Columnists > Voices

Wintry treadmill

New books challenge views of the past, assumptions about the future

Issue: "The surge is on," Feb. 3, 2007

White Brits and Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries repeatedly struggled with issues explored in schools during February, Black History Month:

Irv Brendlinger's scholarly Social History Through the Eyes of Wesley (Audubon Press, 2006) shows how the great creator of Methodism issued a theological challenge to slavery.

Richard G. Williams Jr.'s easy-to-read Stonewall Jackson: The Black Man's Friend (Cumberland House, 2006) shows how Jackson broke Virginia law during the six years before the Civil War by teaching slaves to read during a "Sabbath-school" school class. He also invited neighborhood blacks into his home for evening worship, even though the law banned all after-dark assemblies.

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Howard Means' The Avenger Takes His Place (Harcourt, 2006) narrates well Andrew Johnson's first 45 days in office. (The title comes from Herman Melville's poem following Lincoln's assassination: "He lieth in his blood. . . . They have killed him, the Forgiver-The Avenger takes his place, The Avenger wisely stern.") Means shows how a stubborn Johnson committed political suicide following the Civil War but helped to bind up the nation's wounds.

And then there are those who hope to make our children and grandchildren into second-class citizens, if not slaves:

0 Mark Steyn's America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It (Regnery, 2006) describes how European cowardice in not having children will turn that continent into Eurabia: "Islam has youth and will, Europe has age and welfare." (Steyn's formula: Age + Welfare = Disaster for you; Youth + Will = Disaster for whoever gets in your way.) America will be left alone to face Islamic imperialism.

Gregory Davis' Religion of Peace? Islam's War Against the World (World Ahead, 2006) succinctly explains the "doctrine of abrogation" by which many Muslims explain away some early, peaceful-sounding verses of the Quran, trumping them with the violent verses of later chapters.

Steven Emerson's Jihad Incorporated (Prometheus, 2006) comes through on the subtitle's promise: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US.

Other books I've read recently describe past terrorists and how their intended victims either died or fought back:

Primo Levi's Auschwitz Report (Verso, 2006) is a grim but important record. The Solzhenitsyn Reader, edited by Edward Ericson Jr. and Daniel Mahoney (ISI Books, 2006), is nobly representative of the heroic dissenter's work.

Paul Kengor's The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (Regan, 2006) tells the story well and provides specific detail that even some insiders didn't know. Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias, by Richard H. Shultz Jr. and Andrea Dew (Columbia University Press, 2006), shows why asymmetric warfare is so hard that only leaders with Reaganesque determination can stay the course.

And how will we respond?

Ronald Dworkin's Artificial Happiness (Carroll and Graf, 2006) illuminates our troubling tendency to demand instant gratification.

Kay Hymowitz's Marriage and Caste in America (Ivan R. Dee, 2006) shows that marriage breakdown is turning us into a nation of separate and unequal families, with the poor following further behind. She notes that "there's a fatherhood awakening under way in the inner city . . . but the grim fact is that bringing a reliable dad into the home of the 80 percent or so of inner-city children growing up with a single mother is a task of such psychological and sociological complexity as to rival democracy-building in Iraq."

Brian Mitchell's Eight Ways to Run the Country (Praeger, 2007) creates an eight-way circular division of the American polity-his categories are "paleoconservative," "paleolibertarian," "individualist," "radical," "progressive," "communitarian," "neoconservative," and "theoconservative"-that is much more sensible than a simple left-right spectrum. "Theoconservatives," a category that probably includes many WORLD readers, believe that a God-given order is important and want it implemented as much through liberty as through government. In my view, theoconservatives should lean toward small government "republican constitutionalism" and avoid a "plutocratic nationalistic" embrace of big government.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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