Danish philosopher Kierkegaard and American mythologist Joseph Campbell share a home next to books on Lincoln, World Wars I and II and early Southern Baptist leaders on my dad’s sprawling wooden bookcase in south Louisiana. What I respect most about his eclectic collection is not that he has amassed hundreds of books on a wide variety of thought-provoking topics. What I respect most about the contents of his bookcase is he does not shy away from works that challenge his beliefs. For instance, when I moved to Portland he loaned me his copy of Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian. My dad is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. I would venture to guess few ordained Southern Baptist ministers are comfortable enough in their beliefs in Christ to own, much less read and contemplate, such a book.
When I visited my parents in south Louisiana a few weeks ago I picked out one of my dad’s heavier books – Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged – to build my biceps and attempt to understand why her beliefs are so popular among right-wing politicians who seek to cut social safety nets for the poorest in our society while providing tax breaks for the wealthy. Before I move on: Yes, right-wing and left-wing politicians pander to and receive money from the same corporate interests but, in general, right-wing leaders worship at the altar of Rand while left-wing leaders do not.
Rand, a Russian-American novelist, founded the concept of objectivism, which encourages personal selfishness in order to achieve maximum happiness. On its face I flat-out reject Rand’s worldview as narcissistic horseshit and view it as the antithesis of Jesus’s teachings (Rand was an atheist). Yet, I planned to bring my father’s copy of Atlas Shrugged back to New York. I mean, I could be wrong and she could right, right?
Did I mention this book is 1,088 pages?
Yeah, it’s 1,088 pages. When I packed my luggage with clothes, Mardi Gras beads, my laptop and an extra pair of shoes there was no space for Rand’s massive tome/doorstop. And now that I think about it, it is for the best. I don’t need to spend hours upon hours reading a novel to enhance my narcissist bonafides. I can take a selfie instead. Ayn Rand selfies, ftw!
John Oliver’s take on Ayn Rand is gold. You should watch it.