(From the Irish Times, 8/15.)
A selection of writers pick the books that best make sense of the US election, and the ones that predicted the rise of a Trump-style candidate
My old mentor and friend Shelby Foote used to say that a person couldn’t understand the US without understanding the American civil war. As a Mississippi kid who was glad the south had lost the war (100 years before) and who felt that slavery was a blight on American history we would do well to try to “live beyond”, I thought Shelby’s insistence was a lot of hooey intended to prove the south’s undeserved centrality to all things American. In my naive view, the south and “southern values” were a garish anomaly, not typical of what America stood for – those values expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
I maintained this view until I unexpectedly experienced the American right wing’s irrationally hostile opposition to the Obama presidency. From questioning – completely without justification – Obama’s birth and religion, to opposing virtually all Obama’s policy initiatives, to slandering the president personally, to denying his actual right to hold office, the right wing formally and informally waged a campaign not only to discredit our legally elected head of state but, in essence, to erase him.