Men and Women

Hometown Hero

By Susan McWilliams

The American Conservative

The town of Maricopa, in the southwestern corner of California’s San Joaquin Valley, has one diner and one gas station. Its landscape is all oil wells and sagebrush, grit and heat and dust, just as it was a century ago when the sociologist Robert Nisbet, one of the 20th century’s great conservative minds, grew up there.

It wasn’t a pretty hometown, not the kind of place you’d ever see pictured on a postcard or memorialized in a Norman Rockwell painting. Nisbet would later write, in his elegant and restrained tone, that Maricopa’s setting offered a “hostile challenge to the human spirit.”

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