It has been a long time since I posted. I’m editing my newest novel, and don’t spend much time noodling around the computer, and as you know by now, I’m not very attuned to marketing, so I’ve neglected my site. But I’ve been reading a lot, and three recent books have gotten me thinking. I’ve read Custer’s Last Stand by Nathaniel Philbrick, The Cadaver King and The Country Dentist by Balko and Carrington, and The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck.
Philbrick retells the familiar tale of the battle of the Little Bighorn; his book taught me a bit more about the genesis of the conflict, which was in part due to our country’s decision to break our promise to the Sioux nation and take back the Black Hills, which we had given to them, and which had become sacred ground to them. Why did we decide to take them back? Because we discovered gold in those hills. When Sitting Bull refused to accept our offer to civilize the savages on other land, we decided he had to go.
Balko and Carrington tell the tale of two health care charlatans who capitalize on prosecutors’ desire to solve murders by faking forensic evidence and providing testimony that falsely imprisoned and likely executed innocent black men in Mississippi over a period of more than 30 years. Why did they do this? Money. They enriched themselves and lived grandly on the fees they charged for their “services.”
Finally, Steinbeck’s novella is a thinly-disguised fictional tale of an occupied town that was written during World War II. This story illustrates the desperation and loneliness of the oppressors, who blindly follow orders and become increasingly isolated from their humanity as the unbreakable spirit of the oppressed is revealed to them. Steinbeck helps us see that the human spirit is unconquerable and cannot be vanquished, that, as Dr. King told us, “the arc of history is long, and it bends toward justice.”
So, what have I made of this? It seems to me relevant to our current situation, where respected friends and colleagues think our country is on a good path because the economy is good, and because of that, they are willing to overlook the incivility, racism, and misogyny that seems to have been normalized. This seems a familiar justification that we’ve used since we founded our country: slavery is ok because it’s good for the economy, slaughtering Native Americans is ok because it’s good for the economy, etc, etc. And my last bit of sobering news is for those of you who think America has lost its way: given our history, I’m not sure we’ve ever found our way, and maybe we need to hit bottom to realize that. To me, we seem pretty close to the bottom, so maybe there’s hope.