Barn Burning

And other Scorched Earth Policies


It was several years ago, in one of my early college English classes, but the story made enough of an impression on me that I can still remember some of the details. It was a short story by William Faulkner, destined to become a classic. And it would form the basis of “The Snopes Trilogy”. No, I didn’t remember all that, I found it in my research, this morning. 😉


So, this is the basis of the story – our protagonist, Sartoris "Sarty" Snopes – is caught between a rock and a hard place. His father, Abner Snopes, rules his family with an iron fist and he is very antagonistic with those outside the family. He tends to view those outside the family as combatants in a zero-sum game for survival in which the outcome is never assured. Survival is fought for in every little confrontation. His father has gained the hard fought and well earned reputation as a “barn burner” and now his reputation was beginning to wear off on young Sarty. Dealing with these issues as he is entering adolescence makes for a very powerful ‘coming of age’ story.


There is a trial going on for his father’s most recent barn burning tantrum and another confrontation quickly pops up. Abner sees his chance to ‘stick it to the man’ by stepping in some fresh horse manure and tracking it through the fancy house and expensive rug of a man who holds power over him, they may have had a sort of share-cropper - Landlord relationship. Well one thing leads to another and Abner is ready to go back to his signature move – yep, that feller needs his barn burned down Abner reasoned somewhere deep in his dark soul.


And of course he was watching his son very closely, and not as a disinterested party, to see which way Sarty would go on this. To Abner, family and family loyalty, meant everything. And he had seen the conflict in his son’s mind (insert Darth Vader - Luke Skywalker anecdote here) and he was very interested in settling this conflict as soon as possible.


Oh this Faulkner guy – he’s good. Nice conflict, there. I won’t spoil the story for the reader, I’m sure it’s easy to look up, if you’re interested. I’ll give you a hint – Faulkner is not a latter day Nostradamus, predicting the rise of Trump. But this story is a kernel of a concept that is very near and dear to my heart. Loyalty to your tribe and survival issues versus Transcendence and doing what is right. We are full of those tests in this little 3D obstacle course known as our experience in human life as earthlings. We are constantly put in the position of learning to get along with those we ‘belong’ to and supporting group goals to the exclusion of others, who are outside our group vs. doing the right thing and taking a broader view of mankind and possibly even broader than that. And if survival was not part of the reward what sort of test would it be, right?


We all make these choices every day. It’s almost like there was someone above us, outside of this experience trying to teach us something with this test, wouldn’t you say?


OK, so I’ve taken a snapshot of the big picture that I’m trying to accomplish here. That’s sorta my style, define the outline, then get down to the particulars. There will be a lot of particulars. I’m hoping we can get a good audience to come and help us talk about some of these particulars. We’ve got a boatload of em in the political world: International issues, economic issues, human rights issues, individuality vs. collective issues. Then we have some myopic issues - #BLM, Trump, etc. it could get messy. I’m hoping that we can keep our civility in this struggle. No name-calling, hair-pulling, rabbit punches, straw-man arguments, etc.


We’ve got some good bloggers on our team already and I’m hoping we can get more. The more the merrier. I’m hoping we also get some who maybe can’t commit to a regular blog spot but would be interested in becoming members – so we know who they are when they leave comments and so forth. You can get started as a member here: Contact Page 


I do hope this experience adds to your life and I do hope we can all learn something about civility by being kind to others who are exposing their innermost human feelings here.


Thank you, ML Johnson

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