barack and michelleAs a so-called liberal, I should be disappointed in President Barack Obama, right?

No gun control, Guantanamo still open, an immigration policy that is no policy at all, drones, no universal health care, an NSA run amok, vicious unchained violence in the Middle East, a locked-down North Korea testing long-range missiles, a bunch of demented and drug-fueled Islamic terrorist boys looking for those 72 virgins I hope they find in hell, Israel up in arms against America?

Hey Barack, what the hell?

But I love President Obama and I think, when historians have a chance to
weigh in, they may find much to love about him too.

First of all, remember when George W. Bush and his neocon greed-heads bankrupted the country? Who can forget those pallets stacked with hundred dollar bills — our money! — being shipped out to Iraq, millions of dollars which remains unaccounted for to this very day?

They bankrupted us with an unnecessary war that either killed or maimed millions of Iraqis and Afghanis, thousands of American soldiers, and which destabilized the entire Middle East. And then, after the mortgage crisis toppled the banks and the auto industry, unemployment rose to near-Depression heights and Wall Street was about to crumble, they happily skipped town.

After Bush, who would want a clean-up job so big? Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney should send prayers straight to whatever heaven they actually believe in that they didn’t inherit the mess that Obama did.

Once Obama won, while many were rejoicing over having a black man in the Oval Office — remember “racism is over” —Obama’s mere presence opened a
Pandora’s box of evil that is still out there twisting and fermenting today.

One recent book estimated that Obama is the target of about 30 death threats a day. It called him ”the most threatened president in history.”

The Huffington Post and Wikipedia both have pages — long pages —dedicated to Obama death threats. Once there was a Facebook page called  “Reward for Capture of Obama.”  The nut job who sponsored that particular website felt that Obama had committed so many illegal acts (has he been watching too much Fox News?) that his life was forfeit and under the Second Amendment to the Constitution, anyone could legitimately kill him. Facebook finally shut the page down.

In 2013, Colin Powell, a Republican, said, ”Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists, and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin, and that’s despicable.”

Amen, brother. Obama has been called “the Anti-Christ,” the N-word, an
immigrant, a Muslim terrorist and God only knows what else.

And still he serves, implacably and impeccably, this man Jerry Seinfeld calls “the
coolest guy to ever hold this office.”

He must be, because the coolest First Lady to ever hold this office is married to him. If Michelle thinks he’s OK, so do I.

A word about Michelle and Barack. They live in the world I live in. They know about the Blues. They move and groove to Motown and rock and country. Michelle, for one, can really dance; I just love to watch her, although sometimes I think she embarrasses her kids. But what else is a mother for?

The stunning Michelle wears new American fashion designers. They raised their two daughters out of the spotlight for seven years. Barack loves babies and old women and relates to women who have hearts and guts rather than blonde helmet hair. This couple lives in our world, not in 1959 or whenever Ronald Reagan started to systematically kill democracy in this country. (Bill Clinton helped, by the way.)

True, Obama can’t get control of the gun laws yet. But he cried when he talked
about the children gunned down in schools, the worshippers gunned down in
churches and synagogues and mosques, the people gunned down on the
streets. He wiped real tears from his face and openly expressed his grief and
rage. Showing your feelings. It’s a start.

“Second amendment rights are important,” he said. “But there are other rights that we care about as well, and we have to balance them…Our unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were stripped…first graders…Every time I think
about those kids it gets me mad. And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”

OK, he couldn’t get restrictions on guns through Congress, but think of the legislation he managed to pass against giant odds.

Obama came into office preaching bipartisanship, yet the right wing of the Republican party got together on the day of his inauguration, and decided that whatever the Obama administration tried to do, they would just stonewall it and shut it down.

Fortunately, the Democrats still controlled Congress for the first two years of his presidency. That was how he passed an economic stimulus package that, while it was small and limited in scope, was just enough to keep the nation from sliding into a depression.

Obamacare (a.k.a., the Affordable Care Act) barely passed Congress without a single Republican vote. It’s certainly not perfect. The government didn’t force the issue of negotiating drug prices, and the mandatory coverage requirement itself is a bonanza for the insurance industry, but about 15 million more people now have some kind of health insurance. Boo-yah!

The unemployment rate when was 9.8 percent on Jan. 1, 2010 at the peak of the Great Recession. Now it’s 4.9 percent. There’s been a 70-month streak of steady job growth Boo-yah again!

When Obama came into office, the auto industry was tanking. Now it’s paid
back its bailout money with interest and is flourishing both here and abroad. Boo-yah, boo-yah, boo-yah!

The big banks that were “too big to fail” didn’t fail. I guess that counts
for something.

The economic collapse of 2007-08 (under George W. Bush) wiped regular
people’s savings, but their investment portfolios (under Barack Obama) have
gained back those losses.

Gay marriage became the law of the land.

“Love won,” Obama said. “No matter who you are, here in America, you’re free to marry the person you love, because the freedom to marry is now the law in all fifty states.”

America —at least the non-batshit crazy one — finally admitted that climate change is real and signed a god-damned treaty — what the hell took it so long?

Wind and solar power have tripled under Obama, and alternative energy now accounts for more than 5 percent of America’s electricity, a figure that’s rising every month. The Saudis, who enslave women and fund Islamic terrorism, are scrambling.

We’re trading with Iran, which gave up its nuclear bomb potential to do it, and with
Cuba!!  Pistachio nuts and cigars all around!

And Osama bin Laden — whose family George W. Bush flew out of the United
States on Sept. 12, 2001, when worldwide flights were cancelled — and
whom he refused to capture in the caves of Afghanistan — is gone.

It’s still a dangerous world. The damage that Bush and Cheney caused so casually will resonate for decades. But if you remember how bad it was in 2008, you can easily see the good, and that’s attributable to Barack Obama.

Barack Obama has often been called “the smartest guy in the room.” A lot of people don’t like the smartest guy in the room. They’d rather have a president whom they can drink a beer with, or watch selling snake oil on television.

Yet with everything rising against him, Obama is leaving America in a significantly better state than the one his predecessor handed off to him.

Politics is most like football, Obama argued. “A lot of players, a lot of specialization, a lot of hitting a lot of attrition but then every once in a while you see an opening,” he said. “
“You’re hitting the line you get one yard, you try one play and you get sacked, now its like third and 15, you have to punt a lot, and every once in a while you’ll see a hole and then there’s open field.”


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It was a natural. I was interviewing the town’s new library director and we fell to talking about the books that changed our lives.

“It’s a fabulous thing, the serendipity of finding a book that changes your life,” she said. “For me, it was ‘Little Women’ where those strong women without a father managed to prevail. It’s important in childhood to know that people have had hard times and gotten through them. I read that book over and over again. I’d be sobbing and sobbing at the end, and then I’d open it at the front and start all over again.”

She was a Jo, of course. A lot of us girls were Jos while we were growing up.

But now that I’m about to turn 74, and entitled to a bit of reflection, I don’t think “Little Women” changed my life. Although I cried when Beth died, and was impressed that Jo found a way to be a writer, I’m a coup de foudre baby. I believe in the power of metaphorical lightening strikes. And five books actually did change my life.

As novelist Alexander Chee described the experience: “(The book) radicalized me, the writing rewiring me somehow, in a way I’d never want to undo,”

Each of these five books — and I’ll get to their names in a minute — rewired me irrevocably.

Surprisingly, some people argue that this can’t happen. That a book can’t change a life; five books can’t change one life five times.

This argument has been going on for centuries. For example, back in the Roaring Twenties, New York City had a flamboyant mayor named Jimmy Walker. When he was asked about censorship and the banning of books, he famously said, “No woman ever lost her virginity to a book.”

Not true! cries critic Rebecca Solnit.

“Photographs and essays and novels and the rest can change your life; they are dangerous,” Solnit wrote. “Art shapes the world. I know many people who found a book that determined what they would do with their life or saved their life. Books aren’t life preservers; there are more complex, less urgent reasons to read them, including pleasure, and pleasure matters… (But) art can inflict moral harm and often does, just as other books do good.”

I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to decide if these books were dangerous, if they did me harm or good.


When I was 10, Sherlock Holmes came into my life. He came in two volumes, a collection of four novels and 56 shorter stories bundled together as “The Complete Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

At 10 I was already an omnivorous reader. Holmes was the first adult book I managed to get my hands on, and as I started reading, I could see those children’s books — mostly fairy tales with colors in the title — getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror of my life.

“The Study in Scarlet” formed the personality that would lead me out of childhood. I was in many ways already like Holmes: an outsider, a loner, eccentric by nature, intelligent. and cursed by a literal mind and the ability to reason abstractly that seemed to dismay the rest of my family.

Until I read Conan Doyle, I thought I must be the strangest person in the world.

But I was meant to be a detective — and being an investigative journalist is very much life being a detective — and at the tender age of 11 I did manage to solve a case. We kids were playing in the street when a man came by and asked us for help. He had parked his car somewhere and couldn’t find it again. I questioned him in detail about what he remembered of the terrain near where he had parked, and then I found the lost car parked near the grammar school. Case closed.

Even though my parents thought it was a lucky coincidence, it was one of the proudest moments of my early life.

Then there’s this:

Watson on Holmes: “My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to me to be such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

“‘You appear to be astonished,’ (Holmes) said… ‘Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it…I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose…You say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or my work.”

Holmes’ derision of irrelevant learning was a blessing to this bored little middle school child, although of course my teachers disagreed. And later in life, I had an idiot of an editor who argued that of course I had to know that the earth revolved around the sun, although even if it went around the moon, what difference would it make to the way I covered my beat? But for the next three months he challenged me with arcane Sherlockian trivia and felt triumphant when I could not remember the names of the stories in which these details appeared.

It’s the concept, fool, I wanted to say to him. Your questions prove my point. Move along here, there’s nothing more to see.

Thanks to Holmes, I would study human nature closely for the rest of my life. And I learned that eccentricity has its purposes; an understanding that saved my tender young soul. The books blessed my unbridled curiosity, which still helps me as a journalist and as a writer. They let me believe that life can be a series of adventures. As an added benefit, they left me with an affection for crime novels that continues to this day. I owe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle an undying debt of gratitude.

There’s a caveat here. Sherlock Holmes was a man. I identified with him completely. Yet I was a girl on her way to being a woman. Was I misled? Was I somehow made more manly? Was I damaged?

No, no and no. It was the concept, fool.


OK, I’m a little older now. I’m in middle school, The books I tend to read are avant garde, although I don’t understand that term yet. And I can’t explain how Henry Miller’s sexy “Tropic of Cancer” and “Tropic of Capricorn,” which were were written in the 1930s and banned in the United States until 1961, came into my hands in 1956 and taught me how to masturbate.

It was Miller’s language that affected me, the raw, forceful, sexual language. As I read the books, previously unknown sensations of warmth, moisture and inchoate craving developed between my legs. I had no idea what these feelings were. I had never felt them before.

But when I read about Henry Miller having sex with his wife, June, in the back seat of a Paris taxi cab, I tentatively put my hand between my legs. A few pages, a few gentle strokes, a few orgasms and I was hooked two ways — one on Henry Miller and the other on my hand.

By the way, I can’t claim that I identified with either Henry or June. I read most of his books, some of hers, and some of their lover Anais Nin’s diaries. She had a big following when I was in college. I found her diaries mewling and uninspiring and Miller’s later work left me cold.


Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” was published in 1957 and I read it in 1959, the same year Bob Dylan did. ‘It changed my life like it changed everyone else’s,” he said, and as usual he was correct.

“On the Road” was a lightening bolt that entered the body of this shy little girl from Far Rockaway and changed every molecule in her body.

It never crossed my mind that all the main characters in “On The Road” were guys. I wanted to be on the road like Jack and Neal. I wanted the romance of constant movement, parties, ecstatic conversations about philosophy and writing and poetry and jazz, pain, loneliness, suffering and sorrow. I wanted danger, cops and jail, friendships with madmen, adventures to match Jack London’s. I wanted to hang out heavy like Hemingway wrote about in “The Sun Also Rises.” The adventure was in the rush, the ping-ponging from coast to coast, the characters you met along the way, everybody high on talk, strange drugs, hustling and sex, and I wanted to experience all of it.

Kerouac used language to create movement and driving (ahem) rhythm, and those were the forces that drove me, too. I was restless, frustrated by conventional civilization and eager to get on the road. But it would take another book to send me on my way.


Well, what woman doesn’t say that Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” changed her life? There’s even a collection of Friedan’s writings on the women’s movement that uses it as a title.

When Friedan died in 2006, one of her fans printed dark blue bumper stickers that say “Thank you Betty.” I have one pasted on my desk next to my computer keyboard.

Friedan published “The Feminine Mystique” in 1963, the National Organization of Women was founded in 1966, but the idea that women were equal to men didn’t explode in my brain until the early 1970s.

In 1972 I was living in New York and unhappy for reasons I could not understand. (My ex-husband is one of my best friends today, so it wasn’t that I didn’t love him.) I was in a profession, theatrical costume design, for which I was emotionally unsuited. My life left me unsatisfied, often terrified and mainly stalled.

I picked up “Feminine Mystique,” opened it to the first section and felt that bolt of lightening run through my body once again. Frankly, I don’t think I ever finished the book. I didn’t need to.

In 1974 I combined “On the Road” with “The Feminine Mystique. I left my husband and career and went on the road in South America for 14 exciting, sometimes disturbing, often dangerous years.


It was 1974. I was in Misahualli, a sleepy Ecuadorian jungle town. The few travelers who were on the Gringo Trail — and I was usually the only woman traveling alone — left a trail of books behind them. In Misahualli I found in my pension a paperback copy of George Eliot’s “Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life.”

It took only a few pages before I grabbed a pen and started underlining her insights. Eliot’s sharp eye and depth of understanding of other people’s inner lives and motivations was a revelation. I hadn’t realized that a writer could be so deeply knowledgeable about her society and write so beautifully and mercilessly about it.

I can’t say that I became a better writer because of Eliot, but I can say that I realized that many of the things I had been observing on my own — women’s infuriating place in the world, the failure of consumerism, the stagnation of society, the hypocrisy of government and organized religion — were now topics I could write about.

I still have that book. I still treasure that book.


My last coup de foudre came from a newspaper, not a book.

In 1989 I was still recovering from my years on the road. I was in Brattleboro, Vermont, ostensibly to take a masters degree in international management from the School for International Training. In reality, I was there because I couldn’t think of another way to reenter the culture of my own country.

After the coursework finished, I found myself in deep emotional turmoil — no home, no job, an estranged family, no clue as to what to do with myself. And I was 48 years old!
To pay the rent I took a job in the publicity office of the umbrella organization that ran the school. One day my boss asked me to write a piece for the local newspaper’s September back-to-school issue.

When the paper came out, I saw my name — my by-line! —in print for the very first time. The earth moved. Bells rang. The very same day I called the newspaper and asked for a job.

“Have you ever had anything published?” the editor asked.

“Just open today’s paper,” I said.

I started my new job the next day. I have never looked back.

In one moment, one lightening strike, I found my career and the place where I belonged in this world. A year later I found my husband on the sports desk. There hasn’t been a coup de foudre since.

Perhaps my life doesn’t need any more changing. I’ve made a million mistakes and suffered a lot of loss. I know there’s more loss coming. But right now I have my work and my love and I am happy.

I still read omnivorously — three books and about 10 magazines at a time — but another life-changing book may be in the rear-view mirror, where once upon a time and long ago all those fairy tale books with the colors in their titles once disappeared


Happy New Year!

My New Year’s Eve Tale:

For reasons forever unexplored and unexplained, as a young girl I became fixated on the 1930s “The Thin Man” movies.

That being so, I grew up thinking that every New Year’s Eve, like Myrna Loy, I would put on a gorgeous frock with thin straps and ruffles and host a glamourous New York City party full of laughter and clinking martini glasses, while my tuxedo-clad husband (I married Bill Powell, of course) mixed the drinks.

The truth is that I live — happily — in the back woods of Vermont and have never owned an evening dress, much less one with thin straps and ruffles. I don’t even own a regular dress. And I’m married to a bearded newspaper guy who doesn’t own a suit, much less a tuxedo. And we mostly stay home on New Year’s Eve,

Last night, as if reading my mind,Turner Classic Movies hosted a Thin Man marathon. There was host Robert Osborne in a tuxedo with a champagne glass in his hand, and there for the taking were the gowns, the glamour, the parties — and the murders to be solved.

I spent New Year’s Eve very happily on the couch under a down quilt, reliving all the New Year’s Eves I never had.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

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Where Western civilization marches on: Notes on the Miami Book Fair as a snapshot of our times and our culture


In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris — attacks on Western civilization in the heart of Western civilization — and with CNN blaring on television screens everywhere, I happened to be attending the 32nd annual Miami Book Fair.

It was odd timing. Books, after all, are where you can find the whole of Western civilization, exactly the civilization that Islamic extremists want to destroy. So there was a fine irony in being surrounded by authors, publishers and readers just days after the Paris attacks.

Over 350 authors came to speak and hundreds of thousands of readers came to hear them. The fairgoers’ guide alone ran for 88 pages. There were special events and performances for children. There were cooking demonstrations. There was a Moth slam. There was a place to dance to Latin music. Many of the sessions were in Spanish.

This is the foremost book fair in the nation, and it takes over the Miami Dade College campus during the week before Thanksgiving. It was founded by the college and Mitchell Kaplan, founder and owner of Miami’s premier independent bookstore, Books & Books — a thriving store with branches in several parts of Miami and restaurants that serve a wicked good ceviche.

Some people say books are dead, but they appear to be wrong. I learned that approximately 400,000 books are published in the United States every year. Think about that number for a minute. That’s a lot of books. These are books on paper, on electronic devices, on the Internet, on audio recordings and on every other platform known to man today. Even though only 10 percent of commercially published books earn a full return on their investment, publishers are still happily publishing them. Western civilization happily marches on.

As a working journalist, I know a lot of writers. But nothing prepared me for the fervency of readers,

Readers turn out to be a special, special breed. They are corporal, real and devoted to books. They are hungry for books. They buy books. They collect books. They share books. They give homes to orphan books handed out by desperate authors during Miami rainstorms. They are eager to talk about books with each other and with the authors of books. This raises the level of intelligent conversation exponentially.

The very first evening, a friend and I heard poet Gary Snyder talk about living in the “wild land interface” — the place where the grid stops and the natural world begins.

Then he endeared himself to me by reading a poem that sent shivers of recognition down my spine. “Why I Take Good Care of my Macintosh”: “Because my mind flies into it through my fingers/Because its keys click like hail on a boulder/And it winks when it goes out.”

Snyder is an old man now, yet the audience’s questions, sadly, focused on his experience with the Beats in the late 1950s. I would have enjoyed hearing him wax philosophic on aging — a topic dear to my heart.

“We’re all wrestling with aging,” my friend commented. “Maybe he doesn’t know any more than we do.”

One of my new discoveries was the graphic novelist Leanne Shapton, a slender young woman with a giggly lightness of being that makes her instantly adorable. She was wearing vintage Halston and publicizing a book she co-edited called “Women in Clothes.”

The book is a well-organized compendium of 600 women’s thoughts on clothing, physical attractiveness and life as free women who can choose to wear whatever the hell they want. This is a topic that gives fundamentalists of all stripes — Christian as well as Islamic — well-deserved convulsions.

Clothing as a subject of study is not frivolous or anti-intellectual, Shapton insisted. “It’s a non-verbal language,” she said. There are always reasons why people dress the way they do. Some dress for the future. Some dress to compliment the people whose company they will soon be in. Some dress because a particular piece of clothing tells a personal story. The most interesting fact gathered from the survey responses? “Most women don’t hate their bodies.”

Although talk about terrorism dominated many of the discussions, the fair wasn’t all political. Many of the authors were celebrities. Both Kunal Nayyar of “The Big Bang Theory” and Jesse Eisenberg, who played Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network,” have wonderful books out this year. Nayyar, who is handsome and funny and charming in person (not at all like Raj, the shlub he plays on the show) wrote a handsome and funny and charming memoir about how he became famous. Eisenberg, who is fast-talking, brilliant and witty, wrote — you guessed it — a fast-talking, brilliant and witty novel.

Eric Bogosian, who played the chief on about 100 “Law & Order: Criminal Investigation,” wrote about vengeance after the Armenian genocide. Latino actor-directors Rosie Perez and John Leguizamo brought memoirs. Humorist P. J. O’Rourke was flogging his collected works.

But most of the author were not celebrities. They were intellectuals, poets, political analyzers, political operatives, artists, teachers, chefs, novelists, publishers, reviewers, historians and probably a few I’m leaving out. What they had in common was the ability to be fascinating.

A high point for me was a session in which the witty Pulitzer Prize winner and former poet laureate of the United States, Kay Ryan, discussed poetry with the current U.S. Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera. It felt like a gift just to be in the room with them.

“There are too many fetters” in our civilization, they agreed. “Poetry is a free space.”

Herrera, a dapper guy in a red plaid shirt, a bushy mustache and a bright blue pork pie hat, writes his poems in a fluid English that he combines with a lyrical Spanish. He read part of a book-length poem he wrote about a Latino man’s danger-fraught 47-day migration from Honduras to the United States.

His character’s journey was marked by rape, murder, theft, hunger and sleeplessness — a harrowing journey that made for a harrowing poem. It was also describes the kind of trip that mirrors the one happening today.

Once I believed W. H. Auden when he wrote “But poetry makes nothing happen” (a lament he later disowned). Listening to Herrera describe this perilous journey made the demonizing of immigrants on CNN look like the tragic lie it really is. Herrera made me feel the pain and fear of these immigrants. And once you feel it, you cannot support the closing of U.S. borders to these fragile, desperate, brave men and women who will ultimately add so much to our society.

One of the most interesting speakers at the fair was former New York Times war correspondent, author and revolutionary Chris Hedges. He came to warn about “the corporate coup d’tat in slow motion” that has happened in America, resulting in the “disemboweling of the liberal class.”

Hedges blames Bill Clinton for deliberately moving the Democratic Party into the Republican camp and moving the Republicans “so far right that they went insane.”

Now we have a country that, by spying on its own citizens, criminalizing whole groups of people (blacks, gays, immigrants, etc.) in order to strip them of their rights, corporatizing culture and corrupting the political process, has made the life of ordinary Americans so difficult that they indulge in “magical thinking that leaves us unable to cope with a reality-based world,” he said. (A description that might bring joy to the hearts of Islamic fundamentalists.)

Hedges claims that the “inevitable” next Islamic fascist attack on American soil will turn us into an overt police state where our already overarmed police are “empowered to judge and effect punishment.”

“When you brutalize people you get brutal people,” he said, reminding us both of Paris and Ferguson.

Finally, at a seminar about independent publishing, it all came together.

First, Helen Atwan, the director of the Beacon Press, cheered me when she said, “We publish books because we think the author has something to say. It’s not about books making money.”
And Oren Teicher, the CEO of the American Booksellers Association, brought more good news. He said there was a resurgence in independent book stores, with millions of consumers making the decision to buy books there — whether it be books on paper, on Kindles and other electronic devices or on tape.

The localvore movement contributes to this, he said. People want a sense of place, a sense of locality, and having an independent book store in a community gives it an identity. More and more communities desire that. Hence, more and more independent book stores are popping up. That’s good news for readers, writers and also for Western civilization.

Our civilization uses language as an organizing tool. And organizing human experience is impossible without narrative. The book fair gave us part of the most recent collection of human experience (based on the bedrock values of Western Civilization) — those published in 2014-2015. And there are many more.

Hedges said that resistance to terrorism — both the kind represented by Muslim extremists and the kind represented by disenfranchised and over-armed Americans — is a moral imperative.

“Resistance allows you to become who you are,” he said. “I don’t fight because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.”

Based on what I saw at the book fair, Western civilization is alive, well and ready for the fight.

(This piece first appeared in The Commons, the weekly newspaper of Brattleboro, Vt., on December 16, 2015)

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