Books

Blog

Let me note at the outset that if any readers are devoutly religious, please understand that no individual offense is felt or intended by my following remarks. I respect your spirituality, if not always your belief system. But I do feel strongly that the United States was founded as a secular country and must remain so.

In looking back through the posts of this blog, I realize that I first mentioned the Coronavirus on January 26 of 2020, and by March 1 these posts were running hard on the subject--and we were also surmising that no one would be done with it as summarily as almost everyone was predicting. So many miseries later, we now are actually in a situation where we can at least imagine, if not seriously consider, where we go from here. The past is prologue, because history has a lot to teach us. I'm glad to recommend two books here: one is Frank Snowden's impressive Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present, and the other is Plagues and the Paradox of Progress by Thomas J. Bollyky. Interestingly, neither book prophecies what most people apparently seem to assume—that life will go back to approximating whatever "normal" was. Give that one up...

Laid low last week by an acute case of food poisoning, I swam in and out of cognitive ratiocination in a fog of rolling nausea. But I had some insights on race, precipitated probably by news of the reliably unchangeable British family–which of late is happily more changeable. These insights, such as they were, are on whiteness—and on families. But the American version, with two major characters. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), draftsman of the Declaration of Independence, the nation’s first secretary of state (1789–94), second vice president (1797–1801) and, as the third president (1801–09), the statesman responsible for the Louisiana Purchase. An early advocate of total separation of church and state, he also was founder and architect of the University of Virginia and the most eloquent proponent of individual freedom as the meaning of the American Revolution. Sallie Hemings (1773-1835) came to Jefferson's Virginia estate, Monticello, as an enslaved infant, part of...

I once inveighed against the American system of government, longing instead for the parliamentary system that permitted the bringing down of an administration whenever enough support for that could be mustered. Oh, think of that! The United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate are in fact modeled respectively on the British House of Commons and House of Lords, the Senate having longer terms, being originally selected not by popular vote but by each state legislature, and assumed to be further removed from the popular politics of the so called "rabble," thus better insulated to consider great matters of the nation. The US Senate was designed to represent the states--that each state would stand in a relationship of equality with the others. It was an expression of federalism. The US House of Representatives was designed to represent the nation. It was the expression of democracy, representing the...

The FBI has finally proclaimed white supremacist groups as our greatest domestic security threat, and the Department of Homeland Security has followed suit. They haven't got around to adding "male supremacy" yet--after all, this part took them more than 30 years. I write "more than 30 years" because 1989 was when I published the first and, regrettably, to date the only feminist analysis of terrorism, and one of the infinitesimally few analyses by women at all. This was a boys' game with the solutions brought to you by the same folks who brought you the problem. I'm glad that I wrote The Demon Lover: The Roots of Terrorism when I did, because if I hadn't I would have to do so again right now. Besides, I've updated it three times since then: as it went into paperback, then in 2001 after the Twin Towers fell, and again when it became...

The greatest deliberative body in the world. That's how the United States Senate has been described, a group portrait that's an exercise in aspirational hyperbole, to my mind.

All this is going to take us some time. You don't adjust out of Stockholm syndrome into something approaching hope, much less normalcy, with a snap of your fingers. You suffer leftover debilitating addictions.

On December 30, 2020, Lois Diane Sasson succumbed to COVID-19. She was a survivor of multiple cancers, Lyme’s disease, and various respiratory illnesses–and she was not young. She was also highly intelligent, witty, an impassioned feminist, an artist, and my friend of 46 years. We were friends as young women, as maturing and then middle-aged women, as old women. Conversations about periods, lovers, and politics gradually got replaced by conversations about aches and pains, doctors, and politics. Yet we retained the elastic, enduring innocence of our youngest friendship, the way women's friendships oddly can--as "girlfriends." She was my proverbial sister, perhaps the last of the truly great dames. It is inconceivable that Lois actually could die. She was just too much alive, texting to the very last "Can't talk, can laugh," because the oxygen mask muzzled her speech. “At least I'm stoned," she texted, high on morphine. When she...