Write Again … Our better angels

Published 10:42 am Saturday, April 20, 2019

Our very good friend Ray Midgett — one of our town and region’s most notable historians — passed along a book for me to read not so long ago.

Oh, my. Would that my recommendation that others please, please read it became a reality. That’s not going to happen, of course. To think otherwise would be self-delusion, I know. That, I get.

The title is “The Soul of America — The Battle for our Better Angels.” Jon Meacham, the author, has a very impressive pedigree. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer. The author of the New York Times best sellers “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” “Franklin and Winston” and “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” among other outstanding works about our country’s past.

Meacham is a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University.

Please let me at least cite the contents, after which I will offer only a brief conclusion. I promise.

The Introduction — To Hope Rather Than To Fear

One — The Confidence of the Whole People — Visions of the Presidency, the Ideas of Progress and Prosperity, and ‘We, the People’

Two — The Long Shadow of Appomattox — The Lost Cause, the Ku Klux Klan, and Reconstruction

Three — With Soul of Flame and Temper of Steel  “—The Melting Pot,” TR and His “Bully Pulpit,” and the Progressive Promise

Four — A New and Good Thing in the World — The Triumph of Women’s Suffrage, the Red Scare, and a New Klan

Five — The Crisis of the Old Order — The Great Depression, Huey Long, the New Deal, and America First

Six — Have You No Sense of Decency? — “Making Everyone Middle Class,” The GI Bill, McCarthyism, and Modern Media

Seven — What the Hell Is the Presidency For — “Segregation Forever,” King’s Crusade, and LBJ in the Crucible

Conclusion — The First Duty of An American Citizen

The book, published in 2018, is truly relevant to our times. As it says in the flyleaf “While the American story has not always — or even often — been heroic, we have been sustained by a belief in progress even in the gloomiest of times. In this inspiring book, Meacham reassures us, “’The good news is that we have come through such darkness before’ — as time and again, Lincoln’s better angels have found a way to prevail.”

Check out our friendly local library, hustle over to Barnes & Noble, or order from Amazon. That’s three options for you.

As one reviewer wrote, “Brilliant, fascinating, timely … With compelling narratives of past eras of strife and disenchantment, Meacham offers wisdom for our own time.”

I can make absolutely no better recommendation than to commend this book to each of you.

Especially in these times.

Especially now.