Category Archives: War

GREAT RESOURCE ON AMERICAN HISTORY

My general rule that so far holds up is this: Take the total number of pages of a book and divide by two.  If my marginal notes exceed that number, then the book, though I may have some serious disagreements with it, was worth reading.  

In this case, Wood’s little book on the American Revolution is 166 pages long.  My markings came in at over 150.  This was an extremely worthwhile read.

I read a lot of American history, but am always looking for resources to better connect events and people.  Wood’s book does not disappoint.

If you are looking for a short book to better understand the American Revolution along with a helpful explanation of the immediate years leading up to the Constitution, it is hard to imagine a better book.

https://www.amazon.com/American-Revolution-History-Library-Chronicles/dp/0812970411

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THE PHARMACIST OF AUSCHWITZ

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https://www.amazon.com/Pharmacist-Auschwitz-Untold-Story-ebook/dp/B01M8KHLF0

I have developed a “Moore’s Law of Reading” that helps me see whether a book was worth my time or not. I first count my marginal notes. I then check out the total number of pages of the book. If my marginal notes add up to at least half the number of pages, the book is either important (say something by Nietzsche whom I mightily disagree with), or a book that I appreciated very much. With The Pharmacist of Auschwitz, both categories are true.

Reading about the concentration camps is tough. For me, I kept avoiding books like Night by Elie Wiesel and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I finally broke down and read both. I’m glad I did, but these kinds of books make me terribly sad and cry for justice. As a Christian, I find my sanity in the belief that God will one day make all things right. But I “live by faith and not sight” so the struggle for sanity in the interim is a daily battle.

I call Patricia (aka Trisha) Posner “Detective Posner” because she was relentless in accumulating the salient details in telling a little known story. The story revolves around a pharmacist named Victor Capesius. Capesius was involved in all kinds of heinous activities while working at the infamous Auschwitz camp.

Posner does a great job of teasing out the relevant details that make you see how such a “normal” person could be complicit in such barbarity. The ruthlessness of the Nazis is maddening to make sense of. Posner describes some of the ghoulish things the Nazis did, but does not overdo it. It’s not easy to tell a story full of dark realities and not get lost in all the depressing things that transpired. Posner does a good job of walking a tightrope between being true to the story, but not indulging the prurient interests of some.

There are many other things I appreciate about this book, but I will close with one more. Posner does a nice job of contextualizing the story of Capesius in the overall story of the Nazis. In telling the larger story of the Nazis you are reminded of how sinister their approach to life was. The insanity of the Nazis was demonstrated in many ways, like worshiping their dogs, but treating the Jews as less than animals. As a Christian, it reminded me of the perversity the apostle Paul speaks of in Romans 1.


I highly recommend this book, with the caveat lector that one be at least high school age.

MARCHING HOME TO UNCERTAINTY, BOREDOM, AND A LACK OF APPRECIATION

https://www.amazon.com/Marching-Home-Union-Veterans-Unending/dp/0871407817

Brian Matthew Jordan’s new book addresses an issue that others have either missed or been mistaken about: the poor treatment of Union soldiers upon coming home.

Since the war was fought in the South, those civilians experienced the horrors up close and personal. Their soldiers came back to a very appreciative homeland.

Since the war was not fought in the North, those civilians largely wanted to move on to more “positive” realities rather then be reminded of what the so-called Civil War had wrought.

Jordan has done yeoman’s work on the research and writing. It is no wonder this book was a finalist for the Pulitzer prize.

There are some difficult and dark issues to wrestle through when it comes to the horrors of war. It is hard to imagine a better starting point than Jordan’s fine book.

“MAD DOG” MATTIS

“What I’ve found over many years in many different organizations if you take good people and good ideas, but you match them with bad processes, the bad processes will win 9/10 times.”

Mattis went on to describe how our government process with respect to the budget is “convoluted” so good ideas are stymied and don’t emerge like they should.

Fascinating interview here:

http://www.wsj.com/video/uncommon-knowledge-retired-us-marine-corps-gen-james-mattis/D8F1B039-5E25-4829-9397-A704100629E0.html

WEST POINT AND CHRISTIANITY

I was browsing through some of the key books they read at West Point.  Not surprisingly, there were no books on the list which offer any real argument for pacifism.   

This got me thinking more about education, and what a true education requires.  I know some, perhaps many, would say the reading of thoughtful critiques of the military-industrial complex too risky for undergraduates at West Point.  I’m not so sure. 

I think some wars are “just,” though war is always ghastly in so many ways.

Too many of us Christians live in echo chambers where our views are never challenged.  I think we too could benefit from reading critiques of those from outside the faith.  We just might learn a thing or two.