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A Fourth Of July Reading List

The Fourth of July will be here soon.

(Above–Black Americans observing the Fourth in 1939 in St. Helena Island, South Carolina.)

What books would be helpful to learn more about the American Revolution and about America?

As I’ve said before, I don’t believe the Revolution was a liberal or conservative event in the sense we think about such things today.

Some of the Founding Fathers were religious. Others were not.  The Revolution had some aspects of a tax revolt. But who can know if folks in the early days of the nation would not have paid more taxes to get all the garbage out of the street or to prevent so many women from dying in childbirth?  Some of the founders believed in government being run from state capitols. Others supported a stronger national government.

Anybody who asserts that the American Revolution was a liberal or conservative victory in the modern sense is more concerned with today’s politics than with historical facts.

At the bottom line, it is up to you to know and understand our shared history. If you allow others to define your past, they will likely use that power to help bring about a future you don’t want.

(Below–1887 Fourth of July picnic in Custer County, Nebraska.)

Here are six book suggestions and a history blog suggestion that are strong sources to learn about the life in North America before colonization, after colonization, at the time of the Revolution, and to learn about the full history of our nation.

1491–New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

There was a whole world here before 1492. 1492 is one marker in history. There is little understanding of who lived in the Americas before Columbus. American history did not begin in 1492 or  in 1620 when the Mayflower arrived.

Mayflower–A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick

There are starting points in American history other than the landing of the Mayflower. Yet learning the story of the Mayflower is basic to knowing our history.

Before The Mayflower—A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett.

In many ways, nothing is more central to the American experience than the history of black Americans. So much has turned on the decision to bring black people to America, and on how those unwilling immigrants responded to life in North America.

American Colonies–The Settlement of North America by Alan Taylor

This book is a good way to learn about the British colonies. It includes chapters about not just the 13 colonies we all know and love, but also has chapters on British Canada and about colonies in the Caribbean.

History of American Women–A blog.

This blog is a useful resource to know more about women of early American history.

Patriots–The Men Who Started The American Revolution by A.J. Langguth

This book reads like a novel. It is an enjoyable and informative way to learn about the events and personalities of the Revolution.

The Penguin History Of  The United States by Hugh Brogan

The Penguin History is a one-volume non-ideological account of our nation that discusses the events of the Revolution and then goes on to provide the full context of American history. While I do sometimes read history books written from the left or the right, I find I’d rather have a balanced account that leaves ideological judgements up to the reader.

As a liberal, I’m confident that an examination of the facts–In a way both comprehensive, and sympathetic to the strengths and weaknesses of our fellow men and women— will lead to a view that America is best when it is welcoming of people of all kinds, and that government has, in tandem with the hard-work of a free people, a role to play in providing a basic social safety net for its people.

In any case, it is your responsibility to learn your history and to consider what this history means in terms of your beliefs and actions in the world.

Learn the past so you can be a hopeful and relevant part of the future.

(Below–How some see the Fourth of July. It is fine as far is it goes. But there is so much more. The painting–called The Spirit of ’76– is by Archibald Willard.)

By | 2011-06-30T10:12:54+00:00 June 30th, 2011|Books, Other Political Thoughts|Comments Off on A Fourth Of July Reading List

Ayn Rand Took Social Security

Does it surprise you at all that the novelist Ayn Rand accepted Social Security benefits?

(Above–Ayn Rand looking on as Franklin Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act in 1935. Ms. Rand is glad about what she is seeing because she is going to take the money.)

Ms. Rand talked about rugged individualism in her novels, but she took the government money when it suited her purposes.

Ms. Rand fits in well with today’s fiscal chicken hawks.

Have you seen any Republican/Tea Party voters refuse government benefits? Have you seen Republican voting government employees volunteer to give up their job so budgets can be balanced? Have you seen any Tea Party backers organizing volunteer parties to build roads and maintain public parks so the role of government can be scaled back?

We’ve not seen any sacrifice at all. What we’ve seen is an attack on children, the sick, the poor, and anybody else who reminds bullying people of human frailty.

What a bunch of lies from the right.

By | 2011-02-02T19:43:10+00:00 February 2nd, 2011|Books, Other Political Thoughts|Comments Off on Ayn Rand Took Social Security

Political Leaders As Gods—Effective Strategy Or Not?

What if recently deposed Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick had announced himself a god? Would this have kept him from losing his post? Is declaring himself a god an option to save the career of politically troubled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich? (above)

Let’s review the record from antiquity.  

In his History of Government from the Earliest Times–Volume I, Ancient Monarchies and Empires, the late Oxford political scientist S.E. Finer addressed the subject of rulers as gods or as chosen by heaven.

In ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh asserted divinity. Professor Finer wrote that these claims held the most weight in the early years of the Egyptian kingdom. But in time, as Pharaohs lasted for only brief stretches before dying or being usurped, the claim to divininty must have been nearly impossible for anyone to really believe.

In this era of 24 hour cable news and irreverent coverage by political blogs, it would seem, at best, that only some of the public would believe a claim by a leader that he or she was a god. If rulers had a hard time maintaining the fiction back in ancient Egypt, imagine convincing people today.

Professor Finer also wrote that the Egyptians responded to the diminished stature of the Pharaoh’s person by giving the throne divinity more so than the individaul holding the throne.

From Finer—

 “In my view…originally the (pharaohs) person was a sacred person, because, in accordance with certain rules or portents, he was, uniquely, indicated as the rightful possessor of the throne. But later it was the throne that made the king..irrespective of a particular individuals personal history or qualities.”

By this logic, the holder of the office of Speaker of the Texas House or the Governorship of Illinois would be a god by definition. It would not make any difference if  Mr. Craddick or Mr. Blagojevich were gods because their successors would be gods as well.  This, in my view, would limit the value of declaring yourself a god.  No matter what, you’re going to get a god in the position.

(more…)

By | 2009-01-14T21:02:43+00:00 January 14th, 2009|Books, Other Political Thoughts|Comments Off on Political Leaders As Gods—Effective Strategy Or Not?