"Listen, Liberal!" the cover shouts, with a finger pointing out. That's me, I thought, so I picked it up and listened. (I'd been primed by a couple re"Listen, Liberal!" the cover shouts, with a finger pointing out. That's me, I thought, so I picked it up and listened. (I'd been primed by a couple references to it in other recent reading.)
The latest election has had me, as it has had tons of other folks, totally off my rocker trying to understand what's going on. I knew who I didn't want to see become the leader of the United States...but there wasn't anyone in the running I wanted to vote for. Many of my liberal cohorts had plenty of advice and, of course, the usual condescending isn't-it-obvious-to-anyone-who's-properly-enlightened sort of suggestions. Result: annoyance, frustration, alienation from politics and political talk...and a bit of hopelessness about our government, to boot.
Enter Thomas Frank. He's not offering a solution (which is a bit maddening), but he's diagnosing the problem: the Party of the People has become the Party of the Professional Class. Democratic concern for the regular guy and gal in America - the blue-collar worker; the single mother; the tired, the poor, the huddled masses - has yielded to idealistic rhetoric followed by a cozy familiarity with big banks, corporate interests, and elitist visions. Catch words like "innovation" and "microfinance" hide the reality that the policies being promoted by Democrats in government are actually serving to continue widening the income gap and closing doors for those poor sods who will never attend an Ivy League school or incubate a tech startup.
As a book, this one is entertaining. Frank's funny. His points are thoroughly researched. If there are a handful of indictments at which he seems to arrive unfairly and successful policies he neglects to mention, they are eclipsed by the volume of startling information about what our most recent Democratic Party leaders have accomplished while in office (think deregulation of banks, draconian welfare reform, charter schools, mass incarceration, and plenty of other policies typically associated with a Republican stance) and under what circumstances (never reluctantly, often covertly).
I guess the book's effect has been both positive and negative for me: it's made me realize that there are concrete and logical reasons I am disillusioned with the party I have previously gravitated toward, which makes me see that I'm not a backslidden Democrat so much as an old-school one; but it's also made me wonder if our two-party system has run its course and, therefore, if our government will spend the next few decades trying to solve America's most complex problems with a broken slide rule.
P.S. Here's an interview with the author about the book, in case you want to know more but aren't ready to commit to reading the whole book....more
The subtitle is misleading: the book doesn't make much of an argument for nonviolent action from the standpoint of Christian ethics, and it certainlyThe subtitle is misleading: the book doesn't make much of an argument for nonviolent action from the standpoint of Christian ethics, and it certainly takes a more hopeful tack than its cover claim that most Christians haven't really tried nonviolence.
But what it does is give an inspiring Cliff's notes version of a few recent nonviolent political action campaigns and evaluate the successes and failures of those instances. Sider also cites examples of organizations that exist for the purpose of training and deploying volunteers for nonviolent accompaniment.
It's an informative read for anyone - not just Christians - who are interested in learning more about the recent past and the potential future of nonviolence as a political tool....more
Plenty of insights are here, especially for the reflective amateur philosopher-theologian, but the language is almost prohibitively academic. For a whPlenty of insights are here, especially for the reflective amateur philosopher-theologian, but the language is almost prohibitively academic. For a while I would I find myself slogging through and glossing over, and a moment later I would find myself stopped, stunned, then running to the computer to type out a momentous passage.
Good luck, brave readers and thinkers. The rewards were worth the work to me, but they won't be for everyone....more
I came to this via Eula Biss’s citings of it in On Immunity. It is comprehensive, sometimes amusing, and endlessly curious for anyone who is interesteI came to this via Eula Biss’s citings of it in On Immunity. It is comprehensive, sometimes amusing, and endlessly curious for anyone who is interested in how and why we describe things in terms of other things....more
In browsing other Goodreads reviews for this book, I’m surprised to see this pattern: “I really wanted to like this book, but…”
Some folks wanted it toIn browsing other Goodreads reviews for this book, I’m surprised to see this pattern: “I really wanted to like this book, but…”
Some folks wanted it to be more research-y and informative. Others found it boring for what they felt was a dearth of personal interviews and narrative. Colby was criticized for saying only what black people already know and for saying only what white people want to hear. One reviewer took issue with the “dull facts and figures regarding...church-going (Catholic church-going, at that)”.
The nerve of this man, to bore us not only with information about church, but information about CATHOLIC church. What is this, Rome?
Not in the least. This book explores the uniquely American fits and starts that have characterized the process of attempting to integrate black people and white people in neighborhoods, schools, churches, and business (specifically the advertising business). Colby describes the clashing efforts of people whose motives and actions fall all along the spectrum: noble, practical, reluctant, resistant, and (of course) racist. He talks about why government-mandated desegregation could have been the solution that most undermined voluntary integration.
What Colby does so earnestly and to such compelling effect is ignore the minefield of political correctness. It’s true, as another reviewer points out: his cavalier approach to our convoluted language boundaries results in such collegiate-feeling insensitivity as, for example, calling a group of old white men “whiteytown.” But it also allows the author to speak candidly and honestly -- and tres amusingly -- about why integration is so damn difficult. Colby’s self-deprecating (and white-deprecating) humility also moderates the squirm-factor of his unceremonious delivery.
And although the facts of his accounts are depressing because of what they describe about human motives and behavior, Colby communicates his conviction that integration is not a lost cause and his hope that we Americans of both (or all) races will commit to the long-term hard work required to realize Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream....more
Miller turns his comedy and wisdom to the theme of living a good story. He has a valuable thesis: in order to make the most of your life, you need dirMiller turns his comedy and wisdom to the theme of living a good story. He has a valuable thesis: in order to make the most of your life, you need direction and purpose and gumption. But I’m not so sure about the way he goes about proving it. The examples he uses from his own life to demonstrate creating a worthy story - cycling across the country, hiking to Machu Picchu, kayaking through the night in Canada, starting a huge mentoring program for boys, writing a book that gets made into a movie - seem to indicate that in order to live a good story, you have to do wild or extraordinary things. That may not be what he meant to say - in fact, I don’t think it is - but he might have been a little more balanced with his examples to avoid sending that unintentional message. (Or, I don’t know, maybe it was intentional.)
This is the kind of book that could cause people to seek what I’ve heard described as a geographical solution to a spiritual problem, to attempt to fill a void by changing their situation rather than their perspective. Sometimes putting yourself way out of your comfort zone can indeed change your perspective...but so can slow, steady, unsexy disciplines.
I did laugh, though. Miller’s a very funny man....more
If NPR wrote a book, it might be like this. The most technical parts sometimes sent my brain wandering off to think of other things, but then the bookIf NPR wrote a book, it might be like this. The most technical parts sometimes sent my brain wandering off to think of other things, but then the book would snap me back into focus with unusual or wondrous facts that I knew I could whip out at my next social gathering.
Kassinger has done her research, for sure. She describes not only the methods and discoveries in the history of botany, but also the personalities and brief biographies of the researchers who made those discoveries. She also relates the often entertaining misconceptions that preceded each discovery. In several cases, the newly found truth about how a plant works wasn’t really any more reasonable than the initial conjecture; in fact, plant scientists often found that their discoveries met with resistance from believers of the established explanation (surprised?).
A prime example is the borametz, or the vegetable lamb, which Kassinger describes near the beginning of the book. For decades and decades, there was no reason to believe that this plant - a tiny lamb growing on a stalk - wasn’t real in some other part of the world from where people were hearing about it. The author explains how the myth was debunked, but reminds us that the oddness of a supposition is not a scientific criterion for rejecting it: later in the book, she tells of the photosynthesizing sea slug, an actual creature that seems to straddle the border between the plant and animal kingdoms. And she also presents the at-least-as-strange-as-fiction cocktail tree, a citrus tree which has been grafted with multiple cuttings so that from one trunk, it grows multiple species of citrus fruits.
Probably don’t bother with this one unless you’re into plants. But if you’re into plants, go ahead and bother with it....more