Sure to be much discussed—and possibly to be remarkably influential.

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THE CUBE AND THE CATHEDRAL

EUROPE, AMERICA, AND POLITICS WITHOUT GOD

Can the EU make the world safe for democracy? Not if it continues to deny its Christian roots, says Weigel (The Truth of Catholicism, 2001, etc.).

Weigel’s pithy polemic boldly assesses contemporary Europe. In his view, it’s in peril. Its traditional populations are shrinking, and millions of Muslims are immigrating to western Europe; within 30 or so years, the majority of teenagers in the Netherlands will be Muslim. The EU is bent on pedaling “soft power” instead of military might, diplomacy instead of coercion—all well and good if it works, but hawkish Weigel suspects that it won’t. What is the essence of the problem? It can been seen in the new EU constitution, which claims that European civilization grew from the soil of ancient Greece and the Enlightenment, making no mention of Christianity. Indeed, during the 2004 debate over the constitution, when lobbyists (including the pope) urged the EU to acknowledge Europe’s Christian heritage, a Swedish member of the constitutional convention thought these lobbyists were joking, and many other commentators worried that mention of Christianity’s role in shaping European mores might “exclude” non-Christians. (On that argument, Weigel wryly notes that the mention of the Enlightenment “excludes” postmodernists.) The author argues that this thin secularism, an agreement among Europeans to be officially neutral on matters of worldview, religion, and morality, will fail the very things the EU claims it wants to safeguard and promote: democracy and human freedom. It’s quite a provocative stance, but Weigel sprinkles his own conservative Catholicism so readily throughout the text that readers who might have been persuaded by the contours of his argument may well dismiss him as a right-wing nut. For example, admitting that America too has problems, he confines his list thereof to abortion, gay marriage, political correctness at universities, “courts usurping the prerogatives of legislatures,” and the like. No mention of, say, environmental degradation or unchecked consumerism.

Sure to be much discussed—and possibly to be remarkably influential.

Pub Date: April 30, 2005

ISBN: 0-465-09266-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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