Tag Archives: history

Considering America’s Soul

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In his new book, American Rule – How A Nation Conquered The World But Failed Its People writer and political analyst Jared Yates Sexton takes us on a journey through the history of the United States, from the nation’s founding to the twenty-first century. He examines and debunks the American myths we’ve always told ourselves. In recent years, Americans have faced a deluge of horrifying developments in politics and culture: stolen elections, fascist rallies, families torn apart, and locked away. A common refrain erupts at each new atrocity: This isn’t who we are. Jared Yates Sexton upends those convenient fictions by laying bare the foundational myths at the heart of our collective American imagination. From the very origins of this nation, Americans in power have abused and subjugated others; enabling that corruption are the many myths of American exceptionalism and steadfast values, which are fed to the public and repeated across generations. Working through each era of American growth and change, Sexton weaves together the origins and perpetuation of these narratives still in the public memory, and the acts we have chosen to forget. Stirring, deeply researched, and disturbingly familiar, American Rule is a call to examine our own misconceptions of what it means and has always meant, to be an American. Here we are on the eve of the most consequential of elections, listen carefully to Jared’s conversation with Norman B. He does not shy away from displaying his concern and emotions.  

The subtitle to David Treuer’s latest book, Heartbeat Of Wounded Knee, explains the American history you should know: Native America From 1890 To The Present. Sadly, as Treuer meticulously shows in over 500 pages the history of Native Americans is the history of the United States. David Treuer grew up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, he trained as an anthropologist, and researched his Native life past and present for his nonfiction and novels, he uncovered a different narrative from what he had been told. His heritage had not disappeared, despite but rather because of the intense struggles by Native peoples to preserve their language, their traditions, their families, and their very existence–the story of American Indians since the end of the nineteenth century to the present is one of unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention. In The Heartbeat of Wounded KneeTreuer melds history with reportage and memoir. Tracing the tribes’ distinctive cultures from the first contact, he explores how the depredations of each era spawned new modes of survival. The devastating seizures of land gave rise to increasingly sophisticated legal and political maneuvering that put the lie to the myth that Indians don’t know or care about property. The forced assimilation of their children at government-run boarding schools incubated a unifying Native identity. Conscription in the US military and the pull of urban life brought Indians into the mainstream and modern times, even as it steered the emerging shape of self-rule and spawned a new generation of resistance. Make sure you do not miss Norman B’s interview with David as he talks emotively about the past, the present, and the future of Native America.

Show #395

Two Compelling Books

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Peter Bergen – Trump And His Generals; The Cost Of Chaos

Peter Bergen

It is a simple fact that no president in American history brought less foreign policy experience to the White House than Donald J. Trump. The real estate developer from Queens promised to bring his brash, zero-sum swagger to bear to cut through America’s most complex national security issues, and he did. If the cost of his “America First” agenda was bulldozing the edifice of foreign alliances that had been carefully tended by every president from Truman to Obama, then so be it. It was clear from the first that Trump’s inclinations were radically more blunt force than his predecessors’. When briefed by the Pentagon on Iran and the Strait of Hormuz, he exclaimed, “The next time Iran sends its boats into the Strait: blow them out of the water! Let’s get Mad Dog on this.” When told that the capital of South Korea, Seoul, was so close to the North Korean border that millions of people would likely die in the first hours of an all-out war, Trump had a bold response, “They have to move.” The officials in the Oval Office weren’t sure if he was joking. He raised his voice. “They have to move!” Very quickly, it became clear to a number of people at the highest levels of government that their gravest mission was to protect America from Donald Trump. Trump and His Generals is Peter Bergen’s riveting account of what happened when the unstoppable force of President Trump met the immovable object of America’s national security establishment–the CIA, the State Department, and, above all, the Pentagon. If there is a real “deep state” in DC, it is not the FBI so much as the national security community, with its deep-rooted culture and hierarchy. The men Trump selected for his key national security positions, Jim Mattis, John Kelly, and H. R. McMaster, were products of that culture: Trump wanted generals, and he got them. Three years later, they would be gone, and the guardrails were off. From Iraq and Afghanistan to Syria and Iran, from Russia and China to North Korea and Islamist terrorism, Trump and His Generals is a brilliant reckoning with an American ship of state navigating a roiling sea of threats without a well-functioning rudder. Lucid and gripping, it brings urgently needed clarity to issues that affect the fate of us all. But clarity, unfortunately, is not the same thing as reassurance.

Colin Woodard – Union: The Struggle To Forge The Story Of United States Nationhood

Colin Woodard

Union tells the story of the struggle to create a national myth for the United States, one that could hold its rival regional cultures together and forge, for the first time, an American nationhood. It tells the dramatic tale of how the story of our national origins, identity, and purpose was intentionally created and fought over in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. On one hand, a small group of individuals–historians, political leaders, and novelists–fashioned and promoted a history that attempted to transcend and erase the fundamental differences and profound tensions between the nation’s regional cultures. America had a God-given mission to lead humanity toward freedom, equality, and self-government and was held together by fealty to these ideals. This emerging nationalist story was immediately and powerfully contested by another set of intellectuals and firebrands who argued that the United States was instead an ethnostate, the homeland of the allegedly superior “Anglo-Saxon” race, upon whom Divine and Darwinian favor shined. Their vision helped create a new federation–the Confederacy–prompting the bloody Civil War. While defeated on the battlefield, their vision later managed to win the war of ideas, capturing the White House in the early twentieth century, and achieving the first consensus, a pan-regional vision of U.S. nationhood in the years before the outbreak of the First World War. This narrower, more exclusive vision of America would be overthrown in mid-century, but it was never fully vanquished. Woodard tells the story of the genesis and epic confrontations between these visions of our nation’s path and purpose through the lives of the key figures who created them, a cast of characters whose personal quirks and virtues, gifts, and demons shaped the destiny of millions.

Show #377

 

Dispelling The Myths Of Thomas Cromwell – Redux

After a decade of researching the Royal Archives, the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author, Diarmaid MacCulloch has emerged with the most thoroughly researched and complete biography of Thomas Crowell – a polarizing political figure most know for his unwavering service to volatile King Henry VIII, the demise of Anne Boleyn, and his hand in the Reformation. Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life sheds light onto a fascinating part of history, one that helped shape the course of English politics and the future of the Protestant religion. Since Crowell’s life met its end on the scaffold in 1540, history has not been kind to this self-made commoner who rose from obscurity to become the architect of England’s split with Rome. However, MacCulloch unveils a more sympathetic figure. Was Cromwell the villain of history or the victim of its creation? A masterful storyteller, not afraid to interject a healthy portion of English wit, MacCulloch dispels popular myths. Despite being unable to control the violent humor of his King, Cromwell made his mark on England, setting her on a path to religious awakening and indelibly transforming the system of government of the English-speaking world. Norman B’s conversation with Diarmaid MacCulloch is certainly not for history buffs alone, as illustrated by the author’s deadpan reference to the current US President’s possible resemblance to the one-time narcissistic, volatile ruler of England.

Show #338 V1

Dispelling The Myths Of Thomas Cromwell

After a decade of researching the Royal Archives, the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author, Diarmaid MacCulloch has emerged with the most thoroughly researched and complete biography of Thomas Crowell – a polarizing political figure most know for his unwavering service to volatile King Henry VIII, the demise of Anne Boleyn, and his hand in the Reformation. Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life sheds light onto a fascinating part of history, one that helped shape the course of English politics and the future of the Protestant religion. Since Crowell’s life met its end on the scaffold in 1540, history has not been kind to this self-made commoner who rose from obscurity to become the architect of England’s split with Rome. However, MacCulloch unveils a more sympathetic figure. Was Cromwell the villain of history or the victim of its creation? A masterful storyteller, not afraid to interject a healthy portion of English wit, MacCulloch dispels popular myths. Despite being unable to control the violent humor of his King, Cromwell made his mark on England, setting her on a path to religious awakening and indelibly transforming the system of government of the English-speaking world. Norman B’s conversation with Diarmaid MacCulloch is certainly not for history buffs alone, as illustrated by the author’s deadpan reference to the current US President’s possible resemblance to the one-time narcissistic, volatile ruler of England.

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Show #298 V2

Who Created The Turmoil In Iraq?

IraqThe “Cradle of Civilization” is a common term for the area comprising modern Iraq as it was home to the earliest known civilization, the Sumerian civilization, which arose in the fertile Tigris-Euphrates river valley of southern Iraq in the Chalcolithic (Ubaid period). It was here in the late 4th millennium BC, that the world’s first writing system and recorded history itself were born. The history of Iraq from then until now is fraught with invasions, occupations, coup d’etat’s and of course, wars. As we prepare for the next edition of Life Elsewhere conflict in Iraq still rages, with forces from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) just an hour outside of Baghdad while the Syrian military is reportedly bombing the insurgents. Binoy KampmarkTo help us better understand the complexities of the Iraqi situation, Dr. Binoy Kampmark will join the program. Dr. Kampmark’s research and teaching interests lie in the intersections of law, international relations and history. Much of this involves the examination of conflict, diplomacy, and the various crises confronting international society. diplomacy, and the various crises confronting international society. Binoy teaches core legal courses within the Legal and Dispute Studies program for the Bachelor of Social Science at RMIT University.

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