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review 2017-05-30 01:34
Reading progress update: I've read 480 out of 480 pages.
Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong - James W. Loewen

The honest historical marker:


On this site in 1897, nothing happened.  (p. 442).


This is the kind of book that needs rereading and reflection over an extended period of time.  There is so much to absorb, so much to analyze, that it can't be digested in one sitting or one review.


As inaccurate as most of the monuments Loewen cites are, he does mention that there are some that get it right.  And I wonder, given his particular focus on the sanitizing of Confederate history, how many of the accurate ones are really out there.  Has he given historical markers an unfairly bad rap?  Hmm, I don't know.  But certainly the ones he has cited deserve it!


Highly recommended, especially for its insights into how we got to where we are.  I would love to read The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader, but my library doesn't have it and I'm just not up to springing for the Kindle edition . . . . yet.

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text 2017-05-30 00:05
Reading progress update: I've read 399 out of 480 pages.
Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong - James W. Loewen

pp. 398-399


The defeat was hardly novel.  From the Civil War to the end of the [nineteenth] century not a single Democrat in Congress, North or South, ever voted for a single piece of civil rights legislation. . . .


Northern and Southern whites now reunited under the banner of white supremacy.  In the 1890s, Memorial Day celebrations organized by Union League members no longer stressed the need for vigilance against Southern attempts to overthrow the Union victory.  Often they invited Southerners to speak, who admitted they had been wrong to secede but right to oppose "Negro domination."  In 1891 [Henry Cabot] Lodge suggested that the U.S. should keep out "Slovacks" from Eastern Europe because they represented "races most alien to the body of the American people," and he did not mean African American people. . . . The Republican Party lost what little authority it still had to improve the lot of minority races.


These were not the Democratic and Republican parties as we know them today; they flipped almost completely in the latter part of the twentieth century.  The party of Lincoln is now today as racist and reactionary as were the Democrats of the South, of Reconstruction, and of the era of legal segregation -- roughly 1880-1950.


What's important to note, I think, is that despite the Union victory on the battlefields, there was insufficient backbone to impose the underlying terms of that victory on the defeated Confederacy.  When those chickens came home to roost after the second world war and the modern (?) civil rights era was launched, there was still not enough spine to make the laws stick.


In certain aspects, especially in and through popular culture, a more permanent victory was achieved.  But we still have a very, very, very long way to go, and the road is not getting any easier.

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text 2017-05-29 18:29
Reading progress update: I've read 317 out of 480 pages.
Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong - James W. Loewen

I'll finish the book this afternoon.  Making some notes prior to final review.


CH 60 - "The Last Confederate Offensive of the Civil War" was in 1995.


Ch 63 -- "The Greatest Female Spy of All Time"  without the usual sarcasm.

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text 2017-05-29 14:36
A History Of The Imagination
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari Dr

Harari's history of homo sapiens spans the period from seventy thousand years ago to the present day. He divides our history into a number of eras, each one prefaced by a significant evolutionary metamorphosis: the cognitive revolution which saw a huge increase in brain-size and the development of language; the agrarian revolution when homo sapiens took up farming; the scientific revolution of the eighteenth century; the industrial revolution a hundred years later; the information revolution which began just fifty years ago; and finally, the biotechnological revolution which is just beginning and which may yet end our species.


In Harari's thesis, the quality that singles homo sapiens out from all other creatures  is our ability to construct imagined worlds furnished with entirely fictional properties. These include mythologies and religions, social and political ideologies, even economic and financial constructs such as money. These are the tools that have allowed us to mobilise huge numbers of people in cooperative efforts. As he tellingly  points out, money permits two people who do not trust each other to cooperate together in a purposeful transaction. By utilising the power of these tools and the narratives that we construct around them we have been able to transform our world out of all recognition.


The overarching structure of the book is conceptual rather than chronological, allowing the author room to explore a wide-ranging set of ideas and this is one of the book's great strengths. It's like reading a series of engagingly polemical articles that gradually builds into a recognisable picture of ourselves  - a species both dazzled by its own inventiveness and oblivious to the damage that it causes. Intelligent, witty, and stimulating, Sapiens is an enormously entertaining read.

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text 2017-05-29 00:42
Reading progress update: I've read 430 out of 832 pages.
Rogues -

A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell


Jonathan Hamilton believes he'd heading to his death on an estate that is connected to multiple alternate worlds, facing off against a younger version of himself that he had "humiliated" several weeks prior at a dinner party in a card game.  Now his younger Alt-Self has stolen money from the College of Heralds and even kidnapped a young senior Herald Precious Nothing before making his way to a place he can get back home or take Hamilton's place.  Unfortunately this story suffers because unless you've read previous Jonathan Hamilton stories, what I just wrote above is the only thing you understand in the entire story.  The story features a little twist that makes you wonder who the "true" rogue of the story is, but without understanding anything about the world it's almost worthless.



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