Even though Glen Beck and Sarah Palin tried to soil it, this past weekend marked the forty-seventh anniversary of the March on Washington. The original event marked the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, as a quarter of a million people, black and white, gathered in Washington for what Martin Luther King called "the greatest demonstration of freedom in our nation's history." But the march was, even then, not without its detractors and took place in the context of an expanding Civil Rights movement and an escalating war in Vietnam. At the time many actually believed that such a march could change the course of race relations in America, and in many ways it did. Author and lecturer Charles Euchner, in his new book Nobody Turn Me Around: A People's History of the 1963 March on Washington, has given us a compelling history of that march and given us some contemporary context from which to judge it. My conversation with Charles Euchner:
When FDR said that "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself," he may have been on to something more than just calming a frightened nation. He could not have known that he was going to the heart of a deep contemporary psychological insight about fear and its root causes.
While we all experience some level of apprehension, there is a low level current of less noticeable fear that inform everyday choices, disrupt relationships, creates stress and acts as subconscious saboteurs. Harvard Psychotherapist Dr. Srini Pallay, in his book Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear, looks at the cutting edge research in psychology and neuroscience to show how our biggest roadblock to happiness and success is fear. My conversation with Dr. Srnivasan Pillay:
For over 60 years we have believed in the notion of The American Century. That idea has, over the years, morphed to represent a framework and justification for the seemingly unlimited projection of American power. Even our mistakes are justified in name of some divine right or manifest international destiny to direct the actions of the world. In fact, the U.S. spends more on its military than the entire rest of the world combined. Now former US Army colonel turned academic Andrew Bacevich, in his new book Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War, gives us an important critique of the assumptions that have, for too long, guided American policy, regardless of political party. My conversation with Andrew Bacevich:
If our recent financial meltdown tells us anything, it is that corporate governance matters. Sure there are powerful economic forces always at play, but we see that financial institutions, automakers and even technology companies suffered at the hands of the personal mistakes and questionable character on the part of corporate "deciders."
Four years ago, Hewlett Packard, one of the most iconic names in Silicone Valley, was plunged into a tawdry scandal that involved cover up, wiretapping, private investigators, big money and even bigger egos. In many ways it was the canary in the coal mine for what would happen on a far boarder basis. The recent resignation of HP CEO Mark Hurd was, it turns out, less about a sex scandal and more a capstone on four years of corporate turmoil at HP. Award winning business journalist Anthony Bianco in his new book The Big Lie: Spying, Scandal, and Ethical Collapse at Hewlett Packard, gives us a first hand account of a corporate morality tale for our times. My conversation with Anthony Bianco:
The State of California was once a model of governance, creativity and infrastructure. In Joan Didion's words, it was a place where "the dream was teaching the dreamers how to live." Today it is a state in crises. A government and infrastructure arguably beyond repair. A political system paralyzed by partisan gridlock, self interest and the corruption of self serving public employee unions. Yet, when we look at the origins of the crises, it's fair to say that "we have seen the enemy and he is us." Two veteran California journalists, Joe Mathews and Mark Paul take an insightful look at and offer a comprehensive analysis of California's dysfunctional state. My conversation with Joe Mathews and Mark Paul:
Pat Tillman's life was never conventional. That unconventional nature led him to become an NFL star and then to be so moved by the events of 9/11 that he gave up his multi-million dollar NFL career to join the Army and go to Iraq and Afghanistan. At some point, as his diary's reveal, he began to detest the war in Iraq and question even the conduct of the war in Afghanistan. And then, on April 22, 2004, he was killed by "friendly fire."
Without question the Army, under the direction of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, tried to cover it up and attempted to make Tillman's death something that it was not. What happened next gave rise to the real Pat Tillman story and to the investigative work of best selling author Jon Krakauer. His book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman is just out in paperback. My conversation with Jon Krakauer:
Suppose everything we've been told about sexual relationships and monogamy was wrong? What if the whole idea of the nuclear family narrative was inconsistent with science and with the origins and nature of human sexuality. These are just some of the bold arguments put forth by Christoper Ryan in his new book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. The book that has been call "the single most important book about human sexuality since Alfred Kinsey." My conversation with Christopher Ryan:
As the war in Afghanistan goes badly, as evidenced by the recent WikiLeaks documents, no doubt that in a year or so we will be looking for someone to blame. Just as Americans had the need to explain emasculation and defeat in Vietnam through fantasies of home-front betrayal, like images of Jane Fonda and the character of "Hanoi Jane," perhaps our current failures will give rise to a whole new and similar kind of imagery. Certainly anxieties about America's declining global status and deteriorating economy are fueling a populist reaction now, just as they did then.
Jerry Lembcke, in his book Hanoi Jane: War, Sex, and Fantasies of Betrayal, gives us provocative analysis of how and why Jane Fonda, the person, become Hanoi Jane the myth and what we might lean from that mythology. My conversation with Jerry Lembcke:
According to a recent poll, the majority of Americans favor marriage equality. Yesterdays decision by Judge Vaughn Walker, while far from the final word, is yet another step in a ladder climbing inexorably toward the acceptance of marriage equality. In light of Judge Walker's ruling, it seems an ideal time to look at the core institution of same sex marriage in those nations and places where it has been the law for sometime. In doing so, perhaps we can better understand it rationale, its benefits and assuage some of the legitimate fears surrounding this issue. Yale Law Professor William Eskridge, Jr. in his book Gay Marriage: for Better or for Worse?: What We've Learned from the Evidence looks at the empirical data from those places that have long since accepted these ideas.
My conversation with Professor Eskridge: