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His Book is Just Too Patriotic

I was listening to the radio this morning and they had an interview with Winston Groom, probably best known for the book "Forrest Gump."  Groom has a new book out entitled "1942: The Year That Tried Men’s Souls" and received a particularly scathing review from New York Slime’s critic Patricia Cohen.  I didn’t think much of it until it was mentioned in the interview that Ms. Cohen pretty much deemed that the book was "too patriotic."  Huh? 

Now, I haven’t read the book, so I can’t profess to understand what the critic means when she refers to "terrible" writing in the review, but I find it rather amazing that anyone could conclude that a book, in particular a book that centered on the year 1942, World War II and the attack on our soil at Pearl Harbor, was too patriotic.

As I read Cohen’s review, the first clue I had about how she felt about the book was how she approached the subject matter.  I believe her words about WWII and Pearl Harbor were along the lines of "well-worn history."  The review progressively irritated me.

Groom writes in his forward "I write to the average American reader, in hopes that he or she will take renewed pride in what our forefathers dealt with, and determined to accomplish, when faced with danger of the utmost severity.'’  Good.  As an American, I should understand what is chronicled in history and what our forefathers did to pave the road to freedom.  This makes sense to me.  Not to Ms. Cohen (emphasis mine):

It is not surprising then that ‘’1942: The Year That Tried Men’s Souls'’ tends to read like a portable pep rally designed to fire up the home team for the next epic showdown. The ‘’Great Democracy'’ versus the evil Axis — or, more recently, the axis of evil.

Well, that pretty much seems to sum up how Ms. Cohen feels about President Bush and our involvement in Iraq while carrying with it a certain undertone of Anti-Americanism. 

She has a bit of an interlude in the middle, actually giving him some small accolades about his background and the history he tells.  I actually thought she might give the guy a break.  I was wrong.

Unfortunately the narrative is frequently interrupted by clunky writing, incongruous asides and relentless cheerleading.  The story is told in two dimensions with little of the ambiguity, nuance and complexity of real life. In Groom’s account, the Japanese are ‘’wild-eyed,'’ treacherous and unrepentant and their planning for Pearl Harbor ‘’diabolical.'’ Their refusal to surrender is lunatic zealotry while the Americans’ intention to fight to the end is heroic. Their imperial designs are part of a ‘’rapacious'’ and cruel plot to ‘’control most of the world'’ and squeeze America to death, while the colonial records of the Allies who already control it are glossed over. Following ‘’the tragedy of World War I,'’ Groom writes, the ‘’Western powers had actually begun agreeing to return many (but of course not all) of their overseas possessions to the native inhabitants.'’

Reading about WWII, even in school, the first thing I thought of was that America’s will to fight to preserve freedom and liberty *was* heroic.  I’m glad Ms. Cohen wasn’t in charge back then - we’d have laid down our arms, perhaps, and had a big ole group hug.  THAT would have taken care of those nice, pleasant Japanese men flying those nice little planes over Hawaii.

It goes on and on from there and she ends with the following:

And when an American officer on Corregidor says he hoped his troops could rest and receive medical attention after surrendering, Groom writes, ‘’This last observation raised perhaps the grossest example of false hopes in the history of the world.'’

Well, maybe. Unless you were hoping for a sophisticated account of the war in the Pacific.

I read a number of critic reviews on Groom’s book and none were even remotely as harsh and critical as Ms. Cohen’s and many were quite favorable.  I truly believe there was some kind of political agenda here on her part, which biased her review of the book.  Thanks to Patricia Cohen’s review, I’m buying the book to check it out for myself (perhaps Groom should give her a cut for all the books she’s going to help him sell…nah!).  Oh, and I failed to mention that Patricia Cohen is the NYT’s THEATER Critic.  Perhaps Groom’s book wasn’t nearly as entertaining to her as all the song and dance numbers "Cats" had [insert your own conclusion here]. 

The ACLU - a Sexual Predator’s Best Friend!
Try to protect children from sex offenders, and the ACLU steps in with their "tsk tsk tsk, poor criminal" mentality (emphasis mine):
President of the Lower Chichester Board of Commissioners Rocco Gaspari Jr. believes sex offenders have the right to settle down and begin a new life, just not near the schools and playgrounds in the township where he lives.
So Gaspari and his fellow commissioners have asked township solicitor Frank Sbandi to draft an ordinance that prohibits sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of a school, playground or other places children congregate in Lower Chi.

As could be expected, the ACLU has strong words for such an idea.

"This is great legislation, if we’re trying to create a leper colony," said Larry Frankel, executive director of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the ACLU.

They are SEX OFFENDERS, Larry.  Would you like one in your home with your 6-year-old daughter?

But a constitutional expert with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, said it was "a close call" whether such an ordinance would hold up in court.

The courts will have a lot to decide on this issue. Hamilton, N.J., passed a law that, in effect, bars convicted sex offenders from its town. The same is true of two cities in Florida. Weston will consider a new law this summer, which virtually makes the entire town off-limits to convicted sex offenders. In Pembroke Pines, the law allows certain areas to remain open for sex offenders to live, but the residents of those communities are storming city hall — they want to be off limits, too.

Towns in New York and Massachusetts are considering their own limits on where sex offenders may live within their communities.

A Megan’s Law Web site, initiated by the Pennsylvania State Police in January, contains details about 6,981 sex offenders in Pennsylvania, including 13 who live or work in the Linwood/Boothwyn area. At http://www.pameganslaw.state.pa.us/, interested Internet searchers can discover an offender’s name and photo, the type of offense committed, the date of conviction, year of birth, current residence and current employer.

But Lower Chi has decided to try to take the information one step further. While no one wants to close the door on giving convicted criminals a chance at rehabilitating their lives, no one wants a pedophile next door to an elementary school, either. It just doesn’t make sense.

Whether the courts agree with Linwood or the other towns trying to keep sexual offenders away from the children in their area, only time will tell. But someone in this state needed to step up with communities in other states to test the limits of the law.

Linwood is taking a chance, a worthwhile chance. They may not succeed, but that hasn’t ever stopped this town from trying out ordinances or procedures some critics said would never fly.

Obivously there are some well educated leaders in Linwood.  More towns and cities should follow their lead.  It has been demonstrated time and time again how infrequent sex offenders are rehabilitated (I would go so far to say that the only "rehabilitated" ones are the ones still in jail, away from victims).  Allow a sex offender next to a school and it is like putting a drug addict in front of a meth lab.  It’s irresponsible and dangerous - just like the ACLU.

Update:  It’s Stop the ACLU! Blogburst Day.  Please stop by their site and offer your support.