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Lone Wolves and Zealots: Terrorism Today

Terrorism shadows every aspect of modern life, yet most of us don’t really understand its origins, manifestations, or even exact definition. There is a common assumption that the greatest threat emanates from Islam, yet according to one report, in the United States between 2008 and 2016, there were almost twice as many terrorist incidents by right-wing extremists as by Islamist extremists. How is our understanding of horrific events like last night’s Las Vegas mass killing informed by a regime that offers “prayers” and “thoughts” but never acknowledges how this violence is enabled or what it may be rightly called? And how, if ever, can terrorism truly be curtailed? There may always be more questions than answers when it comes to this topic, but these books offer a good start toward demystification.

The Terror Years: From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State—Lawrence Wright
Comprised of eleven articles originally published in The New Yorker, Pulitzer-winning author Lawrence Wright’s The Terror Years is a collection of interviews and essays written over ten years from the front lines and back rooms of the United States’ wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. From conversations with Osama bin Laden’s relatives to former FBI agent John O’Neill, Wright examines how terrorism has radically changed international attitudes toward security.

Bin Laden, Islam, & America’s New War on Terrorism–As`ad AbuKhalil
Consider this slim volume an invaluable primer on the United States’ shifting definition of terrorism. From President Reagan’s embrace of the Afghan mujahideen to the U.S. missile strikes against Bin Laden’s camps in that country’s mountains, As’ad AbuKhalil distills the thin line between “terrorist” and “freedom fighter,” and questions whether political violence can ever truly end.

Lone Wolf Terrorism: Understanding the Growing Threat—Jeffrey D. Simon
Another form of terrorism that isn’t always recognized is “lone wolf terrorism,” or isolated mass murders. Such violence may seem like less of an overarching problem, but because the perpetrators – from the two Boston Marathon bombers to Timothy McVeigh – work without a larger support network (though they are often ideologically compelled), Continue Reading →

The Future Is Female: Reading Women Leaders

If there’s one silver lining of this disastrous year in U.S. politics, it’s that female leaders have really stepped to the forefront – from former Attorney General Sally Yates, who refused to endorse the proposed travel ban on people from majority-Muslim countries, to Senator Kamala Harris, the only sane voice in the Session hearings, to U.S. representative Maxine Waters, one of Trump’s most vocal critics. So one of my new hobbies is reading books by and about female politicians who have beaten all kinds of odds. Here’s a breakdown of some of my favorites, including Hillary’s new (searing) memoir.

What Happened—Hillary Rodham Clinton
She may not have (officially) won the 2016 election, but the future is still female to Hillary. In this much-anticipated, admirably candid memoir, she explores why the first female U.S. presidential nominee of a major political party was defeated by a man whom even the GOP admits has a “woman problem.” From the anti-lady sentiment still holding sway – “I wish so badly we were a country where a candidate who said, ‘My story is the story of a life shaped by and devoted to the movement for women’s liberation’ would be cheered, not jeered. But that’s not who we are” – to her lambasting of press coverage – “[Trump’s actions] sucked up all the oxygen in the media” and Trump’s “dark energy” – Hillary never holds back, even when acknowledging her own blunders. (Yep, she regrets the “deplorables” comment as much as we do.) Brave, commanding, and ruefully honest, it’s hard to read this memoir of loss and not wish she’d won. Continue Reading →

Rereading the 12th Street Riot

It’s been five decades since the 1967 Detroit Riot, but the issues surrounding it are as urgent as they’ve ever been. Certainly they’re as divisive. Witness how U.S. citizens can’t even agree on whether to refer to it as a riot or a rebellion. What we do agree on is that the six-day uprising was one of the most violent in our country’s history, and that it presaged a new era in race relations in America, not to mention a totally misguded movie that has only succeeded in tanking Kathryn Bigelow’s career.

The 12th Street Riot, as it also was called, began when white police officers raided an after-hours club in a mostly black neighborhood, and long-simmering anger about the police force’s racism boiled over along with frustrations about segregationist employment, housing, and education policies. When all was said and done, entire city blocks were burnt down, 43 people were dead, 1,189 were injured, more than 7,000 had been arrested, and 683 buildings were destroyed. A presidential commission later determined that “police officers shot at least twenty people to death, and Army troops and National Guardsmen killed up to ten more.” All but ten of the forty-three killed were black. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy