--- Walt Whitman
In these times of television and Internet overload, when even our politicians seem to be telling us that it is okay to be hateful, Whitman's words ring particularly strong for me. Certainly our schools and religious institutions guide us towards our better selves, but we must decide for ourselves what world we want to be a part of when we are being barraged with statements that go against our beliefs.
I remember dressing as a pilgrim when in elementary school and re-enacting the first thanksgiving. Somehow things seemed wrong to me when I thought about the "cowboy shows" that I watched that depicted Native Americans as the bad guys for defending land that was their home. Strange people came and invaded their territory. It seems to me they were "standing their ground" and protecting their homestead, but my teacher told it a different way. I realized at the young age of seven that I would need to carefully evaluate what others present as fact.
Although happy with the religion my parents introduced me to, as a college student I decided I wanted to see what other people believed in. My college roommate believed that she could party hardy all week if she confessed on Sunday, and that seemed too good to be true. One of my first college dates spent the evening railing against the existence of any superior beings and the institutions that support them. That seemed a bit extreme to me also, so a group of us spent sophomore year visiting each other's places of worship. I learned that each group had beliefs that I disagreed with, and each had beliefs that I took to heart and helped me to become the person I am today.
This person that I am has always had trouble understanding the hatred that is spewed under the name of God and country, and in this political cycle we must all look to our better selves and spurn the hatred that can ultimately destroy us. When Hitler looked to make everyone the same, and weed out those who believed differently, his country ultimately suffered and is still fighting against some of his legacy. We must learn from history and embrace our differences and know that while our teachers and politicians have a lot to teach us about the world, we must exam everything we are taught under the microscope of our beliefs of right and wrong.
Speaking of right and wrong, Robert Dugoni's non-fiction account of a business owner who sent his men into hazardous situations in order to build his own wealth is a horrifying example of the results of going against what is morally acceptable behavior. In his book with co-author, Joseph Hilldorfer, The Cyanide Canary, Dugoni takes a true event and builds it into a story we all should read about: the results of greed on our environment and on our health.
My second review today, Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule, is also nonfiction. When Ms. Rule died last year, we lost a truly exceptional writer of true crime stories. Her ability to look at these cases and get into the minds of these sick individuals has always been amazing, and if you have never read her books, here is a great place to start.
As always, complete reviews of these books follow this blog.