We The Purple – Book Review
August 2nd, 2008 by Sonja

We The Purple, book coverThere are several things I want to say about this book.  But I need to begin with a disclaimer.  This is one of my Ooze book reviews.  I received a copy of this book, gratis, with the expectation that I’d write a review of it.  Just so that everyone knows.  Okay …

So … I approached this book with a lot of goodwill and anticipation.  After all, I’ve been a political independent for a long, long time.  Yes, I will admit this in public now for maybe the first time.  I’m one of the few people who actually voted for John Anderson in 1980.  There are about 17 of us (actually he got about 5.7 million votes … but there are only 17 of us who will admit it).  Unfortunately, I was slightly disappointed … with the book, as well as with my vote for John Anderson (but that’s another story).

It’s a good book.  If you’re looking for reasons to join the vast middle ground in this country, I would recommend it.  If you’ve been in the middle for a long time and are comfortable there (like me), you might find it covering old ground.  I have to say though, I recommend it with a couple of caveats.  They are these.

First, I wish that whoever Ms. Ford had editing this book had done a better job.  I found countless mistakes in both spelling and grammar that left me floundering.  Some of them were clearly places where re-writes had failed to remove extra words.  Whatever the problem, the spelling errors and extra words began to drive me nuts and detract from the readability of the book.  I can overlook one or two, but several per chapter and I wanted to read with a red pen in hand.

Second, was that much of the writing had the nature of a rant and began, through the course of the book, to sound like a conspiracy theory.  Now I’m as jaded and cynical as anyone when it comes to the political process … maybe even more than most, but I’m not sure I’d buy much of what Ms. Ford is selling.  Or … maybe I’d say it this way.  I’d buy the stripped down version, but I don’t think the fully loaded set is necessarily true.  For instance, she makes the claim that it is in the best interests of both (political) parties to keep voter participation low on election day and goes to some length through out the book to back this claim up.  Some of the arguments have merit.  Some I’m not so sure of.  Like this one about poll taxes.  Poll taxes (that is taxing people on real estate and other property before they could vote) was outlawed in the early 1960’s.  They were a popular tool used in the South to prevent African-Americans from being able to vote.  Ms. Ford claims that Southern states now use other means of levying a “poll tax” without calling it that.  She used as an example the fees that Georgia charges to gain or renew a drivers license – $35.00.  That didn’t sit right with me.  So I looked it up.  In Virginia it costs $4 per year to gain or renew a drivers license and you do so for 5 to 8 years at a time.  So it will cost anywhere from $20 to $32 for your drivers license.  Now I cannot remember whether or not I was asked for identification when I went to the polls for the primary.  Apparently, you need one in Georgia.  However, in Georgia you may apply for an ID card for voting purposes … and that is free and good for ten years.   In Vermont, a driver’s license costs $40 for four years … very expensive.  But again, I don’t know what the identification requirements are at voting.  I do know that Vermont requires a Voters Oath.  (BTW … I checked Vermont and Virginia because I have context for both.  And they are about as opposite as you can get from one another in terms of culture, demographics, philosophy, etc.)

Here’s the thing.  For someone who is so impoverished that they do not have and cannot afford a state issued identification card, voting is very low on their list of priorities.  I’m fairly certain that eating and keeping a roof over their head is going to take up most of their time and energy.  I hope I don’t sound callous when I write this and I don’t mean to.  I also don’t mean to say that impoverished people should be excluded from the conversation that is voting.  What I am saying is that there are greater obstacles to their participation than that presented by a fee for an identification card.  Maybe we need to care more about those obstacles and work around them.

Ms. Ford really shines in her description of political independents and the church.  Why we’re necessary.  Why we’ve felt so ostracized.  The damage that political polarization (on both sides) has done to the church.  And how things are changing.  The book is worth the price of admission on those chapters alone.   So I’ll leave you with a quote:

Within conservative evangelicalism, the notion that America is a Christian nation is a baby step away from the potentially disastrous belief that God is on our side–as long as we have conservative Christians making vital decisions that affect our domestic life and our foreign affairs.  This attitude is evident “in the way political and religious conservatives vigorously and often angrily attempt to force their views and interests on everyone as if their interests, by definition, are God’s interests,” writes Obery Hendricks in The Politics of Jesus.  “This is not faith; this is arrogance.”

4 Responses  
  • brad writes:
    August 4th, 20088:12 amat

    OMG! You voted for John Baines Anderson in 1980?

    I did volunteer work on his local, regional, and state campaigns before and after he went independent.

    I knew I liked you, Sonja ….

  • Sonja writes:
    August 4th, 20088:23 amat

    LOL … it was my first ever election and I was 19; I voted on an absentee ballot because I was in college. So it’s on paper somewhere in the archives of my hometown!! There was no way in H E double-hockey-sticks I was going to vote for Reagan and I’d lost all faith in Carter. Two years later when I wrote an in depth paper about the Camp David Peace Accords I regained a lot of what I’d lost. But Carter, while a great man, thinker and leader, unfortunately, is no president. While I love Obama, I have some of the same misgivings about him. Time will tell.

  • Marcia Ford writes:
    August 5th, 20081:39 pmat

    Sonja, thanks for the review! I do want to make one clarification regarding the Georgia voter ID law. Following that discussion in the book, I wrote this: “A federal court ruled that the [Georgia] law was unconstitutional, bless their judicial hearts. Other states have tried their best to enact similar laws, but their efforts have been challenged by those who contend that they violate the Civil Rights Act.” As I indicated, the law was struck down; it never had a chance to be enforced.

    As for the errors, no one is more upset about that than I am. I’m an editor myself and a stickler for grammatical accuracy. I think there were simply too many hands involved on the publisher’s end after the proofs left my hands, which often happens. Those errors will be corrected in the next printing.

    Anyway, I appreciate the fact that you took the time to read the book and review it! It does a real disservice to the author and the readers alike when a reviewer quickly skims a book and then writes a supposedly authoritative review about it. I’m grateful to you for being conscientious about that.

    ~~Marcia Ford, author of “We the Purple”

  • Sonja writes:
    August 5th, 20088:25 pmat

    Marcia, thanks for the correction. I looked and (of course) you are correct. I remember reading it now, but got to chewing on the thought and didn’t look back after I did my research. I should have. I’m glad to see that it was overturned. But it raises another point for those of us who follow Jesus … those state-issued ID’s are becoming more and more necessary and, as you pointed out, they’re costly for someone who is impoverished. I started to think about the cycle of poverty that not having one keeps a person in. You need one to cash a check, or write a check. You need to have a stable mailing address to get one, or to get a bank account. If you’re homeless, you couldn’t get either one of them. It really starts to make you think beyond the political/voting issues to other also pragmatic issues that are wrapped up with those id cards.

    I’m glad the book is going for more editing. Those errors are a real shame and I know they must have bugged you too.

    I also want to publicly say, “Thank you!!” for your chapters about being independent and being Christian. Or even being not Republican and being Christian. Those were an enormous breath of fresh air and I, for one, appreciated them.

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