History and religion buffs will relish this tale.



A fastpaced study of a littleknown episode in American religious history.

Say “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” and most Americans will conjure up pictures of doortodoor evangelists who want to give you tracts and pamphlets. But at midcentury the sectarian group was known for something else—refusing to salute the US flag. Jehovah’s Witnesses insisted they were patriotic and meant no disrespect, but they could not salute—it was a violation, they said, of Exodus 5, which instructs believers to have “no other Gods before Me.” In the tense and suspicious atmosphere of WWII, however, many Americans were troubled by the Witnesses’ refusal to salute: was this a sign of some greater disloyalty? In sleepy towns like Richwood, West Virginia, and Litchfield, Illinois, antiWitness violence became commonplace, with Witness houses of worship being looted and graffitied and Witnesses themselves stoned like characters from the Old Testament—by 1940 there were 236 such episodes. Workplace discrimination, Peters tells us, was especially pervasive: Witnesses were often fired or forced to resign. Daniel Morgan’s sons, high school students in Fort Lee, New Jersey, refused to salute the flag in 1939; Morgan’s boss at the Motor Vehicle Department urged Morgan to pressure his sons to capitulate, and when Morgan refused, he was fired. When he applied for a job at the Bergen County Board of Freeholders, he was told that his refusal to salute the flag “disqualified [him] for a civil service position,” even though he was a veteran. With the aid of the ACLU, Morgan sued, and in 1944 the state supreme court ruled in his favor. The story of Morgan v. Civil Service Commission highlights another theme of the book: the Witnesses’ willingness to sue when their civil liberties were abridged. Peters’s attempt to position this litigation as an early manifestation of the civil rights revolution is a bit strained, however.

History and religion buffs will relish this tale.

Pub Date: April 11, 2000

ISBN: 0-7006-1008-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Univ. Press of Kansas

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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