My Country, the Enemy

A list about books that opened our eyes to our own countries' darker sides -- whether seen through the eyes of victims, through the lens of a novelist, or by way of historical analysis. This isn't about pointing fingers or pseudo-exoneration "they did it, too" style; nor is it about weighing the magnitude of the evil deeds of one country's government(s) against the magnitude of those of another government. It's a list about books that initiated or contributed to a thought process about our respective nations -- and about the question how we deal with our nations' historic legacy in our own lives.

Please note: However much you may be tempted to vote on or add books dealing with countries other than your own, please keep your votes and contributions close to home. The purpose of this list is not to show off how well-read or politically/historically aware you are in a global sense.

1

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17

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18

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30

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31

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32

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33

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35

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36

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37

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38

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40

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41

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42

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43

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48

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51

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52

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55

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60

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61

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62

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63

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63

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66

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87

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309 books · 350 voters · list created September 17th, 2009 by Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) (votes) .
90 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


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Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)

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message 1: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Great list! Unfortunately, the only US history books I've been reading lately deal with the era in which my country was Europe's proverbial knight in shining armor -- WWII.

If I were German-born, I would definitely add the 2007 One World edition of "Sophie Scholl and the White Rose" but since I'm an American, that gesture would be "showing off" my (current) historical awareness.:)


message 2: by Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) (last edited Sep 17, 2009 05:39AM) (new)

Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) Actually, your recent comments on the Sophie Scholl/ White Rose book were one of my inspirations in creating this list! While the White Rose is treated in part of the other material I've read about the era -- and I've watched both documentaries and movies dealing with the movement, and with Sophie and Hans Scholl -- you made me aware that I've never read any firsthand material about them ... which is an omission I intend to remedy shortly!


message 3: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn So, I'm a little confused, Themes, MY country, the U.S. has been perceived, rightly or wrongly, as the enemy by many living in it, not perhaps on as grand a scale as the Holocaust, but clearly you have Arthur Miller's The Crucible taking aim at a systematic abuse, the HUAC, Chalmers Johnson's Nemesis, a ton of books about the CIA, FBI, Waco, Ruby Ridge, etc. etc. ....Hmmm. A starting point for The White Rose is the simple softcover, The White Rose. During the Balkan War, those in favor of intervention in Congress took to the floor and told their house members,"This time we can't say we didn't know." When you live in a de facto empire, the whole thing gets kinda confusing. Can you clarify ?


message 4: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Thom, regarding the White Rose: I've recently been in contact with George (Jurgen) Wittenstein who was a personal friend of the Scholls and who personally edited a few of the leaflets. He claims that the previous Scholl biography, "The Shattering of the German Night" was poorly researched and relied heavily on information garnered from sister Inge Scholl who was (he claims) a Nazi and knew nothing of the goings-on of the White Rose.

Oneworld came along in 2007, kept the names of the authors -- Dumbach & Newborn -- the same, but used completely different and carefully-researched material.

Sorry for jumping all over your tiny WR comment, but since communicating Dr. Wittenstein, I feel like I'm on his bandwagon. Maybe I'm leading the charge?

Sorry. I'm done. Interesting questions about the good 'ol USA.


Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) Thom, when I created the list, I was initially thinking of the monster issues -- Holocaust/ genocide, slavery, Apartheid, Stalinism/ totalitarian regimes, etc. But basically, the list is intended to apply to all books that made you contemplate whether all is (or has always been) well with your country. Discussion points that might occur to someone living in the U.S. (and which I'll mention here by way of example only, irrespective of whether I, as an outsider, think they should be included in the list) could, for example, be the Vietnam War, Abu Ghreib & torture, Guantanamo, the Iraq War, neo-imperialism, the death penalty/ the U.S. criminal justice system, gun control, universal health care and social equality, etc. ... or whatever else makes you, as an American, wish for "a more perfect union."

Kathryn, thanks again for mentioning the book on the White Rose -- I will definitely have to look it up.

Caucus to all: When creating the list, I refrained from including books that, while tremendously influential, draw much of their power from the fact that they are not set in any specific (real) society, and that they can therefore speak with universal appeal, and to a number of issues essential to any democratic and humane society. Two examples of such books that do come to my mind -- and books that certainly did impact my own thinking -- are Orwell's "1984" and Huxley's "Brave New World." Do you think it would be appropriate to include these ... or would this be muddying the waters, just because they are not country-specific?


message 6: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn Thank you for the clarification, Themes---Where to begin ? When to stop !! I applaud your efforts to create a significant list, and will contribute thereto. LOL, T.


Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) And I'm looking forward to your contributions!

So -- should or shouldn't we also include books such as "1984" and "Brave New World"?


message 8: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn We could create a sub-category, something like "international"....In any case, we're going to have a ton of titles--Bring it on ! I say. But I'm a hog at heart. We could get snowed under with atrocities of the British Empire.

Something else: I think of myself as Irish more than American, and I don't care who knows it. For now, i'm going to try to bore from the inside out: picking well-known atrocities.

Have other thoughts, but will post them to you directly.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Thom wrote: "We could create a sub-category, something like "international"....In any case, we're going to have a ton of titles--Bring it on ! I say. But I'm a hog at heart. We could get snowed under with atr..."

Well, don't forget the French Hugenots while you are at it as people seem to be forgetting them TOTALLY!




message 10: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn Canary wrote: "I never realized until I read The Worst Hard Time that our own government caused The Dust Bowl Days. It was from pure GREED."

Yes, Canary, and ignorance. We ARE doing better, if not yet doing well.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Thom wrote: "Canary wrote: "I never realized until I read The Worst Hard Time that our own government caused The Dust Bowl Days. It was from pure GREED."

Yes, Canary, and ignorance. We ARE doing better, if no..."


There is still gross ignorance. I am not the most informed but I do read a few facts which frighten me and it seems most never read anything anymore.



Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) Wow, this list is beginning to look truly interesting. I only wish they'd soon fix whatever is wrong with the counters -- we're getting to the point where it would be nice to see what books seem to have had the most influence overall (even allowing for the individual voters' respective national provenance).

Thom, I see that you, too, included "They Thought They Were Free" -- I seriously didn't expect that anybody else would even be aware of this book anymore! Great analysis, though, isn't it? (Breathtaking in fact, particularly given that it was written in the immediate aftermath of WWII.) There are individual points where my personal focus would have a somewhat wider angle than Mayer's -- I see the roots of the attitude that made National Socialism possible in the first place as reaching far deeper back into history, for example -- but quibbles on minutiae notwithstanding, I read the whole book essentially in a single sitting ... during a train ride half across Germany, as a matter of fact, which due to the book's cover garnered me a certain amount of attention from my fellow passengers!


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Themis-Athena wrote: "Wow, this list is beginning to look truly interesting. I only wish they'd soon fix whatever is wrong with the counters -- we're getting to the point where it would be nice to see what books seem t..."

Is that based on Skinners thought? I was required to read something by him long ago in college that showed we all think we make "free" decisions but we are just the product of our "brainwashing" or conditioning. My German beau used to tell me I just needed one hour of brainwashing, LOL!



Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) The book title, you mean? No, though the underlying idea is a similar one. It's an American journalist's analysis of why Germans near-unanimously fell for Hitler and his cronies in the first place -- written in the immediate aftermath of WWII, and based on the individual biographies of 10 average Germans, who had joined the Nazi party at some point after 1933 and had displayed various degrees of participation (ranging from more or less passive party membership to actively pursuing/implementing Nazi ideology in their daily lives), though none of them in a truly elevated capacity.

Mayer argues that when Hitler came along, Germans were historically conditioned to fall for him -- without, at the same time, ever having learned to truly think for themselves, even though the formally democratic Weimar Republic made them believe they were doing just that. In addition to being a brilliant analysis of Nazi Germany, on a wider scale the book is really an object lesson in democracy; making it abundantly clear that freedom and democracy go hand in hand with responsibility for our choices and actions -- government's as well as every individual's. What's so stunning about the book, though, is not merely the analysis it contains as such, but also the fact that it essentially preempts, even though it is based on an analysis with a comparatively narrow focus (10 individual biographies), the insight that others would only come to reach decades later, and with the benefit of about five times that amount of material on which to base their own analysis. Not to mention that Mayer was a Jew himself, and I'd imagine that post-WWII Germany would have been about the LAST place on earth where any Jew would have wanted to find himself back then ...


message 15: by Antoine (new)

Antoine So at the top of the list it says: "Please note: However much you may be tempted to vote on or add books dealing with countries other than your own, please keep your votes and contributions close to home. The purpose of this list is not to show off how well-read or politically/historically aware you are in a global sense."
But I have a feeling the 23 people who voted for Anne Frank are not mostly German or Dutch, and I am not sure where the thirteen 1984 voters, or the nine Brave New World, see themselves as from. So how seriously are we supposed to take this request?


message 16: by Autumn (new)

Autumn I am American, however I am not under the misguided notion that I reside in a vacuum. My list, as it stands, reflects that although I did attempt to stay as "close to home" as possible.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads What country is "1984" supposed to represent?


message 18: by Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) (last edited Apr 03, 2011 08:02AM) (new)

Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) Alright -- here's the idea (though Autumn's above post pretty much captures it already):

On the one hand, as I said in the list description, this list isn't just about books dealing with horrible events anywhere in the world; it's about reflecting on when and where your own country has set a less-than-shining example, and what that particular event/episode/time may mean to you/to us, living today.

On the other hand, there are certain books (some of which even purpously avoid association with one specific country) that are of a high degree of general importance and appeal, and do have a specific meaning to many of us regardless whether or not they are set in our own countries (or even in any real country at all, for that matter). To me, "Brave New World," "1984," "Fahrenheit 451," "The Trial" and "The Crucible" are among those books, which is why I voted for them (though I don't recall placing any of them on the list initially). Arguably, the same might also be said about "Anne Frank's Diary" ...


message 19: by Caddy (new)

Caddy Compson Why Hiroshima?
And all the books about Sacco and Vanzetti?
Those are crimes commited by the US government against japanese civils and italian immigrants.
Does "My country, the enemy" means books about or by people who suffered injustice in their homelands, or books about crimes commited by the country of the reader?


Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) Caddy wrote: "Why Hiroshima?
And all the books about Sacco and Vanzetti?
Those are crimes commited by the US government against japanese civils and italian immigrants.
Does "My country, the enemy" means books about or by people who suffered injustice in their homelands, or books about crimes commited by the country of the reader?"


Anything about those aspects of your own country's history (i.e., the history of the country of every voter on this list) that made you think about those dark episodes in your country's history, regardless whether concerning your country's attitude towards its own citizens, towards those of other countries, towards immigrants or towards whomever else -- with some allowance being made for votes on those books that can arguably claim a universal significance as reminders of the need to respect basic human rights and freedoms. See explanation above and in post #18.


message 21: by Paniz (new)

Paniz K Love the name of this list. My Country, the Enemy. Gives me goosebumps.


Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) That's kind of the intention. It's a real enough feeling ...


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