Thursday, October 25, 2012

History Lessons with Rachel Maddow

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm a fiction fanatic. Still, every now and then I realize that I need a reality check, something that brings me back down to earth for better or for worse. I've done such a good job of tamping down my temper during this horrific election season but all it took was Rachel Maddow's Drift to fire me back up again.

Many of you will know Ms. Maddow from her stint on Air America or more likely from MSNBC, but you may not be aware that she truly knows her stuff. This is no Glen Beck! This woman has a Phd. from Oxford University! How I would have thrived having her for a history teacher. She has the ability to take an extremely complicated subject and distill it to the bare essentials.

My only warning is that you might prefer to read the book rather than listen to Rachel read it as I did. Her style is so staccato, so intense, that this listener felt the need to keep going back to be sure I got what she just said.

The subtitle to this book is "The Unmooring of American Military Power."  The gist of the book is just how far America has strayed from its founding principles as it applies to war mongering and keeping a standing army. She quotes Thomas Jefferson as opining to a friend that he hoped "never to keep an unnecessary soldier." Then she proceeds to explain how the United States, from the Vietnam War onward, has proceeded to build the world's largest military/industrial complex. The idea being, once you have it, you must put it to use.

And sadly, that we do, too frequently and too indiscriminately. From the pathetic invasion of the spice island, Grenada, under Ronald Reagan, to the first gulf war under President Bush, Sr. and the ill-informed invasion of Iraq, Ms. Maddow teaches how presidents are defying Congress and expanding the war powers of the executive branch through backdoor deals and secrecy. The lesson learned? No matter how you vote, the ugly truth is that you really have no say in how defense funds are spent.

Unfortunately, my own man, President Obama, is no exception to this. Ms. Maddow, a rather renowned liberal speaker, cuts no slack for Democratic presidents. My only issue with her is that she offers no solutions to the outrageous problem of American overreach. Perhaps another book is in the offing?

To calm myself down I turned to J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. She had me laughing snarkily from page one. Will keep you posted on that one though my home office/sanctuary remodeling project may mean that reading will get short shrift this weekend.

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