Can I just say that Hal Crowther's essay ("Why does the right wing worship Ayn Rand?" Aug. 17) was the best, most illuminating, most scathing and most hilarious piece of political crooning that I have had the joy to read in many months? I keep wondering why we're lucky enough to have him writing for the Independent. He is no small component of what makes our locale "the southern part of heaven."
I've been a political liberal all my life, but your piece on Ayn Rand worship really annoyed the hell out of me. The patronizing tone of the article, typified by a line like "Personally, I never feel more superior than when I see someone carrying a copy of Atlas Shrugged," is so typical of the smarmy, know-it-all mentality that so many Americans hate about so many liberals.
But even worse is the writer's failure to do basic research. His comment that "for an eyewitness portrait of Ayn Rand in the flesh" you can't do better than her appearance in one chapter of a novel made me fall off my chair in astonishment. All the writer had to do was go to YouTube, where there are numerous televised interviews with Rand posted, including her notorious talkathon with Phil Donahue. In that show, which is available in its entirety, Rand can be seen in her full glory: her enormous ego, her übermensch mentality and the way she condescends to Donahue's mostly female audience, which eventually begins reacting verbally to her geriatric witchery.
I yield to no one in my dislike for Rand's poorly written books and Nietzschean worldview, but I also feel it's important to understand why she appeals to so many people, and to do it without putting those readers down, to offer them an alternative that makes sense and that they can buy into. You do not do this by mocking them.
Really, Independent. You can do a lot better.
Like Mr. Crowther, I am also in my seventh decade and am shocked at the proliferation of morons, fools and liars at the forefront of our political life. While they have always been with us, they are center stage now because Obama abdicated immediately after his inauguration and nature abhors a vacuum. Mr. Crowther's essay should be required reading all across America. Sadly, those who need to read it the most are also the most illiterate.
(The Very Rev.) Christopher Ross
South Boston, Va.
Come on, Hal! Your essay on Ayn Rand debases Rand—and exalts Republicans who claim allegiance to her virtues. It's easy to misinterpret Rand's stories, to twist her characters into self-absorbed predators. But her protagonists, the Howard Roarks and Dagny Taggarts, are motivated solely by personal ambition and achievement—not by profit. They may acquire wealth and fame, yet these remain secondary. And their achievements are not entirely self-serving, for they improve the lives of others.
Ayn Rand's heroes realize their vision through hard work and sacrifice, with honor and with dignity: They don't harm, they don't lie, they don't exploit. Their behavior contrasts sharply with the Becks, Kochs and Cheneys who've made their fortunes through thievery and deceit. But Rand found room in her stories for them, too—in characters such as Peter Keating and Floyd Ferris. These "looters," in Rand's words, are not true capitalists, but parasites of an equitable and efficient capitalism.
You're correct that Ayn Rand was never a "model" Republican ... but neither is Rush Limbaugh! It remains a certainty—as those in power realize—that no one ingesting the garbage of the right-wing media would consider a novel of such depth as Rand's. Just like every other lie the right has perpetuated in the last 20 years, the truth is out there, but it's just beyond the grasp of those they're selling the lie to. And that's precisely why they can get away with it.
Ayn Rand was no saint, nor was she the greatest writer who ever lived. She created intriguing and thought-provoking fiction. But her stories are exactly that—fiction. The Republicans claim Rand—or some distortion of her they can sell—as inspiration for ludicrous conduct; please don't do the same.
Jeremy R. Rush
I would like to compliment you on a brilliantly written article.
Unfortunately, propping up a stance without seeking a deeper knowledge of the material is nothing new to the Republican Party. I remember Ronald Reagan using Bruce Springsteen's song "Born in the U.S.A." as a message of hope and patriotism in the 1984 election. Reagan totally ignored the disillusionment felt by the song's main character and tied his politics to the anthem-like chorus—totally missing the intended sarcasm of the artist. Admittedly, using Ayn Rand's work is somewhat different, but no less destructive when selected pieces are separated from the whole.
Unfortunately, we live in a world of sound bites, not substance. If there has been any change over the years it's that the GOP is now misusing ideas from a 1,200-page novel instead of a three-minute song.
I truly enjoyed your essay and I look forward to any future articles you may be writing for the Independent.
I always enjoy Hal's writing, but I don't think he goes far enough. It's not his fault—he's just a liberal. Don't get me wrong, I believe many liberals have good intentions, but only a radical break with the status quo will lead humanity to true freedom and the full measure of its potential. I'm talking about that most mysterious and terrible of ideologies, the big "S" word that is so horribly misrepresented and misunderstood—SOCIALISM.
Liberals and Socialists differ profoundly in their values and goals. The proof of this is in Hal's criticism of Cornel West, a Socialist. Hal states that Cornel's comment about Obama being a tool of oligarchs and plutocrats is "not helpful" or "responsible." Hal, the truth is always helpful and responsible. Hal goes on to quote another Socialist—Albert Einstein—who wrote an excellent essay called "Why Socialism?" Next, Hal quotes a third radical thinker and, like many before him, mistakenly assigns him to the right wing. A careful reading of Nietzsche actually reveals him to be a Leftist, in spite of absurd Nazi claims.
Finally, I would like to offer an alternative solution to Hal's quest for, in his words, "something ... that could drive a wedge between the exploiters and the exploited ..." He posits an unveiling of the absurd philosophy of Ayn Rand that will show the stupefied masses how cruelly they are viewed by their masters. This is good, but in addition we should put forward an opposing ideology; not a middle-of-the-road, cautious, liberal plan, but a revolutionary ideology that calls for complete and total emancipation in every sphere of life. This ideology is not merely a criticism or reformation of capitalism, but calls for its overthrow and replacement with a way of life worthy of humanity. This is Socialism!