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RURAL RADICALS by Catherine McNicol Stock

RURAL RADICALS

Righteous Rage in the American Grain

By Catherine McNicol Stock

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8014-3294-4
Publisher: Cornell Univ.

 A first-rate and highly accessible history of radicalism in rural America. Recent events, such as the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma, have brought to light an ugly element in American political life--militant agrarian groups who have decided to take the protection of this country into their own hands. The confusion sets in, of course, when we try to understand how bombing a government building achieves such purpose. To explicate this phenomenon, and identify the true position of these militants along the political spectrum, Stock (History and American Studies/Connecticut Coll.) first turns back to the very beginnings of American rural activism. Starting in colonial times, Stock identifies two divergent strands of grassroots activity in the American countryside: The first, which she terms ``rural producer radicalism,'' has traditionally manifested itself through demonstrations and organizations--like Shays' Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebels, the Farmers' Holiday Association--designed to protect the rights of small farmers. The second, ``the culture of vigilantism,'' has these same interests at heart, but manifests itself through violence and racism, in organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. Stock presents these two cultures as distinct entities, but as she herself points out, rural producer radicalism and the culture of vigilantism are brought forth from the same soil: The same deeply rooted values that fostered the Mormon Church also nourish the fanatical beliefs of the militias. In fact, it is often harder to distinguish between the two cultures than Stock cares to admit. Ultimately, Stock refocuses our attention on what is perhaps the most frightening aspect of rural extremism: that it is not an aberration, but merely a violently skewed expression of our most deeply cherished national ideals. (8 b&w photos and 2 drawings, not seen) (History Book Club alternate selection)