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This compelling book argues that American patriotism is a civil religion of blood sacrifice, which periodically kills its children to keep the group together. The flag is the sacred object of this religion; its sacrificial imperative is a secret which the group keeps from itself to survive. Expanding Durkheim's theory of the totem taboo as the organizing principle of enduring groups, Carolyn Marvin uncovers the system of sacrifice and regeneration which constitutes American nationalism, shows why historical instances of these rituals succeed or fail in unifying the group, and explains how mass media are essential to the process. American culture is depicted as ritually structured by a fertile center and sacrificial borders of death. Violence plays a key part in its identity. In essence, nationalism is neither quaint historical residue nor atavistic extremism, but a living tradition which defines American life.
The first martyr to the cause of American liberty was Major General Joseph Warren, a well-known political orator, physician, and president of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts. Shot in the face at close range at Bunker Hill, Warren was at once transformed into a national hero, with his story appearing throughout the colonies in newspapers, songs, pamphlets, sermons, and even theater productions. His death, though shockingly violent, was not unlike tens of thousands of others, but his sacrifice came to mean something much more significant to the American public. Sealed with Blood reveals how public memories and commemorations of Revolutionary War heroes, such as those for Warren, helped Americans form a common bond and create a new national identity. Drawing from extensive research on civic celebrations and commemorative literature in the half-century that followed the War for Independence, Sarah Purcell shows how people invoked memories of their participation in and sacrifices during the war when they wanted to shore up their political interests, make money, argue for racial equality, solidify their class status, or protect their personal reputations. Images were also used, especially those of martyred officers, as examples of glory and sacrifice for the sake of American political principles. By the midnineteenth century, African Americans, women, and especially poor white veterans used memories of the Revolutionary War to articulate their own, more inclusive visions of the American nation and to try to enhance their social and political status. Black slaves made explicit the connection between military service and claims to freedom from bondage. Between 1775 and 1825, the very idea of the American nation itself was also democratized, as the role of "the people" in keeping the sacred memory of the Revolutionary War broadened.
On February 23, 1836, a large Mexican army led by dictator Santa Anna reached San Antonio and laid siege to about 175 Texas rebels holed up in the Alamo. The Texans refused to surrender for nearly two weeks until almost 2,000 Mexican troops unleashed a final assault. The defenders fought valiantly-for their lives and for a free and independent Texas-but in the end, they were all slaughtered. Their ultimate sacrifice inspired the rallying cry "Remember the Alamo!" and eventual triumph. Exhaustively researched, and drawing upon fresh primary sources in U.S. and Mexican archives, THE BLOOD OF HEROES is the definitive account of this epic battle. Populated by larger-than-life characters--including Davy Crockett, James Bowie, William Barret Travis--this is a stirring story of audacity, valor, and redemption.
"A hard-hitting polemic against religious fundamentalism" - Foreword by Richard Dawkins 'Thousands of people have written to tell me that I am wrong not to believe in God. The most hostile of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians generally imagine that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own. The truth is that many who claim to be transformed by Christ's love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism. While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support from the Bible. How do I know this? The most disturbed of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse.' So begins Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris's hard-hitting rebuttal of religious fundamentalism and blind belief. With deceptively simple arguments, he demolishes the myths on which Christianity was built, challenges believers to open their eyes to the contradictions of their faith and warns us of the dangers of America's ever increasing unification of Church and State. Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestseller The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason and winner of the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Non-fiction. He is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University and is now completing a doctorate in neuroscience. He lives in New York. www.samharris.org
States over the past 500 years have become the dominant institutions throughout the world, exercising vast and varied authority over the economic well-being, health, welfare, and very lives of their citizens. This concise and engaging book explains how power became centralized in states at the expense of the myriad of other polities that had battled one another over previous millennia. Richard Lachmann traces the contested and historically contingent struggles by which subjects began to see themselves as citizens of nations and came to associate their interests and identities with states. He explains why the civil rights and benefits they achieved, and the taxes and military service they in turn rendered to their nations, varied so much. Looking forward, Lachmann examines the future in store for states: will they gain or lose strength as they are buffeted by globalization, terrorism, economic crisis, and environmental disaster? This stimulating book offers a comprehensive evaluation of the social science literature that addresses these issues, and situates the state at the center of the world history of capitalism, nationalism, and democracy. It will be essential reading for scholars and students across the social and political sciences.
What lies behind the human attraction to violence? Why do we glorify war, seeing it as an almost sacred undertaking? Barbara Ehrenreich is known for the originality and clarity of her thinking, and in Blood Rites she proposes a radical new theory about our attitudes to bloodshed. From the trenches of Verdun to today’s front lines, Ehrenreich traces the history of warfare back to our prehistoric ancestors’ terrifying experiences of being hunted by other carnivores. Written with wit, tenacity and intellectual flair, this is vintage Ehrenreich, and an account that will transform our understanding of human conflict.

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