It would be naive to claim “I don’t understand why this isn’t read in schools” or something like that – I think it’s quite obvious – but it does boggle my mind how completely some people misread the story. My roommate, a pretty far-left liberal (she works in admin for a union, among other things), read and thoroughly enjoyed the book, but then was shocked when I mentioned that Ayn Rand is a pretty big hero of the libertarians and plenty of conservatives, and that Atlas Shrugs is basically a bible to fiscal conservatives and small government folks.
Apparently she had read the entire novel and hadn’t picked up on that. Amazing. Her defense was that she thought that there was a pretty strong anti-religion theme running through the book (which of course there is) and that as a result, conservatives must hate it. But even given that, this otherwise very intelligent young woman completely missed the entire point of the novel, one that Rand is not very subtle about making, again and again and again and again. I’m not quite sure what to make of this.
Is it willful blindness, the unwillingness to accept that a philosophy that makes incredible sense and strikes a chord as an American and an individual flies completely in the face of everything that you stand for politically? Did my roommate on some level realize that what she was reading and identifying with, the struggle of the individual for freedom from government oppression, did my roommate realize that it was exactly opposite everything that she stood for?
I suppose my point is this: There has been much talk on the Right recently about what conservatives can do to hope to change the thinking of so many people, particularly young people, in this country. Encouraging them to read Atlas Shrugs (or the Fountainhead, or Anthem or Animal Farm or 1984…) is a big start. As preachy and over-the-top as the Rand works can be at points, the message is an incredibly powerful one, and made in such a way that even the most brainwashed Marxist can’t help but identify with the protaganists in their various struggles. Work on getting these books into schools, work on finding teachers that will use them and teach them. It’s a start.
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