Sunday, March 22, 2015

Oh, I understand now: Rod Dreher is just like Kara Tippetts

I had begun to wonder about Rod Dreher's morbid, "death porn" fascination with the terminally ill and dying in the wake of his sister Ruthie's death several years ago, particularly his giving such events unseemly rock star status on his blog, but now the reason for this long setup becomes clearer: Dreher wants to claim the same object-of-pity, martyr-to-illness status of terminal cancer patient Kara Tippetts for his own superficial depressive grumpies, grumpies acquired only because his family sees him for the shallow, manipulative asshole he is and doesn't like what they see.

Because, like the little engine that could, he, too, writes while sick:

(Picture caption: Behold, a writer ["Just like meee!!!"])

I have mentioned in the past that my chronic mononucleosis went into remission for a year after reading Dante and experiencing a spiritual and physical healing, but that — irony of ironies! — the intense stress of having to write the book late last fall and winter under a radically truncated schedule (from zero to complete in three months, which is all but unheard of) triggered a relapse. I’ve still not been able to get on top of that. It feels like my immune system’s wheels are spinning on ice, and can’t get traction. And I’m not sure why. The certain thing is that I experienced real healing, but I tried to do too much intense writing — I have never before written under that kind of deadline — before my immune system was strong enough. It was like trying to run a marathon on legs that had only recently healed from being broken. No wonder I fell...

And yet, she writes. That is what writers ["Just like meee!!!"] do.

And, just like Johnny Carson's Ed McMahon or Jimmy Kimmel's Guillermo Rodriguez, Dreher blog sidekick and audience warm-up Charles "Uncle Chuckie" Cosimano sees his opening to cue the pre-scripted audience response:

Rod, don’t beat up on yourself. The only yardstick you need to measure your own work by is you. This condition will not last forever and after it great writing may come. In fact I am willing to bet that it will come.

Take care of your health. You’re doing fine. And when you feel down, think of all your friends here, daily remembering you in their thoughts, prayers and electropsychotronic healing machines that are never mentioned because they are bad for the public image.

That's right, Rod. We understand. We understand the "dark wood" of unhappiness that your family and local townspeople put you in for not buying into your bullshit is just like Kara Tippetts' terminal cancer, which is why it is so important for us to hear everything about her, and, after she's gone, about the next one just like her, because only by understanding their stories can we truly understand the gauntlet of pain and suffering you are to this day still bravely soldiering through.

And yet, amazingly, you still write. Because that is what writers do.

UPDATE (as they say): Kara Tippetts died later today. So did everyone else who will show up tomorrow in your local obituary page, the stupid teenager who took that curve too fast, the little girl screaming in terror, suffocated as she was being raped, that funny homeless guy under the Interstate, the cousin of the person who works two cubicles down; they never did find out what was wrong with him. That is what we humans do - die - even the ones who don't prove useful for blog posts valorizing Rod Dreher as a suffering writer. Let us pray for all of them, indiscriminately.


  1. Florence asks,

    Rod, what would have happened if you had not gotten the book out in 3 months. Would anyone have died or been injured if the book had come out a year from now instead? Why did you push so hard?

    [NFR: Business and marketing and media reasons, having to do with competition. I could have said no when the publisher asked me to fast-track the book, but that would have hurt the book's prospects in the marketplace...

    You mean, someone else might gave gotten credit with claiming Dante saved their life first?

    1. [NFR: Business and marketing and media reasons, having to do with competition. I could have said no when the publisher asked me to fast-track the book, but that would have hurt the book's prospects in the marketplace...

      Obviously, reacting to all these considerations is compatible with The Benedict Option.

    2. Apparently "the book" has prospects independent of its author who, like Moses on Sinai, is merely the messenger. Thus, given the obviously greater importance of this Logos amongst its profane competitors - but since "competition" would obviously be an oxymoron, shouldn't we really be saying profane "distractions"? - it's probably excusable for the messenger to have left the world of Elves and reentered the profane world of Men in order to suffer valiantly against the distractions of the book's many foes in order to see it in publication on time.

      Or maybe there's just not a lot of there there and, like a grocery list, that's all the time it took. You have to admit, though, that the pre-publication drama of suffering over which type of rice to buy - long grain!?! or short!?! - probably won't hurt sales.

      Some may see the commenters there virtually weeping over the beating Rod put himself through to avoid wearing an orange apron at the Home Depot without really realizing that religious culture is no more intrinsically immune to the perversions of Starf*cker Syndrome than is any passing fan consoled and relieved by Kim Kardashian's ultimate acceptance of their mutual bottom dimensions, yet still concerned with the lingering implications for their mutual cardiac health.

  2. An update to this post was obviously necessary.

  3. And from that same NFR you quote, Keith, we also learn that it wasn't just the intense cancer-like stress of the rewrite but . . . "Three months of intense stress, followed by a bit of intense family drama (of the sort I had just written a book about) at year's end, pushed me over the edge"

    But of course. Dreher gets the vapors and the family must be made to feel guilty, in public, for causing it.

    1. When he alludes to "family drama" is it always ma and pa? And not the wife?

  4. Incredibly, I think that this is more than anything about Rod's pathological need to get even with Ruthie. Still. Witness this comment and NFR from tonight's post vulture-feasting on the grief of Tippett's children:

    Michelle says:
    March 23, 2015 at 11:31 pm
    Joy? Try denial and relief that the months of waiting and suffering are over. Those kids are young and likely don’t understand the finality of death. Once that realization sets in, sadness will follow no matter how well their parents prepared them for their mother’s eventual death. It’s natural to grieve, natural to feel deep sorrow.

    Sorry Rod. Your response strikes me as emotionally clueless and somewhat disturbing. While the family is no doubt sure that Kara’s soul is with G-d, A huge hole has been blown in their lives, a giant missing space where Kara should be. It’s a huge loss and, as Agathonika said above, those kids need to be able to feel it fully.

    [NFR: Have you been following Kara's story closely? Did you read her book? She has been preparing her husband and these children for a very long time. Of course they grieve -- who wouldn't? But the thing that impressed me so much with her story -- she and I spoke about this privately -- is how open she has been with her kids for a very long time. I told her last year, when a friend put us in touch and after I read her manuscript, that I could not possibly encourage her more strongly in the approach she and her husband were taking to helping their children deal with the possible loss of their mother. I have been witness to the awful consequences of taking the other route. Of course those kids, and that widower, are bound to be hurting. But the pain is so much less because of the way they lived her approaching death. That's my sense from far away, anyway. -- RD]

    1. When one gets to the other end of the spectrum of the pathology we're observing I think we're talking about individuals who collect human skins and scalps as woobies to aggressively compensate for traumatic separation issuses. For example, if nothing else, dying deprives those left behind of getting in the last word.

      Personally, I think there are two, maybe even three parts to Rod's morbidity here. First, the most benign, is that all his other Ruthie-denominated machinations have inevitably denied him closure so far; he can't very well say goodby to her so long as he drags her around as a poorly selling book which still must be flogged. Second, sort of related, he continues to wallow in the high profile deaths of others as a way of "getting the last word in", although granted in a different conversation to a different audience; as mentioned, death always involves some component of leaving or abandonment on the part of the deceased, involuntary though it may be.

      But finally, I do think he's acting out for his family and local community as well, parading death and dying (including Ruthie's) in order to demonstrate the superiority of his own psychological-religious response to Ruthie's passing over theirs. "See, folks, my superior religious investiture provides me with super powers over death your native MTD can never hope to match. While you are trapped in grief and sadness, I can proudly wear Ruthie's head as a hat. Be ashamed of yourselves, inferior, spiritually starving people."

    2. Looks like one too many people called him out on his “spiritual voyeurism.” He’s just closed further discussion on that thread.

    3. I am going to close comments, because life is hard enough for the Tippetts family now without having to read such harsh judgment visited on them for smiling through the pain.

      Because it is the fault of the commenters criticizing Dreher, not the fault of Dreher for treating Kara Tippetts' death as just so much more View From Your Death porn meat.

      Here's a thought: instead of a Benedict Option, why not just a Try Not To Be A Sniveling Rodent Like Dreher Option?

  5. [NFR: This is very, very harsh. What kind of bitter heart do you have? Good grief. Maybe they just wanted everyone to know they were okay.

    Well gee, if they just wanted everyone to know they were ok, it was kind of a dick move for you to post their photo on your blog as some kind of twisted object lesson and gotcha back at your dead sister, wasn't it, Dreher? Classless and callous to the nth degree, using the faces of grieving children to stimulate your own emotional release, but oh, it's the people who notice the obscenity of it all who have "bitter hearts."

    1. I occasionally hang out at a site for recovering fundies called StuffFundiesLike. One of the recurring themes there is the pressure in Extreme Fundy-Land for everyone to look happyhappyjoyjoy all the time, as if they've constantly got the joy joy joy joy down in their hearts (where?) down in their hearts. Because if they don't put on their smiley faces all the time, no matter what they're going through, then they're giving a Bad Testimony.

      I wonder whether the Tippetts family may be feeling similar pressure.

      Personally I could not stand such pressure. I would crack. But there are corners of the fundagelical milieu that definitely do impose this unrealistic ideal.