he was a little touchy, but seemed somewhat well-adjusted.

    Then he goes to Philadelphia to edit the Templeton Foundation's new online magazine. He immediately runs into trouble because, shockingly, the Templeton people don't seem to appreciate a stream of posts about loose women rather than, you know, WHAT THEY WERE ALL ABOUT. Also, the OCA Orthodox churches (Religion Number 3, for those keeping score) don't fit Rod's standards. So, he passive-aggressively manages to get himself fired from his supposed dream job editing a magazine about the mysteries of the universe because he can't stop being snarky online (this time over some church dispute). (more to come...)

  12. Then, he uproots the family again back to his hometown, the one he loathed publically online before, to edit another sinking ship, "The American Conservative", and to cash in on the death of his beloved sister. His new blog starts out like his old blog, but it quickly becomes more bitter and angry as the book cashing in on the death of his sister flops. Far from being the cool, NPR-listening alterna-conservative he started out as 10 years ago, he sounds grouchier and more resentful by the month that the world has not recognized his genius. He even throws in a few too many soft-core porn posts - he's not leering, you see, he's tsk-tsking about the decline of Western civilization. He just has to write at great length about all that sexy sex. But the fish aren't biting. You notice less and less about Rod's blissful family life (which he wrote a lot about in Dallas, which makes its absence all the more noticeable). The good Mrs. Dreher barely appears at all anymore.

    Everyone keeps failing Rod. His idol, Wendell Berry, fails him earlier this year, and he turns upon him with a fury that makes me think Rod was looking for an excuse to unburden himself of that old man (who is far more influential than Rod will ever be). He goes the Mel Gibson route and founds the Church of Rod (affiliated with ROCOR, but pretty much Rod's personal kingdom) because the Orthodox churches in Baton Rouge aren't pure enough for him - Religion Number 4. His triumphant return to the town of his birth does not seem to be regarded so triumphantly by those he left behind - they're not lining up to kiss his posterior the way he imagines they should. He gets testier and testier, to the point that commenters on his own blog start posting their concern for Rod's emotional state. And he keeps flogging the book cashing in on the death of his sister (I think it's important to mention what his recent book actually is as often as possible). He starts sniping at his dead sister, while simultaneously using every opportunity to ask readers to buy his book. Most recently, he's now offering personalized copies to anyone who wants to give it as a lump of coal for Christmas. To steal a line from the Drew Carey Show, it's "patheti-sad".

    The next act? Over on a liberal blog that follows Rod's adventures, it's been suggested that he'll end up in the jungles of Central America, screaming that he's finally found The Answer after converting to his 12th or 13th religion. I personally think he's got a ways to go - will Mrs. Dreher get the heave-ho next, just like everyone else that Rod's written lovingly and tenderly about? Do Rod's creepy soft-core posts herald a scandal coming up in his future? What will the Drehers do once the money from his book advance runs out?

    One thing's for sure - no matter what happens, no matter what adventures Rod goes on, Rod will still be full of unresolved teenage rage. He doesn't have to be - he could take some time off from the Internet. He could go to a monastery. He could travel. He could get a regular job somewhere. He could do a million things. But he probably won't. And when things go wrong, they will always be everyone else's fault but his.

    Rod Dreher can never fail; Rod Dreher can only be failed.