I received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of a new book coming out titled: Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Eli Saslow. Now, that is a pretty loaded title. I mean white nationalism? Whoa. Not something usually on my radar.
Red: It is the color of the revolutionary martyr’s blood that had been spilt for a cause that would stain the roots of an entire country for decades to come. The Chinese Cultural Revolution was a dramatic, and often times violent, political renaissance for China. Led by China’s hero, the now deceased Chairman Mao, the revolution lasted from 1966 until the year 1976. This sociopolitical movement altered Chinese life forever. The Cultural Revolution as seen in Ji-Li Jiang’s memoir, Red Scarf Girl, created a lasting impact on Jiang’s community, her friends and family, and the modern Chinese education system.
Within the context of our current climate of negativity and strife, professor Steven Pinker dared to buck the trend and talk about positivity. And not just touchy-feely goodness, but hard, cold facts including diagrams and charts that illustrate that we ought to recognize just how good we have it. Though not perfect, Enlightenment Now (2018) sheds light on how we’re better fed, experience longer lives, are able to live better lives, and plan for the future. It is a tome dedicated to the human soul; it represents a spirit that we can achieve our dreams if we are reality-oriented and focused on the goodness of our own minds. Pinker brings together the ideas of how there are fewer birth deaths for child and mother, wars globally are at their lowest point in history, violent crimes have receded, and billions of people over the past thirty or so years have risen out of abject poverty. Enlightenment is a testament to the power of the human mind to solve problems, create new ways to anticipate future problems, and permit human flourishing. Now, get your happiness indices and statistics on economic inequality measures for “Why Are You Ranking: Best Ideas in ‘Enlightenment Now’ Listed from Inhumane to Rational."
As of writing, we are eighteen months into the presidency of Donald Trump. That time in office has found his administration, intelligence agencies, and the news media focused on lingering questions from the 2016 election.
In the political world, it's easy to get wrapped up in social commentary from both sides of the aisle on television. However, our nation still depends heavily on political books, such as James Comey's recent A Higher Loyalty or Hillary Clinton's What Happened. It's with these kinds of books that we're able to get a more personal viewpoint of our government and society as a whole.
"Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat."
Though our president reportedly does not read books, in 2018's political era, these are the top ten best political books to read now that Donald Trump is president.
In the more than a half-century since the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, questions have been raised time and again about it. How many shots? Who was involved? Did alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald act alone or was he even involved at all? The Warren Commission, set up in the aftermath of the assassination and whose report was issued to the public in 1964, was meant to answer those questions once and for all. Instead, it would merely add gasoline to the fire of conspiracy claims. How and why that came to be is covered in this volume from journalist Philip Shenon who explores (as the book is sub-titled) “the secret history of the Kennedy assassination.”
The Hate U Give is a novel written by Angie Thomas. Her novel focuses on the problems of today dealing with police shootings and #BlackLivesMatter. The main character, Star, witnesses her best friend, Khalil, shot by a police officer after being pulled over by the officer. Khalil died in Stars arms and she was traumatized after witnessing this tragedy. The novel shows how much her life changes after the tragedy and what others around her go through as well. It also shows how her community changes after the death of Khalil.
Throughout the reading of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Timothy Snyder, Vintage Publishing, 2017)the figure of Victor Klemperer resonates strongly. Klemperer was a humanist, philologist, and Professor of Romance Languages and therefore, a man shaped by language, culture, and books. His testimony of the Nazi Germany shares many features with other witnesses but his condition of linguist makes Klemperer a sharp observer of the nazi's perversion of language. Klemperer filled his diaries I shall bear witness (1933-1945) with personal impressions, objective or subjective descriptions, from a jewish and no-jewish perspective, what represent an evocative narration of daily life under Nazism picturing the entire trajectory from the first years of Nazism after the elections in 1933 to their defeat of the Germans and the end of the war in 1945. But if there is a trait relevant about Klemperer work is his analysis of how the Nazis appropriated the language and enraptured the entire nation in the process. In 1947 he published LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen (The language of the Third Reich), a close study of the language of Nazism and how propaganda helped to form individual and collective identities. Klemperer used the book as a resource to keep himself sane, while he was forced to abandon his classes and start to work in a factory. It is remarkable that most of the words used for the nazis were not new terms but existent words that were adjudged with new meanings like for example New Order. Also ‘Umsiedlung’ (resettle) or ‘Aussiedlung’ (evacuation) words for the killing of Jews, while the gas chambers were called the ‘Badeanstalten’ or bath houses. And of course the biggest of the euphemisms used for the systematic extermination of Jews known as the Final Solution ‘Endlosung.'
Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left (Zero Books, 2017) is an atypical dictionary where one can find 50 relevant keywords for left politics. Already in 1975, the British marxist Raymond Williams published Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. In doing so, he highlighted the importance of language to build a system of thought for the left. In the last essay that works as a conclusion for the book, Ian Parker revises the trajectory of different keywords for the left dividing it in three periods; before the 1917 Russian Revolution, from 1917 to 1967, and from 1967 to 2017. By using as support material Raymond William's book, this catalogue allows us to observe the evolution of the political vocabulary and compare both, how the use of words changes throughout the years and which words enter and disappear from the lexicon. Parker takes over the immense endeavour of updating and renewing that vocabulary, modernising it within the present social framework. The task is gigantic and Parker, who is well aware of that, warns in the introduction of the numerous perils of an self-centred academia isolated in a marble tower, ignoring the real world while debating and discussing aimlessly, and how political activists are generally reluctant to use terms from an academic background for being considered too intellectual and not relevant in the practical field.
Right now, there seems to be an identity crisis going on in the American political scene. The Democratic Party has become famous for being liberal, and the Republican Party has become known for being the party of Trump, bigotry, and sexism.