Peace and War
The Red Cross as bad guy? That’s one way of looking at Rachel Chrastil’s newest history book, Organizing for War: France, 1870-1914. The assistant history professor sets forth the bold question: How did World War I happen? “That’s what fascinates me,” she says. “That question made me become a historian. And the answer to that question is in how people organize themselves to prepare for war.”
It’s intriguing to read and watch the many collective causes and forces—coming together over the course of decades—to formulate disaster. Much like gazing at a traffic accident while passing by, the reader is hooked from the moment in 1871 when the French lose to the Germans at the tail end of the Franco-Prussian War.
“What I find so interesting is that it took about a decade afterward for French citizens to begin to think, ‘Look, you know whose fault losing that war was? It was our own fault. As citizens, we weren’t prepared.’ ” To prepare, she argues, civic and volunteer organizations in France essentially became nationalized, namely the Red Cross. “I argue that the French Red Cross was all about healing French soldiers so that they could go back in and fight some more.” Rather than staying politically neutral or setting a goal to serve all humanity, the French Red Cross became, in her words, “a tool of the state.” Chrastil lambasts that group, while stressing that it in no way resembles or is connected to the Red Cross of today.
While stocking bandages and encouraging push-ups amid the populace has its place, Chrastil suggests French civic groups went way overboard, helping produce a society dedicated to military preparedness. These groups created a citizenry full of Manchurian candidates, mentally susceptible and psychologically drilled to accept the carnage, and prolonged length, of the first world war.
Chrastil stresses the lessons learned from her extensively documented research can apply to any country recovering from any man-made atrocity, “even 9/11.” Read Organizing for War, she suggests, “if you want to know why wars happen, and what happens to a country after a war.”
If you like this, you should try: Along the Hudson and Mohawk: The 1790 Journal of Count Paolo Andreani by Karim Tiro (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006).
Title: Bullying, Suicide and Homicide: Understanding, Assessing and Preventing Threats to Self and Others for Victims of Bullying
Author: Butch Losey Publisher: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group
A children and family mental health counselor since the mid-1980s, Butch Losey hears a never-ending stream of sad stories from young people tormented by persistent bullying. In too many cases, Losey explains in his first book, the young victims grow despondent and choose suicide to escape the pain inflicted on them.
“When I talk to kids who are 8, 9, 10 years old, they seem like normal kids. They have goals,” says Losey, a faculty member in the Department of School and Community Counseling. “Then they tell me how other kids are picking on them relentlessly for something they have no control over. They are tormented on a daily basis for something I don’t get. It breaks my heart and keeps me going.”
Consider the tragic story of Desiré Dreyer, a star student and cheerleader in suburban Cincinnati who hanged herself at age 16 after unrelenting bullying by several female classmates. In his 172-page book, Losey uses Dreyer’s experience to illustrate why American middle and high schools can and should do more to stop bullying before it leads to horrific, irreversible consequences.
He expands on the thoughts made famous by Dan Olweus, a Scandinavian mental health counselor who developed a prevention program for elementary-age students, while focusing on how bullying affects middle and high school students. The book also provides tools to help school and community counselors identify and assess victims, and provides appropriate response strategies before a situation escalates to the point that a victim commits suicide or seeks violent revenge on others.
Losey tells readers in the preface that he wants to make a difference—to stop or at least slow the tide of suicide and homicides among American teens.
“Bullying, Suicide and Homicide will increase your understanding of the impact of bullying on the core essence of one’s sense of self,” he says.
In the book, Losey also includes an analysis of homicide risk in the context of school shooters, a topic that has led him to his next book— one that considers the bully’s perspective.
“I’m studying the progression of their thinking patterns, what’s driving them to kill,” says Losey, who is conducting prison interviews with shooters this summer. “They’re convicts and killers but they are also human beings who got lost when they were 13 or 14 years old.”
URSULA THOMAS MILLER
If you like this, you should try: Conduct Disorders: A Practitioner’s Guide to Comparative Treatments, edited by W. Michael Nelson III and Kathleen Hart (Springer, 2006).
Indulging in Theology
Eating and drinking—two of life’s basic necessities and greatest pleasures—make compelling subjects for associate professor of theology Elizabeth Groppe’s newest book, which considers the meaning of both from a Christian perspective.
While the subjects don’t necessarily appear to be ones a theology professor would espouse, the theological hook is immediately evident in the opening pages as Groppe makes a strong case for the Christian connection between the celebration of food we must consume to survive and the spiritual sustenance food provides for our soul in the form of the Eucharist.
“I gravitated to this topic because it is so sacramental,” says Groppe, explaining the ecclesiastical connections between food and drink and the body and blood of Christ.
Groppe was invited to write Eating & Drinking by theologian and author David Jensen as part of a series he conceived to explore how Christian ethics can be purposefully woven into our daily consumer-focused society. “The practices of eating and drinking, like all of the practices of daily life addressed in this series, shape our characters and our communities,” Groppe writes in the introduction. “In a real sense, eating and drinking also shape our very being.”
Groppe, who became interested in the topic of food—how it’s produced, sustainable farming and world hunger—while taking a philosophy course on food ethics during college, describes a day spent eating some of the foods that are typical in our culture and reflects on their provenance. And she encourages readers to consider the ramifications of consumer culture in a world in which hunger and malnutrition haunt the lives of millions.
Throughout the book, Groppe reminds readers that how we eat matters as much as what we eat. “We are persons-in-communion who exist by forming our very bodies at the table with others through the medium of the fruits of the earth that we share,” she says. “Practices of eating and drinking can form as a community that flourishes in the nexus of life-giving relationships. Eating and drinking can also lead to death. The character of our daily practices of eating and drinking is of no small consequence.”
URSULA THOMAS MILLER
If you like this, you should try: Conscience in Conflict: How to Make Moral Choices by Ken Overberg, S.J. (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2006).
You may think the world is made up of leaders and followers, and that if you lack the pluck of Napoleon or the charm of Martin Luther King Jr., then you’re destined to live the life of a follower. Well, with all respect, Arthur Shriberg thinks you’re wrong.
“Everyone can improve their ability to lead,” says the professor of management and entrepreneurship. “And everyone does lead.” That belief forms the foundation of his book, Practicing Leadership. Take for example the time Shriberg was invited to a prestigious conference in Malaysia over Thanksgiving. When he told his granddaughter he couldn’t spend the holiday with her, she said, “But aren’t we more important?” It was a small moment of leadership, and Shriberg hasn’t missed a Thanksgiving since.
The text is widely used in many academic disciplines, even internationally. “The goal of the book is for the reader to create their own theory and approach to leadership,” says Shriberg, who wrote the book with his son, David.
Most meaningful leadership takes place in our daily lives and seldom makes history. Our lives are filled with potential leadership moments, from raising children to playing sports, from decisions at work to helping someone who is lost.
“It’s the little stuff, not the big stuff,” Shriberg says. “Those little things add up. Most of the really great leaders didn’t seek to become great leaders. Quite to the contrary.”
We can all become better leaders, he says, by keeping track of our daily decisions, at work, at church or at home. Were the decisions effective? Efficient? How else could it have been made? Observation is a big part of becoming a better leader, and the exercise has never been more important.
“The world is over-managed and under-led,” Shriberg says. “We’ve got managers everywhere, but very few true leaders.”
If you like this, you should try: Contemporary Project Management by Tim Kloppenborg (Southwestern/Cengage Learning, 2011).
Embedded in Africa
Contrary to typical views of white European missionaries forcing religious conversion on innocent African tribes, Kathleen Smythe’s exploration of the Fipa people concludes quite the opposite: That the Fipa found common ground with their long-term Catholic missionaries. Both the Church and the Fipa people benefited from the relationship.
Smythe’s book is the product of 10 years of research, including 18 months in which the professor of history lived among the Fipa (pronounced feepa) in southwestern Tanzania and spoke the Kifipa language. The book is a study of the cultural interactions between the relatively isolated Fipa people and the missionaries who, because of this isolation, lived with the Fipa for decades at a time and essentially became part of their social structure.
“I learned that one way to see this cultural encounter is through the lens of strategies both of them had for a successful life,” she says. “The missionaries had to work on Fipa terms, and the Catholic Church succeeded because the Fipa saw them as valuable. The missionaries often took the place of parents and grandparents in the socialization of their children.”
The priests and sisters also brought education and religion to the Fipa. The Catholic religion was not that foreign to the Fipa because their traditional religion was monotheistic, Smythe says. A small number of Fipa actually became priests and nuns.
“The Fipa played a profound role in shaping the Catholic Church,” she says. “The Fipa remember the missionaries in the fondest of terms. They were good to them and helped provide for them. It was the first significant and sustained external contact.”
FRANCE GRIGGS SLOAT
If you like this, you should try: Catholic Social Teaching and Globalization: The Quest for Alternatives by John Sniegocki (Marquette University Press, 2009).
If Xavier has a poet laureate, it is likely Norman Finkelstein. After publishing no less than seven books of poetry, along with five texts of literary criticism, the prolific author is nonetheless somewhat reluctant to be cornered concerning his creations. “It’s hard to talk about my own poetry,” Finkelstein says. “There’s a lot of different voices speaking through the poems. They are kind of haunting, but sometimes joking.”
As a longtime professor of English, Finkelstein has taught 20th century American poetry, modern Jewish literature and literary theory. And then he goes out to practice what he preaches. His most recent collection of poems is found inside the paperbackInside the Ghost Factory. “I was hired here 30 years ago to teach creative writing,” he says. “But I’ve been writing poetry forever, or at least since high school.”
Unlike some poets, Finkelstein isn’t necessarily seeking self-expression through his work. “There are ranges of feeling that aren’t necessarily connected to me. It’s really about possession, about being taken over by other voices.”
Perhaps it’s a fitting hell that a literary critic must endure examination from, well, literary critics. Reviewer Mark Scroggins tackles Ghost Factory this way: “Finkelstein has opened his pages up to a whole radio dial’s worth of outside voices—dreaming voices, loving and hating voices, museum docent voices, voices on the verge of a nervous breakdown—all of them eloquently, lyrically, obliquely and relentlessly murmuring answers to questions we had not thought to formulate.”
Ghost Factory is illustrated and illuminated by photographs from “Forevertron” and related works by Tom Every (aka Dr. Evermor), a self-taught scrap metal sculptor from Wisconsin. Finkelstein finds these sculptures talismanic, “a primal gesture of artistic rebirth, a literal rebuilding of the artist’s soul out of castoff industrial detritus and salvaged materials of modern life.”
As Finkelstein plays with the poetic form, inserting a line at the bottom of each poem to sprout wise-guy comments such as “Little does he know” and “This space available,” he litters surprising myths and metaphors along the way.
Find yourself inside the Finkelstein Factory, and you might well end up believing in demons and ghosts.
If you like this, you should try: On Spec [poetry chapbook] (Omnidawn Publishing, 2008) and Musique Noir [poetry chapbook] (Overhere Press, 2006) by Tyrone Williams.
In 1901, U.S. Steel Corp. bought up thousands of acres of empty sand dunes lining the southern shores of Lake Michigan, and in less than 10 years the company had transformed the land into the largest steel-producing center in the world. But Gary, Ind., named after the company’s chairman, was far from the utopian image of bold urban planning and triumphant industrial capitalism that its founders envisioned.
Paul O’Hara studied the century of change in this American industrial outpost, analyzing the effects of deindustrialization on Gary, which suffered the typical characteristics of urban decay and neglect: extreme poverty, unemployment, crime and racial disparity. “It’s both a history of Gary as an industrial city and a history of the place as it fit into our public discourse about industry and industrialization and deindustrialization,” O’Hara says.
O’Hara looks closely at the relationship between the corporation and the city that it spawned but took no responsibility for, and in the end he lays the problems of Gary at the feet of U.S. Steel. Readers will see in the story of Gary the same ramifications of deindustrialization happening across America now in cities like Detroit, Youngstown and Cleveland. O’Hara hopes Americans can learn what to do to help these cities by studying what happened in Gary. “Gary was birthed by the corporation and then abandoned by the corporation. This is the story of American corporate capitalism,” O’Hara says. “This is one of the ways to understand how we got here and what these cities used to mean. Gary is a microcosm, an empty slate. It was a steel town in the industrial era, but now it’s become a symbol of urban decay in the post-industrial era.”
FRANCE GRIGGS SLOAT
If you like this, you should try: The Public and Its Possibilities: Triumphs and Tragedies in the American City by John Fairfield (Temple University Press, 2010).