Rural Radicals: Righteous Rage in the American Grain

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9780140268478: Rural Radicals: Righteous Rage in the American Grain

For centuries Americans have thought of rural people as hardworking, trustworthy, and dedicated to their family, representing the moral backbone of our country. But when Timothy McVeigh was indicted in the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City's Murrah Federal Building, the nation was suddenly made aware of a thriving network of militiamen, conspiracists, survivalists, and white supremacists in all parts of America's heartland. The sudden media attention made it seem as though rural extremism were a new phenomenon, but as this illuminating study makes clear, the tradition of rural radicalism is older than the country itself. Tracing the history of patriotic intolerance as far back as 1676, noted historian Catherine McNicol Stock explains how rural Virginians took up arms to protest what they considered to be economic and political injustices. She examines recurring themes in rural radical movements, including anti-federalism, white supremacy, populism, and vigilantism--and reveals how for centuries these themes have been played out in a clash of private and public interests that is distinctly rural and distinctly American.

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Review:

A historian at Connecticut College, Stock identifies a long-standing strain of extremist rage in the rural heartland of America which informs the current right-wing militia groups, the survivalists, and the Christian Identity zealots. She suggests that ignorance and denial of this cultural are what made the Oklahoma bombing such a shock. She cites examples like Nathaniel Bacon's rebel group in colonial days, and the uprising led by Daniel Shays in Pennsylvania in George Washington's time, as exemplars of hatred of federal authority and federal taxes, and of an ugly rural cultural isolationism. In time, fed by economic insecurity, gun craziness, and crude machismo, this would manifest itself in hatred of Indians, blacks, Mormons, Mexicans, and Asians--an enduring contradiction of American idealism.

From the Publisher:

This is an important book, which gives historical perspective on a topic that will only gain attention in the coming months. Catherine McNicol Stock is Associate Professor of History and Director of the American Studies Program at Connecticut College. An alternate selection of the History Book Club. She is the author of Main Street in Crisis: The Great Depression and the Old Middle Class on the Northern Plains.

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