Attitudes and Longitudes

May 30, 2006

Published by Anchor
Written by Thomas Friedman
399 pages; $14.95; black and white with hardback color cover

For a long time, I’ve avoided reading a book that had anything even tangentially to do with September 11th, 2001. It was an act of stupidty, arrogance, and …yeah, if anything in the world is, it was evil. But so is the stupidity, arrogance, and evil of Palestinian bombers, third world dictators, and christian fundamentalists, but the US hasn’t gotten nearly as upset about those things as it has about September 11th. This hypocrisy at the heart of the American psyche made it very hard for me to deal with “9/11” pablum and ra-ra Americana, both now and immediately after the event.

However, Friedman does a truly excellent job of touching on the subject without dwelling on it. This book, a collection of his editorials after the 11th of September, is proud of America without being jingoistic. He’s angry, but not frothing, and he lays out the reasons for his anger in a calm and logical fashion. Most of the book actually talks very little in specific about the 11th of September, 2001. Think of it more like a manual on “How the world works now”.

Mr Freidman lays out the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the personality of the average Muslim, the character of the Iranian citizen, and the depths of the fanaticism of Islamist terrorists, all without become a dooms-day alarmist or being more than understandably depressing. I expected to put the book down after only a few hundred pages or so, and found myself fascinated to the end. Mr. Friedman has managed to put down a whole lot of information in an approachable manner that touched me both intellectually and emotionally, and even managed to make me kind of proud of my country. I highly recommend anyone who was alive on September 11th to give this book a read. It will put thing into perspective in a way you may not have appreciated before.

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