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What We Are Reading

December 16, 2010

Below is a list of books that we have read in recent weeks. The comments are not a review of the books, instead sort of an endorsement of ideas and investigations that can provide solid analysis and even inspiration in the struggle for change. All these books are available at The Bloom Collective, so check them out and stimulate your mind.

The Black History of the White House, by Clarence Lusane – Official histories of the United States have ignored the fact that 25 percent of all U.S. presidents were slaveholders, and that black people were held in bondage in the White House itself. And while the nation was born under the banner of “freedom and justice for all,” many colonists risked rebelling against England in order to protect their lucrative slave business from the growing threat of British abolitionism. These historical facts, commonly excluded from schoolbooks and popular versions of American history, have profoundly shaped the course of race relations in the United States. Lusane deals with everything from slaves in the White House, to servants, Black entertainers and racial policies endorsed by Presidents since the founding of the nation. The Black History of the White House is an excellent text for anyone wanting to come to terms with the White Supremacist history of this country.

All That We Share: How to Save the Economy, the Environment, the Internet, Democracy, Our Communities and Everything Else that Belongs to All of Us, edited by Jay Walljasper – In an accessible field guide format—replete with illustrations, charts, and other visual materials—Things We Share offers an engaging entrée into a broad range of key topics and concepts from the commons movement, which touches everything from natural resources, art, and the environment to technological knowledge, the digital realm, economics, and politics. Veteran progressive journalist Jay Walljasper frames each chapter around a single idea, with additional contributions by other distinguished activists, politicians, and writers. All That We Share is an important contribution for those seeking to re-claim the commons from corporate capitalist control.

War is a Lie, by David Swanson War is a Lie is methodical look at the justifications that people in power provide for the US going to war. Swanson walks the reader through the layers of propaganda that have accompanied US wars from the founding of the country up to the Obama administration. The author looks at the human & economic cost of war, whether or not it makes us more secure, who profits from war, how administrations have defended sending troops into war, how soldiers have been made into heroes, how the “enemy” has been demonized, the physical and technological nature of war, the legalities of war and the absurdity that wars are waged for humanitarian purposes. The book is well sourced and a useful tool for those who are opposed to war but struggle to articulate reasons for being against war beyond moral objections.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Pacifist and Nazi Resister (DVD) – Distributed by Icarus Films, Bonhoeffer is biographical look at German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was part of what was known as the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer, is known in some circles as an influential theologian, but is often not recognized for his role in resisting Nazi policy and even participating in intelligence gathering in a plot to assassinate German leader Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer was arrested and put in prison and was executed after the failed assassination attempt. Bonhoeffer wrote extensively while in prison where he expanded his views on faith and justice. Bonhoeffer never saw a contradiction in his religious beliefs and his participation in the plan to assassinate Hitler.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Kate Wheeler permalink
    December 18, 2010 12:05 am

    The DVD about Bonhoeffer sounds from the clip like would do a good job of explaining a complicated topic: how a man who was a Christian minister came to the conclusion that Hitler must be stopped by violent means. Bonhoeffer’s “confessing church” movement was a protest against the German state (evangelical Lutheran) church, which had long ceased to question authority and certainly wasn’t going to question the authority of someone as powerful and crazy as Hitler.

    Bonhoeffer called the state church’s approach to the problem–that all Christians would eventually be forgiven of any sins they committed while “rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” a “cheap grace.” A true grace, he said, demanded the church take several steps: to question the authority of the state, to aid the victims of the state, and to resist or stop the state from doing harm.

    By the time that Bonhoeffer got involved with the Abwehr conspirators and later joined the Valkyrie plot, he had decided that the German citizens’ dilemma during the 1930s and 40s–whether to join Hitler, placate and avoid him, or actively resist him–had been settled. Like the German churches, Abwehr conspirators (who included three of my grandfather’s family members) had all been through what Germans called the zerschlagen–the shattering of their families through disagreements of how to deal or cope with Hitler–and had been working since the mid-1930s on a number of assasination attempts. Most of them were executed around the same time as Bonhoeffer.

    Bonhoeffer, like my family members, was a Christian anarchist. But today, Christian anarchists are still debating whether Bonhoeffer’s decision was justified. The philosophy of situational ethics also obviously applies here. Even though I have a personal stake in this question, it doesn’t sway me as strongly as one may think it might; I am undecided about this question as well. I’m looking forward to seeing the documentary; thanks very much for writing about it.

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