Monday, November 12, 2012

The American Way

Book Review: Visiting Tom by Michael Perry

Once upon a time - 'back in the day' - knowledge was handed down from generation to generation, self-reliance and thrift were considered virtues, and being a good neighbor was not an advertising slogan. In Visiting Tom, Michael Perry shows us that 'once upon a time' is the present, at least in the person of Tom Hartwig.

While we sit and decry the decline in American innovation, Tom was building his own sawmill. While we bemoan the increasing encroachment of government, Tom was persuading the highway department to reroute the interstate that bisects his property. While we worry about going green, Tom is repairing, reusing, and recycling, renewing the old and creating anew.

This is not a Luddite dream of returning to the past, throwing technology aside. It's about embracing the knowledge of the past and applying it to the present and future, of recognizing home-grown initiative and perseverance and moving them to their rightful places in the arsenal of American ideas.

While these may be regarded as old-fashioned, small Midwest town values, we could all do worse than to sit a spell with Tom and absorb some of the knowledge and expertise that were once an integral part of American culture. Visiting Tom gives us that opportunity.