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tv   LIVE from the 2018 Savannah Book Festival  CSPAN  February 17, 2018 2:59pm-5:00pm EST

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buffalo. when man was credited with wiping out the species, so that was hardly the case and the other was sustained by its very life. there were two sides of the same coin, foes and friends as the photo caption on the publicity poster says so this image too entered my consciousness, two american superstars, icons not just of their era and country but for all time and around the world. what story was this picture telling and how is it connecting to the dancing horse outside sitting bull's cabinet. can't answer all of them.
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and recount the stories of each men from cradle to grave literally. and tracked parallel histories. both corrupt on the frontier and both came from rough circumstances, both reviewed in their own tribe, both became superstars, husbands, fathers, sons, warriors, shared a bloodied history, they were enemies for quite some time until they hooked up in buffalo bill's wild west show. ..
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>> and presidents in general sought his advice. his friends included frederick remington and mark twain, bronc busters who could drink him under the table and might have even been better writers. ranch cooks who needed a job. he was open to all. he had no airs. what you saw was what you got. even if what you saw was sometimes a mirage. he was the simplest of men, as annie oakley would say at the end of his life, as comfortable with cowboys as with kings. before the term was forever linked to his name, william f. cody grew up in the wild, wild west. once he was a boy, not a
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superstar not named for the animal he would kill by the thousands. others, for the record, would kill more. but just a boy who played with indians on the great plains, he would pass through territory near his home in kansas as they followed the buffalo. so, too, by his own account did he kill an indian in his youth. and others later while he was employed as a wagon train hand. but of course he was not aware that the curtain would soon fall on their way of life and that he would participate in that last act as well as try to reserve what came before. once he was just a boy who helped his struggling family eke out a living on the frontier. so how he came to hook up with sitting bull is a pretty amazing part of this story. after the battle of the little bighorn during which custer was
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killed, as i hope all of you know -- [laughter] sitting bull was blamed for killing custer which was not true. he did not pull the trigger. but he was nearby, and he was certainly a factor in that battle. in fact, his medicine was all over the battlefield as i recount in my book. but because of this very humiliating defeat for the u.s. cavalry and victory, great victory for the lakota and cheyenne, the native americans who were involved in that battle fellowed northward into -- fled northward into the arms of the grandmother -- aka, canada -- because they were branded as hostiles and had to leave their homeland. or be arrested. so sitting bull took his people to canada, and they lived there in exile for a number of years.
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and then at some point, were forced to leave by the canadian government which was being pressured by american authorities and also buffalo there were vanishing as well. you know, there was kind of -- sitting bull was caught in this squeeze play, and he returned to his, to the dakota territory, his homeland. and he was quite well known; infamous, i should say, at that point. they didn't have the term public enemy number one there, but i use it in my book. he had become public enemy number one. he was the guy who killed custer, you know? a great civil war hero. and pretty notorious for his role in the indian wars. and so when he turned himself in at fort buford with his people and his children including his young son and had his son surrender his rifle in a very poignant sr. moanny -- poignant
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ceremony which i describe in my book, he makes a point of saying that the reason he came back is he wanted to make sure his children could see how the white man was living and learn to endure, assimilate into this new culture. he was so famous then that everybody, people would -- soldiers would surround him and want his autograph, and, you know, just kind of soak up some of his mojo. he was a celebrity. a lot of people were courting him for their wild west shows. there were a number of circuses traveling the country then including -- which featured cowboys and indians. and animals too. and he hooked up with a couple of troupes and traveled around. it was not -- the reason that native americans joined some of these shows isn't because it
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was, like, oh, this is great, i get to appear in these shows. it was a way off the reservation. it was a sanctioned way for them to leave the reservation. and be he wasn't really treated very well many these shows. he was -- in these shows. you know, this is one of the great americans of all time. and he was known and still is revered around world. he was not treated with respect many these shows -- in these shows until cody came along. and cody had been after him for a long time. he knew that sitting bull was like, you know, a big score to use today's parlance. he knew that having him in his show would bring in a lot of money. and by then cody himself was this huge superstar as well. after the little bighorn, he had avenged custer's death by scalping an indian and then returning to the stage in new
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york and elsewhere on the east coast and reenacting this scalping of yellow hand and brandishing the scalp to the dismay of many. but cody was a showman, and he had been acting for some time, and he just really, like, cranked it up at this point. so he was able to convince sitting bull to join his show because of his stature, he promised him, promised to pay him -- i think he was paid more than anybody else in the show. sitting bull was kind of, like, in baseball terms a free agent. he kind of wrote his own ticket at that time. he asked to be able to sell his own autograph which other people in the show were doing, and cody, you know, of course a agreed to all this. he really wanted sitting bull in
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his show. but another reason that sitting bull agreed to travel with cody was the fact that annie oakley was already in the show. and he had met her while traveling to st. paul, minnesota, with the, with an army official a couple of years before hooking up with cody, and he was impressed with her shooting skills and even, like, sent her a note backstage like he became a fan. and they struck up an immediate friendship, and he gave her the nickname little miss sureshot. which actually translates into something else, but -- [laughter] you'll have to read my book to find that out. like a lot of things at that time, a lot of native american language, it was a mistranslation. but it doesn't much matter in terms of her career because when you think about it, who would
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annie oakley have become without that nickname, little miss sureshot? he he really kind of branded her. so having found out that she was, she had been hired by cody, he -- that was one other thing that made him join up. and then there were a couple of other things, but perhaps the most important of which was the fact that he wanted to get to washington, d.c. to meet the grandfather, aka the president, and ask him why the american government had betrayed his people. that was, like, really the overriding reason for him to join up with cody. and they did get to washington, d.c. as well as a number of other places, and he and some of the other native americans in cody's show did have a meeting with some state department officials. and i describe this really
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another strange scene in my book where they're inside a building, an office on capitol hill, and there's all this western art on the walls, you know, like portraits of indians and paintings of buffalo and so on. and apparently some of the indians at the, at this meeting started to laugh. but sitting bull remained silent. so he apparently did not get to meet the president, the grandfather, you know, to his disappointment. and, you know, that part of his desire to join up with cody was not fulfilled. but he did get to see what was going on with the white man, and he wanted to understand how this new civilization worked, and he admired all this great new technology, you know, like telephones and fire trucks. acknowledged the white man's
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superior firepower but wondered how come as he traveled he was meeting all these homeless children around the country. there were all these orphans. and he would often give them money. cody helped out a lot of people too. they were very generous. he couldn't understand how this technologically advanced culture was failing its people. and i think that, you know, quite interesting in terms of what's going on today. so at any rate, after the -- well, sit ising bull traveled -- sitting bull traveled with cody for four months in 1885, and i just want to read you this short paragraph about what that might have been like for him. imagine being born into a world where your tribe was the most powerful in all the land, and within that being born at the climax of its power.
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imagine that in your lifetime you witnessed a thing that consumed nearly everything you loved and were nourished by and that nearly everyone you cherished or parlayed with was destroyed, altered, killed or locked up. imagine being a person who lived through such a thing, sought to head it off directly and softly, was both celebrated and hated for doing so. and yet because of an alliance with the natural world and it with you, saw the whole thing coming, even your own end. and then finally, imagine embracing life with all of your might and force, your generosity and joy trying to contain the wellspring of sorrow and blood that was flooding your world and drowning it. knowing that a river cannot be stopped, but there are many different ways to ride it. this was sitting bull's fate and condition.
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so here he was, you know, joining up with buffalo bill for the reasons i mentioned. weirdly, their first meeting was in, of all places, buffalo. [laughter] and i wonderedded, i mean, when i found that out, i was completely stunned. another, like, breathtaking moment as i was working on my book. i wondered, like, what sitting bull thought when he was told he was going to buffalo. i mean, i'm sure it was translated, and he had to, you know, have known irony of that, if that's what you could call it. and he certainly knew that cody's name was buffalo bill, cody's nickname. and then i started to think about jokes that he sometimes -- reporters followed him around he traveled. he happened an entourage of friends, and there were often reporters. and i started to wonder if reporters were making jokes
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about, you know, hey, chief, here we are in buffalo, what do you think about that? it just seemed like he was in a very, again, strange and humiliating position. and i want to reiterate that leafing the reservation for -- leaving the reservation for native americans at that time and joining up with buffalo bill and these other shows was not like this, like, fantastic thing that they could do. they were essentially prisoners of war, and this was a way off the reservation that was sanctioned. and they could continue living a life that was banned within a limited frame. you know, they were allowed to ride horses, and they were reenacting moments in our history and theirs, although not there their point of view, certainly. but the cowboys, too, were engaged in these reenactments which, weirdly enough, were almost had pretty much ended as codety's show was touring --
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cody's show was touring. the frontier was vanishing. so here were all these cast members, all these americans -- and by that, i'm including white and red men and some women. here were all these people locked out of time but reenacting what has become the national scripture. and the way i see it, that's where america lives, you know? we live inside the wild west, and it all comes right out of buffalo bill. i mean, again, think about it's not just annie oakley who wouldn't have a snuck -- nickname. think about what stories we would tell ourselves about who we are as americans without buffalo bill and his wild west show. what dreams would this country have about itself. and, of course, there's a dark side, and i talk about and write about all of this in my book. here's a little bit about the two men together.
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some friendships form quickly and fade just as fast, others last for a short period of time, an hour say or a day, but even they may be as deep as the kind that lasts for a lifetime. and then there are those in which mysterious forces, a hand of the creator perhaps, necessity, desire brings two people together. even former enemies in an alliance that seems unlikely. and in the end, not at all. such was the join-up of sitting bull and buffalo bill. foes in '76, friends in '85 as the photo caption said of the pair. each an icon to himself, together a powerhouse of mythology and might and sparks. both -- the men had much in common, both were fathers, husbands, brothers, sons. both were celebrated, surrounded by admirers and those who
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embodied the oh side of admiration -- the other side of admiration, jealousy. in the end, trapped in a persona, worn down by their gifts. both were men of action, fearing not a rumble nor a personal assault. they were warriors in service of their people and their time not unlike montezuma and cortez, this some ways. montezuma who carved out hearts with ab zit yam and ate them -- ab sid yum and lusting for sparkles in the ground and sending greyhounds to devour those in the way with. but unlike montezuma and cortez, there was one thing that made them blood brothers, took them way beyond a show biz alliance, and that was buffalo to which they both owed their lives and paid tribute with their names.
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so as i said, they first came together in buffalo of all places, and i recount the scene in which they first met. setting bull was -- sitting bull was with his entourage, and they were all very gaily bedecked in war regalia. and, again, there was a reporter, and sitting bull had paraded down an avenue in buffalo with all of these people on his way to the field where cody's show was underway. and when he got there, apparently he had to wait for some time for cody to acknowledge him and invite him onto the field. and then when it finally happened, buffalo bill's advance
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man, arizona john burke -- this very flamboyant character who looked a lot like cody but was nowhere really as charismatic but did a lot of his, did a lot of the advance work -- he took, he guided sitting bull onto the field where cody was waiting for him and announced, chief, i think we've got him. and according to the reporter, cody was a little bit humbled by the moment. you know, he was a big guy, very handsome, very powerful and by that i mean, you know, he had a lot of -- if you've ever been in the circle of somebody who has nothing but charisma and then some, you know, it's or very mesmerizing and, you know, it can stop you in your tracks.
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but apparently cody was stopped in his tracks by sitting bull who had an equal, who had that kind of impact on people too. and cody even was over six feet, he even appeared to, like, shrink down a little bit in stature when sitting bull approached. and the two men kind of waited or hesitated for a moment or two, and then cody extended his hand, and they shook hands. and then cody made this incredible speech to everybody describing sitting bull as the napoleon of his people and this great native american figure, and he was urging all of these spectators to give sitting bull his due. and it was an important speech, and it's not that everybody followed cody's commands because as they traveled around the country, sitting bull would sometimes, was often booed actually in his appearances and
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sometimes spat on. other times he was warmly welcomed, but, you know, he was still regarded by a lot of people as public enemy number one, the guy who killed custer. and it was a big deal for these two men to come together. i mean, people have excoriated cody for, you know, having his show and exploiting native americans, and you could make that case, but he was also providing them with this way off the reservation and acknowledging their, just their humanity and their achievements in battle which he respected. so at the end of this four month period in 1885, sitting bull was homesick for standing rock. and having not met the grandfather, although gotten very close, and having seen enough of the white man's world with, he wanted to go home.
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is ko'dty gave him -- and cody gave him the horse that he rode apparently in the show. and i want to point out that sitting bull did not participate in any of the reenactments in the show. he only rode around the arena once at the beginning of each production and then left the ring. he was not hired to, like, to perform powwows or any of these other things. i mean, cody really treat him with respect. so at then end of this four month period, he gave him the horse that he rode in the show, and sit ising bull went home -- sitting bull went home from his last performance that year in --
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st. louis. he had given cody a necklace which was also a great gift, kind of a warrior to warrior symbol of respect and power. so i want to get back to this dancing horse. sitting bull went home, as i said, he knew that his time was near. he had many dreams which were prescient. he had animal guides in his life, and he paid attention to them. and at some point a meadowlark told him that he would be killed by his own people. he knew this was all coming. and five years later, in 1890 at the height of the ghost dance frenzy which was the religious apocalypse, apocalyptic movement that was sweeping through the tribes of the great plains calling for a return to the old ways, and the idea was that if you danced hard enough and with
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enough intention, the buffalo would return, and harmony would be restored, and all would be well in the world. so there was this ghost dance frenzy outside of sitting bull's cabin and on his reservation, and it frightened a lot of the reservation authorities, and it was a hyped-up, there was hyped-up fear. the call went out to assassinate sitting bull. and one more thing he was blamed for, the ghost dancing. and it got crazier and crazier, and tribal police were hired to do the bidding of the government. and he was, they were sent to arrest sitting bull at dawn in december of 1890, shortly before christmas. and as they, as this arrest was
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underway, an altercation broke out, and sitting bull was killed. and as this killing was happening, the horse danced, as i mentioned. so i want to get back to that. a while ago i called chief looking horse to seek his insight into this matter. he is a 19th generation keeper of the sacred white buffalo pipe for the lakota indians which was given to his people by the woman in black elk's vision. he has lived is ceremonies at standing rock, the united nations and elsewhere. i had met him several years earlier at a wild horse preservation event many las vegas. in las vegas. at its conclusion, everyone joined hum in a prayer circle in a ballroom at the south pointwith e hotel with garish
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chandeliers being the location of many such events because they are among the central gathering places of our time. what was the symbolism of the dancing horse outside sitting bull's cabin, i asked him in our phone conversation. was he responding to the sound of the gunfire as the story goes? there was a long silence and i hesitated to break it. after a few moments, this is what he said: it was the horse or taking the bullets, he told me. that's what they did. not everyone believes that the horse danced, but i do. and that's how i came to write book. and perhaps after reading it, you'll have your own thoughts about what happened on a winter's dawn of 1890 and all of the matters and forces that preceded it. so thank you very much more coming. [applause]
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i'll take questions now. >> yeah. and, please, if you would remember to raise your hand and let an usher come to you before asking your question. right here in the blue shirt, there we go. there's an usher right beside you. >> here we are. you did a great job on sitting bull. you also had a vignette in there about another great indian chief, tecumseh, whose background is just as interesting. >> yeah. >> i was wondering if you ever had any intention of getting out a new book on tecumseh. it's been a while. >> oh, thank you for your comments. i appreciate that suggestion. you know, a few people have asked me about that. i grew up in ohio, so i'm somewhat familiar with the story. it certainly deserves a current, you know, contemporary telling, and i'll keep it in mind. thank you very much. >> down here.
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>> was there -- oh, okay. >> waiting for the microphone. >> i don't need it, but i'll use it. [laughter] there's a poem and a song by somebody that i admire, it's called "sitting bull in venice." did sitting bull ever actually cross the atlantic ocean with cody's wild west show? >> no. he left in i think it was september or october in 1885 before cody went to england and then beyond. so, no, he wasn't part of the wild west show in europe or the u.k. at all. but it was because of his time with cody that the show really took off, and then it really went into the stratosphere after it began, you know, touring overseas. so i think that that, the song, you know, comes out of myth. although there was another
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native american named sitting bull who toured later with cody, and that might -- could be the source of the mix-up too. >> rebecca? there's an usher coming for you right now. >> i'm just wondering how difficult it must be to write a history that is authentic about native americans when all of that history has been written by white men. how do you get through the racism, the slant, all of that to the authentic story? >> yeah, it's a really good question. a lot of the accepted histories -- and some of them quite well written -- are, you know, have been written by white men. i relied on those, but i also relied very much on a book by earnest lapoint's grandson, i mean, sitting bull's grandson,
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ernest lapointe whose book is called -- i'm blanking on the title. it might be just called sitting bull, his story -- i have it in my bibliography, but i talk about discrepancies between his account9 and all these other books written by white writers. and there are a couple of major ones. i will say that, in general, well, that's wrong. never mind. i just, i talk about all of this in my book. it's a really good question and an important one. and as you heard me read from my introduction, i did call chief looking horse to talk about this dancing horse, and he's a very respected spiritual leader internationally and, you know, among native americans. what he said really opened up the story for me in a big way.
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>> well, i have a question finish. >> oh, sure. >> i have to stand by the microphone to ask -- [laughter] i don't want to run you away at all. i think about this era, the 1880s, 1890s, as kind of the era of the lecture circuit and that kind of thing. so how would you characterize this traveling show which was more entertainment oriented, perhaps, with the likes of oscar wilde and maybe other people who were visiting on the lecture circuit. >> wow, that's a really good question. that's a really good question. well, you know, in a way cody was such a huge factor in american theater. i mean, he was acting on stage in new york. and, in fact, it was in a bar in brooklyn after a show that he and a partner cooked up the idea for the wild west show. so he came out of this acting
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tradition, you know, of the frontier. and there were traveling shakespeare troupes as you mentioned, and theater was huge then. i think people were starved for culture and myth, and, you know, we as americans were just kind of coming, cooking up our own identity, and that, you know, moved it along. there was still, we were still very much involved with british civilization so that when actors from england came here, it was a big deal. i mean, there were even -- some of you might be aware of this, there were the shakespeare riots in new york in the 1920 maybe involving there was some sort of feud over who performed hamlet
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better, an american actor or a famous british -- both very well known -- british actor. and there was rioting in the streets which led to death and, actually, an associate of cody's was part of that whole thing. so there was, like, tremendous fervor around theater then and spectacle. i don't know if that exactly answers your question -- >> it does. >> there was just a real hunger for it. >> yes, sir. wait for the usher. she's coming right across the aisle. you'll see her in just a minute. >> i look forward to reading your book. >> thank you. >> i think a question to follow on an earlier is the question of cultural cleansing. the issue of never said or documented, but an administration who set out to exterminate, the opening of the
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west by whites. wonder if you could address that from your vantage point of knowing the native american. >> yeah. i get into that in great detail in my book. i think something important to keep in mind is that, first of all, buffalo bill and sitting bull forged this strange commercially-driven alliance but crossed a vast, you know, chasm to do so. you know, they were -- here were these two superstars coming together. i'm not saying that was love fest, but symbolically it meant a lot and reverberates today. and i think it's interesting when you or consider what happened in standing rock in 2016 -- and i'm not just talking about the protests over the pipeline. remember, that's where sitting bull lived and died. so his spirit is all over that
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region. there were descendants of soldiers who served at the little bighorn, army veterans themselves who came to standing rock to apologize to lakota elders for the role of their ancestors in the indian wars. and i discuss this in my book as well. to me, that's the most profound thing that came out of standing rock, and one of the most profound things that's happened in terms of, you know, the cause of the ongoing conflict between the red and white man in this country. and i think it opens the door on reconcile ising our meaning -- america's original sin which is the trawl of native americans. it happened at standing rock, i think that means a lot.
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that's where this story starts and ends. >> right over here. >> while you're near georgia, you might want to -- here in georgia, you might want to take a look at the cherokee, they won a supreme court decision that said they could keep their land, and we took it all away from them. >> yeah, another really sad story. but i do think, again, back to thisser ceremony in standing ro, in 2016 i think the door is now open on healing this rift. you know, we are all blood brothers in terms of this shared bloody history that we have. and sisters too. >> i was kind of struck by the fact that once the native
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americans were put on the reservations, they were not allowed to really hunt -- >> right. >> -- and they had no food, and they were given very limited portions. i don't understand how anyone could expect them to survive and thrive. do you have any idea of what the rationale was for that, or were they just trying to eliminate them? >> it was a slow elimination. >> yeah. >> that was another reason some native americans joined up in cody and other shows because, you know, they were getting, you know, they were well fed during these shows. at least in cody's. en i can't really speak for the other -- i don't know what was going on in the others, but cody made a point, made it a point that his indian cast members were treated exactly the same as his white cast members even though he, you know, some people came after him, and there were religious groups and others who came after him and wanted to try to shut down the shows. finish but that's not as simple
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as it sounds. some of the groups wanted to convert the indians to christianity and wipe out their own spiritual beliefs. >> yeah, about halfway down. >> hi. do you see any parallels with what's happening now with, like, the immigration issue? more and more people want to try and control immigration and also the way the indians are treated right now, anything more the federal government can to help the indian people out more than they're doing now? >> honor the treaties. [laughter] i mean, there are people that have spent their lifetimes trying to get the u.s. government to honor native american treaties. i would say it starts there. but again, back to this ceremony
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at standing rock -- [audio difficulty] be an official apology. from the american government to the tribes for what happened to them. >> tell us a little bit more about that ceremony. i think not everybody knows -- >> yeah, i write about it in my book. it was really moving. there's some footage of it on youtube. there were a number of veterans, many veterans who came to standing rock to support the tribes, you know, in their efforts to stop the pipeline. and that was a big deal because, you know, in the old days when the cavalry showed up, there was a lot of trouble for native americans. now this was a 180. they were there to support the tribes. so then there was this ceremony in which general wesley clark's son, i think it's wesley clark jr. or iii -- i have his name in my book -- led this prayer
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circle, i guess you could call it, or led this ceremony of apology to some lakota elders asking for forgiveness in the role of, you know, their -- his and other ancestors in these wars. it was a very, very moving ceremony. the words are quite profound. oh, but i, i just want to follow up. one thing that the lakota elders whom they apologized to said at the end of the ceremony was land belongs to no one, no one owns the land. so i think that's something important, really important thing to keep in mind these days as this assault on land, sea and air cranks up. and to me, that's kind of the end game of the indian wars,
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this total war on the environment. it's all connected to what happened in this country during the 19th century. >> if i'm allowed, i've got one, maybe two more questions, and i don't mean to crowd you out. >> no, no, go ahead. >> have is you given your talk since your book came out to any audiences that were entirely or predominantly native american, and if so, what was the response? >> i haven't. >> have there been any formal responses from any nations finish. >> no -- actually, there was. there was a nice review in one to have native american publications. >> so that was well received? >> well, i can't say everybody, that was one. >> right. i wonder if we could finish up by your telling a little bit about a book either you've written before what you have in mind next. >> thanks for asking, roger. i'm very superstitious, i never talk about works in progress, but i'll talk about some of my previous books, and c-span has
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covered other talks of mine, and you can see those online as well. my books are all related in a big way. i mean, they're all narrative nonfiction about the frontier and modern west and have to do with, you know, our wars against each other, against other people, against the land, against animal, and i like to sort of take a look at how can we, how can this all be resolved. the land is a main character in a lot of my books, probably all of them. i see it as just being as essential a player in these stories as the people. so one of my -- my last book was called "desert reckoning," and it's based on a rolling stone piece of mine. it's about a hermit who lived in the desert outside of los angeles and killed a popular sheriff there in 2003, i think it was. and then he took off into the
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desert and kicked off this massive manhunt involving thousands of cops and six or seven federal and state and local agencies and so on. what i get into in the story is here were two men -- again, blood brothers, two sides of the coin -- two men who loved the desert but were really enemies and never resolved their differences at all. but something, this theme of reconciliation and what can, how can these wounds be healed is something i look, i try to take a look at in all of my work. >> very good. let's say thank you to d estillman. >> okay, thanks, roger. [applause] -- deanne stillman. there are vessels, resent bls
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into which you can put your dollars if you believe saturday should stay free at savannah book festival. so, please, support the festival in that regard. >> thank you so much. thank you. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> and that was deanne stillman live from the savannah book festival. now, in just a few minutes it's the final author of the day, ben blum, and he reports on the life of his cousin, alex blum, who was an army ranger who participated in an armed robbery before he was set to deploy to iraq. and we'll be right back with live coverage. [inaudible conversations] >> here's a look at some upcoming book fairs and festivals happening around the country. on march 10th and 11th, we'll be live from the university of
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arizona for the tucson festival of books with author talks and call-ins. this year's festival features msnbc's katie tur and charles sykes, max boot, investigative journalist david cay johnston and many other authors. later in march it's the virginia festival of the book in charlottesville and the national black writers conference in brooklyn, new york. in april we're headed to texas for the san antonio book festival, and we'll be live once again at the los angeles times festival of books. for more information about up coming book -- upcoming book fairs and test values, click -- festivals, click the book fairs tabben our web site, >> let's dive in a little bit more. who is eric garnersome. >> eric garner -- >> excuse me, who was eric garner. >> yeah. the reason i wrote this book, let my back up for a moment, is because on the day that the
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grand jury decided not to indict the police officer responsible for or his killing -- and i'll use a different word, but i can't legally -- but i went over to staten island, and i started talking to people in the street asking, you know, what was he like. and i immediately found that everybody had a story about this guy, and he was, he was just interesting and funny and complicated and flawed, and i thought he, he was a person whose story would be really powerful to tell if i could somehow do it. everyone had seen the video, everyone had already had this emotional reaction to the video, but i pretty quickly found out that he had this whole narrative that led up to that moment that if people knew it, they would be so much more invested in his life that they would reexperience that video in a way that would be even more horrible
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and even more meaningful, you know? and he was just an interesting guy. i mean, i could give a million examples about what he was like. >> i mean, i've read a ton about this case. i did not know until reading this book that he had a new baby. >> right, yeah. >> at the time of his death. i think about a week old? >> six weeks, something like that. >> six weeks? >> yeah. >> born three months early, two pounds, one ounce, right? and all the parents and aunts and uncles will know you have something like that at home, you're stressed. >> right, yeah. >> so he's sitting on the corner trying to make money to take care of his large family, and he's got a new baby, a premie baby, and i could see why that might be one of the things that pushed him over the edge. he'd also been arrested several times. talk about, like right before the end, talk about all the things that were sort of going on within and around eric garner that made him finally say stop
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today, i'm tired you have guys messing with me, i'm not doing this anymore. >> right. yeah, i mean, the interesting thing about that was that eric garner was exactly not that person for his entire life. he had, he had a completely different attitude towards how to deal with the police for most of his life. he thought of himself as a businessman, and he thought of the police as just a cost of doing business. when he got out of prison, he had started off dealing crack in the late '80s and early '90s, and when he got out, he found out about this new business of dealing untaxed cigarettes -- >> from his wife. >> yes, that's right. and he immediately saw the possibilities in it. and something in him, like, some entrepreneurial thing kicked in, and he started a crew. he was suddenly organized. he had been kind of an incompetent drug dealer, but, you know, when it came to doing the cigarette thing, he was really good at it.
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and he had everybody, you know, he had mules driving back and forth to virginia to pick up cigarettes -- >> to american indian reservations finish. >> exactly. exactly. but he, and he had an expression for the, how great this business was. he said it was felony money, misdemeanor time, right? because you made real money, but if you were doing it correctly, it really wasn't even a misdemeanor. they basically just had to write you a ticket. >> you could make, what, a dollar for a pack, but $2 on a lucy. >> right, exactly. >> not bad. >> yeah, no. and he had lots and lots of customers. he was probably making, you know, $300 or $400 a day in profit at one point during this. and it was, it was a great business. and he, again, he saw the police as a cost of doing business. like, if i have to go do a few days in jail, whatever, you know? as long as i keep my money, you
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know, i'll put up with whatever the punishment is because the law says that this is all they can do to me. unless they catch me driving across the state lines, this is all they can do to me, right? and what happened was the police, i think, became frustrated with the limitations of the law. you know, for once -- unlike the, you know, crack and powder cocaine where there's this huge sentencing disparity and they can drop this million pound hammerer on people, with this they couldn't really do anything to him. so they started to stop him and get at him in other ways. they would stop him on the way to a supermarket, and they would search his or car and take his money, right? and they would say if you can prove you made this legally, come down to the station, pick it up. and they were doing that to him over and over and over again. and when he was getting arrested, suddenly the bail wasn't $50 anymore, suddenly it
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was $1,000, right? so the costs were going up. he got robbed on the street a couple of times. he had to borrow money to reup twice during this period. so there were a lot of hinges going on in his -- things going on in his mind. he just felt the police were going -- they weren't playing the game the way it was supposed to be played. they were sickling him out -- singling him out. >> the game is the game. >> yeah, exactly. >> you can watch this and other programs online at >> booktv tapes hundreds of author programs throughout the country all year long. here's a look at some of the events we'll be covering this week. monday we'll be at poll ticks and prose bookstore -- politics & prose bookstore in washington, d.c. to hear lanny davis share his thoughts on the outcome of the 2016 election. on tuesday we head to roosevelt house in new york city where former white house official and cabinet secretary joseph califano will examine our democracy and share his views on
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how to bring back trust or or worthy systems -- trustworthy systems of government. later that night, the presentation of the penn america literary awards given annually since 1963 which recognize books in a range of categories from biography and science writing to essays and poetry. and on wednesday at the green light bookstore in brooklyn, investigative journalist vegas -- [inaudible] reports on white nationalism in america. thursday syracuse university professor danielle thompson will be at saint anselm college in new hampshire to discuss why moderates might be less likely to run for congress. later that night we'll be at the free library of philadelphia where rutgers professor britney cooper will examine the power of what she calls eloquent rage and how it can be harnessed as a resource to bring about change. and on friday, former clinton administration labor secretary robert rice will be at the first parish church in cambridge,
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massachusetts, to talk about the economic and social cycles societies experience and their effect on the common good. that's a look at some of the events booktv will be covering this week. many of these events are open to the public. look for them to air in the near future on booktv on c-span2. >> visions and values were compelling to me, offering a clear pathway away from my past, a chance to contribute to the greater world out there and still retain my family's love. if mario cuomo could do it faced with a different set of challenges -- like not speaking english until he was 8 years old -- then so could i. how, then, could i tell mario cuomo that a story would appear in the press the next day linking my brother, our name to john gotti? how do i talk about organized crime in my family with the one italian-american elected official who personified the
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complete opposite? i picture myself on the 57th floor in the press conference room at the world trade center tower number two telling reporters that any notion of mario cuomo having mob connections was bullshit, because the mob was in my family, and the inside word about cuomo was that he was unreachable. in my imaginary press conference, i resigned and condemned the rumors. instead, i condemned myself for not protecting mario cuomo from my family and from being unable to resist the pull to work for him in the first place. looking at my work for cuomo as penance for the sins of my brother and the mobsters who marred our lives, i would do good through public service. i would clean up the family name. i got up and paced around my office.
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finally, i sat down and wrote out a script that i would read to the governor. and this is the script. governor, i have some very unpleasant news which i feel obligated to share with you. my brother was sentenced to three months in prison for tax evasion today in federal court in uniondale. the judge in his decision also expressed the belief that my brother had some association with organized crime. two newsday reporters were present, one of whom -- irv long -- i knew. i anticipate there will be a story in tomorrow's paper, so i don't want you to learn of this secondhand. i read over my little speech, hands trembling. there was no escaping now. no neat rationalizations. i could not pretend that everything would be as it was. the phone on my desk rang. it was the governor. i placed the script in front of
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me, clinging to it like a life preserver. hello, governor, i said shaking. what's going on, steve, mario cuomo said, as he usually did. i read my script word for word. the governor was silent as i read. i finished, closed my eyes and waited for mario cuomo's response. my heart pounding. this is mario cuomo. i don't see how it should affect you, he said without hesitation. i certainly feel for you, but i don't see how it affects you. you are a superb public official, and i don't think it should have any effect on you. stunned, i thanked mario cuomo. i looked at the photo on my office wall, a large framed color photograph of the world trade center, a self-contained world where is caped each day for 12 -- is caped each day -- i
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escaped each day, a world of my own sealed off from my family which no one could take away from me. >> you can watch this and other programs online at >> here's a look at some books being published this week. yale law school professor amy chua examines how parties impact our political system in "political tribes." in "the common good," best selling author and former clinton administration labor secretary robert rice argues for restoring the common good in your economics and politics. chris hughes shares his upbringing and argues that the 1% has a responsibility toward the economically impoverished in "fair shot." major scott hughesing details how his marine regiment survived the deadliest city in iraq in
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"echo in ramadi." in "it's better than it looks," greg easterbrook explorings the environmental issues affecting our globe. britney cooper provides analysis of the role of african-american women in "eloquent rage." in "the watergate," political consultant jost rodata recounts the history of the hotel including the scandal connected to its name and shares stories of many of its notable residents. subsequently earning a ph.d. at cambridge university. best selling author michio kaku looks at innovations preparing man kind for space exploration in his latest book, "the future of humanity." and an award winning journalist reports on the growth of the white nationalist movement in america in "everything you love will burn." look for these titles in
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bookstores this coming week and watch for many of the authors in the near future on booktv on c-span2. [inaudible conversations] >> and now it's the final author talk of the day from the savannah book festival, and it's ben blum on a robbery committed by his cousin and other army rangers. >> good afternoon. welcome to the final author presentation of what i i hope has been a very eventful and wonderful day for you so far at the savannah book festival. you're at the trinity united methodist church which has been
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our venn you all day long. -- venue all day long. we feel very fortunate to have this space. this venue has been made possible by the generosity of jack and mary romanos. my name is roger smith, and i have the great pleasure of serving as a volunteer for the book festival, and i am delighted with your participation. the savannah book festival is presented by georgia power, by david and nancy, by the sheehan family foundation and by mark and pat sue jn. we would also like to thank our wonderful literati members as well as donors whose contributions continue to make saturday at the savannah book festival a free and public event. in fact, 90% of the revenue for the book festival comes from donors just like you, so it's a great pleasure to thank you for your support. before we get started, please allow me to go over a few housekeeping details for you.
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first of all, immediately following the presentation our author, ben blum, will be at the book-signing venue for the authors out in telfair square where he'll be glad to talk with you further and to sign books that you have purchased at the savannah book festival. m a couple of technology reminders, please take a moment right now to make sure that your cell phones and other electronic devices are turned off or at least in the silent mode so we won't have electronic interruptions during the talk. ..
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also, when you have that microphone in your hand, please make sure your question actually is a question, rather than a statement or a story. our author today, ben blum, is here courtesy of the generosity of bill and nina weill. ben blum's holds a p ph.d from the university of kaz at berkeley and an msa in fiction from new york university, where he was awarded "the new york times" foundation fellowship. his debut book and his subject for today's talk is his 2017 book entitle "ranger games." give a warm welcome to ben blum. [applause] >> thank you so much for having me here. i've been strolling around savannah all day with my wife and six-year-old daughter, and i have to say i think every city should be tired have a nice
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little monument every two blocks as you walk around. it's perfect for strollingment more importantly, it's perfect for hunting pokemon and pokémon go, which is what our daughter is most excited about. we have been enjoying the spanish moss. a portion of "ranger games" takes place four hours west of here, at fort benning. a very different side of georgia. so, you might be french for thinking that this is a book about war. but it's not actually a book about war. the cover has some soldiers on it and soldiers are mentioned in he subtitle, but ranger games is about a lot of things on the kind of periphery of the experience of war. it's about family, it's about the way that good intentions go wrong, and maybe more importantly than anything, it's about growing up. it's about the beautiful
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illusions that propel us to follow our dreams, and the way that those illusions can crumble as we get older, often making space for something richer and realer, but sometimes wreaking major havoc along the way. so, ranger games is the story -- the true story of my cousin, alex, whom i grew up with in denver, colorado. we were beth kind of weird kids growing up. that ph.d you just heard about was not in english or journal jim or anything that would have been remotely helpful for writing the book. itself was in computer science. was a gigantic math nerd when i was a little kid. for halloween i dressed up at a hedron and, gold star to anyone who knows what that is. but alex was in his own way just as weird. he was obsessed with the military from a very young age,
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absolutely fascinated with all things army. he always had his nose buried in a book, but the becomes he was reading were the kind is if you stack them unnext to mine would have beaten them up. band of brothers was big. black hawk down, red badge of courage, any mill tar drama he could get his teeth into. and so we started hearing from alex when he was a kid that he wanted to be a soldier when he grew up. a common dream for a young boy. but he really stuck with it. his freshman year in high school, two weeks into the year, september 11th hit, and i think that's the point when his goal started to get a lot more real, a lot more serious. he enlisted shortly after his 18th birthday. by then his goal was to survive
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a really brutally difficult selection program called the ranger indoctrination program to make it to the elite special operations ranger regiment. he achieved that, shortly after his 19th birthday, was posted to fort lewis, washington, and four months later served as the driverrer in an armed bank robbery organized by a superior the rangers. he was arrested shortly afterward. he served 16 months in federal prison, and then shortly after this release started talking to me about the crime. so, i spent about seven years all told, trying to get to the bottom of how alex, the goody two shoes of of family, almost cartoonish idealistic as a kid had come to be involved in this
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bizarre question. the question i went over and over, how do you support someone who has done something terrible, that caused a lot another harm, both to himself and others. how do you help them reckon with what they have done? i'll sort of alternate some readings with some conversation about the book. i'll open with a passage about what al application were like growing up, in denver. >> from the time we were kids, alex always had a simple dream, to defend his country from the forces of evil and oppression. none of us took this very seriously but him. after school in the suburbs of denver he would run off in a camouflage t-shirt cargo pants to play vietnam commando on the canal, highing booby traps and
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hinding behind stands of. he reined every arm my movie, place every video game there weren't many women back then, just grim-lipped men in high-tech gear, dropping down rones to helicopters to the unforgettable jingle, be all you can be in the army. back then we bear barely spoke out. dream worlds did overlap. i was known in the family as math prodigy. in he field where alex saw darting commie girlll las i saw ferns. i'd tell supermarket cashier how lasers worked. give lifeguards introduction to stokes equation for flow. i was, i realize now, completely insufferable. human relations were not my
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specialty. toxicated. by 13 i was taking contractual -- calculus and physics at the university of colorado. the only real common we had was ten the street hockey nets on hi his driveway where he would ocautionly dane to secure scurry round my knees and i destroy me. he was a budding star. our fathers had both made efforts at manly education. alex's father was the assistant coach of alex' hockey team. with the elite littleton hockey association and played adult league with denver finest and a smatter of pros during the players track. my own father was the quarterback coach of george washington high school, football team. both raced buy cycles in the yoke mountain, played pickup
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street hink in a rink, and skied, golfed, climbed, and pumped inordinate quantities of iron. they took is us camp, hiking. they stuck earplugs in our ears, jammed shotguns beginnings our soldiers, point it toward discarded appliances and needle us until we squeezed the trigger. it took better with alex than me. reports of hi shining ash americanness began filtering in, shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor, coaching little kids at hockey camp. defending cass plates against bullies at littleton high school. he was flying to tournaments all over the country with his hockey team, he became more and more serious about the mayor thing. seemed as if he has bought himself readymade off a toy store display. a g.i. joe action figure and a world of attachments and product
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tie-ins were available to him. his would be a life of heroic accomplishment, an american life, blum life, triumph. so, i knew when i published "ranger games" some people would take it as an antiwar book but it's not that either. through talking to alex and a number of other soldiers, i gained a huge appreciation for their bravery, discipline, their integrity and the deep care they show each other. alex and i were both raised on stories of our grandfather, al sr., who served in the army in world war ii. he landed in normandie shortly after d-day. and although those stories men more to alex than they meant to me, i also come to appreciate the warrior ethrows eat throws he passed down through this sons. the deep bond with one's fill low soldiers and the willingness to just keep on going no matter how tough and how painful it
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gets. in the ranger indoctrination program he went through, he and his buddies endured hell together. they at one point had to group up into teams of six and hold telephone poles aloft for 48 hours, taking naps in brief shifts. that was two days out of a month-long process of extreme physical pain and endurance. after surviving the cut, mose soldiers quit but alec did not and was posted to fort lewis and began learn whats his new job would entail as a cherry private, under the guidance of the tabs, higher ranking soldiers who had seen combat. so, this next passage is about the way that formal training spilled over into the more informal settings that soldiers visited in off hours.
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those months were transformative for all the cherry privates. at night and on weekends, they ventured into tacoma with new eyes. every door was a potential preach point. every bar country red zone concealing hidden gunmen, every debby's dining room, partitions into lines of fire. civilians looked more and more like another species entirely. cherry privates watched in bemusement as women and men puzzled over menus, smoothed nap kind over their laps-wiped their children's mouths. one night after raiding air plane hangars, alex? his buddies went to see the new x-men movie, and all they could talk about lined up there in the dark among teager who had no idea they were subpoenas rangers was how simple it would be to take down the theater.
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they tied to outdo if e each other in the assessment of the problem which was identical to hangar, three exists, red zone? projectionist booth, interior space with sheep to herd. piece of cake. talk of hitting spots around tacoma was a reliable way to show off knowledge and sound hard. a real world application of their classroom sessions, planning raids on satellite photos of al qaeda complexes. whenever they watched movies they laughed how much better they could do the job themselves. tabs were fluent in the lining go of tactical plan without the sharper private were already picking it up. in this pfc blum was lucky to enjoy a special mentorson of specialist summer. even after his replace as blum's team liter, the popped in a while after blum broke down machines or shining boots to ask him for a ride in town him wad friendlier to the privatessing
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taking them out to war games. but blum seemed to be favorite of his. sommer thing to the silver audi his father had given him was cool, nicknaming it the transporter, after one of his favorite movies in which a disillusioned special forces operate career runser rans in an odd di. blum tried to hide his nervous friday about the stick shift. no matter where sommer wanted to go, the supermarket, a porn sharp, he made a little lesson out of it. where is our -- side door by be booth. red zone? by the counter, from the kitchen. behind the soft serve thing. you forgot the bathroom, blum. bang, you're dead. all of us were completely flabbergasted best by his arrest
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and the first question that came our minds was, why? why? where did this come from? and gradually the story began to filter out. alex's father was not able to visit him the first couple of weeks he was in detention. finally got to talk to him. through him the story came to the rest of us. apparently, alex had believed the plans for the bank robbery were just one more of specialist sommer's little games. a training exercise that suddenly got real. and some further reports began filtering out of very strange stuff going on in alex's head when he was in prison. he was in some kind of weird state that none of us 0 to coo quite wrap our minds around. finally later he told us that even after his arrest, when he was being held in federal detention, he had been waiting every day for some representative of the second ranger battalion to appear and
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tell him there had been a giant mixup. i had been a training exercise, and they would send him to iraq to be with his unit where he belonged. when i began talking to alplex in depth about the crime, he seemed so fragile and adamant about it so earnest and searching in his effort to convey the bizarre truth of what had happened to him. i felt it was my job to -- as his friend and cousin, to support him. but the more research i did as i started to wry the book, the more evidence i found that suggested things were a little bit more complicated than alex was letting on. it was right in he thick of all the family tension created as i started trying to get to the truth, that the doctor, the social psychologist most famous for the stanford prison experiment who contributed to alex's legal defense, called alex up and asked him to appear on a special episode of the doctor phil show, title "when good people do bad things."
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so, i -- the next passage i'll read is from the taping in hollywood, where i was in the studio audience. and by the time of the taping i was just a total nervous wreck. i had this sort of since that alec might be lying to me and the family but didn't have the evidence to prove it and the general sense in the family seemed to be that alex was so confused and traumatized by his experience that he real story wasn't access table him at all, if it existed in the first placement i because just -- dr. phil's big catch phrase is, get real. just get real about your problems i.s was so terrified dr. phil would call bs on alex, tim hill to get real about this -- tell him to get real about this crazy story on national television in front of three minimum americans at this sensitive moment when i was
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trying to support him and get at the throughout. this is from the moment in that taping when we got to alex's segment after some vary cheerful prior segments on the stanford prison experiment and abu ghraib. lights, action. dr. phil admitted another texan grammar. i have a world famous psychologist and renowned author, who is here with us today and we're discussing his book "the lucifer effect." understanding how good people turn evil. let me tell you something, you need to read this book and you need to read it twice. then you need to give it to your kids. the doctor chuck eled a a heroic effort of impersonnitying someone. alex was sitting stiffly his
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chair. one shoulder higher than the other. eyes alternate between mcgraw and the audience. dr. phil's last anyway. i moon it really is very, very insightful, continued dr. phil. today we're talking about when good beam do bad things. now, eye 0 baying authority is rule number one in the military but i want you to look at what happens when win former ranger says he thought he was following routine orders. they turned in their chairs to look at the screen of the back of the stage where, mr. place of the swirling dr. phil logo, an eight-foot-tall al los angeles stood in this bedroom, head bowed, digging an old camo out of his closet. the drum beated started almost at once. what followed was a short series of jetted together sentence thursday alec lazy voice, each of which i had heard him saying to me. not one of which was individually untrue. though the only possible unifying interpretation was of some kind of bizarre military
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dilution that none of us civilians could begin to comprehend. the finished -- the music finished. there was a big pause. okay, said "d" phil with a sigh. he leaped forward in his chair and scrutinized alex. having not been in a situation, all of us right now are saying, now, wait? what? alex went through one of his full-body fidgets. so, what you're telling me, phil continued, spreading out all ten finger inside an unprecedented double, let get real hands, ea motion akin to shooting electricity from his fingertips into a spasming body of luke sky walker. you did not know, phil now again actually flapping his clinched fist with his palm, that you were involved in an armed
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robbery of a bank? alex lost his job after that episode aired. he had been coaching five-year-olds at a local ice arena. the first job he managed to find since his release from prison he was passionate about. very hard finding work as a felon in america he became increasingly bitter and hard to talk to about the robbery. instead i found myself turning to luke elliott sommer, the ringleader of the robbery, very intelligent, very charismatic guy, who had committed a host of other crimes after the robbery, including stabbing one of his co-conspirators in prison and trying to put a hit out on his prosecutor. i ended up developing a strangely close relationship with him. he was obsessed with math, the same subject i was obsessed with as a kid. he was even working by correspondence with a professor at san francisco state
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university who seemed to think he was a genius at it. sommer admitted directly to me in our conversations about his childhood, that morality had always been a mystery to him but this made him much easier to talk to about the robbery than alex. alex had such a hard time accepting he had done anything wrong, but sommer mood real sense of wrong at all. it made by wonder if growing difficulty of my relationship with alex had something to do with a some kind of unprocessed guilt inside him that he wasn't letting on about. so, this next passage is from the one in-person interview i managed to secure with sommer at a rural penitentiary in kentucky, seven hours straight, sitting in this dismal little visitation room.
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as my time with elliott wound down, he goes by elliott -- we talk briefly about the additional sentences he received for his final two offenses. stabbing nathan and trying to put a hit out on his prosecutor. he corrected me about my understanding that he had received ten years apiece. that was just the way it was structured. really it was two 20 year sentences, a plea deal in which the government knocked down the charges. i asked why the authorities were willing to do that. i think my prosecutor finally realized aisle bat -- shit insane but he sent me to prison anyway. that still got me hot. on the last phrase, elliott's voice dropped into a menacing register so cartoonish i couldn't help interpreting it as playful, like a seven-year-old threatening to blow up his
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school help sound just the way head when he illustrating the intensity of his family feeling, he had painted a vivid scene of quilling everyone in the room if his son was threatened. as we fired his unit manager to collect him i jotted a few last notes and tried to massage some life back interest my writing hand. elliott asked me how i was planning to represent him in the book. luke elliott sommer, world famous signing eye path, he or offered, grinning if don't know about that. i almost wish i could be a dillinger type character, a rough bank robber type. alas, he switched for the last time into his corny sing song voice, rolling his eye thousands the ceiling in a way that reminded me of the mouth of chuckey cheese. it is not to be, he said. the guards fell in on either side of us as we were scotted out to the empty visitation room. the beiges and blaze bankrupted only by a kid's playroom in the
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corner with grinning cartoon characters on the walls tell rough texture or cinder block showing through. ol pointed out the small marked zone on the floor next to guard station where he had been permitted to stand and kiss mandy when they were married the previous month. barring a treaty transfer the only intimas sill he we be a allowed with her for 37 years billion reflex is reached out to schick hays hand, asking if this was permitted after it was too late for the surrounding official to tell tell me it wasn't and then we quick efficiency elliott led to the secure door on the far side, carrying on a friendly, jokey, totally one-sided conversation with the guards. and then the concrete buck just swallowed him and he was gone. as civilians, and i am myself a civilian, i had no experience talking to military folks before i started researching the story.
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we have been taught to interpret the experiences of soldiers through the lens of trauma, increasingly in the last ten years or so. unspoken code prohibits us from questioning too deeply in into what they had to do on the battlefield. but sommer really challenged that lens for me. he claimed his traumatic experiences abroad had been at fault for the robbery. for a while after the robbery, when he fled to canada, he actually claimed he had staged the whole thing to gain a platform to protest war crimes he witnessed in afghanistan and iraq. he claimed to have evidence of this, that he was sort of withholding and it never materialized. when i started talking to him, he was still very adamant that had been his motivation, but when i looked through this google search history on the hard drive that the fbi had
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recovered from his desk top computer i found no political news, in protestlet literature, jaws lot of guns, porn, and gleeful speculation about what to do with a all the money. so, here in the cavalier way that sommer talked about the people in the bank he robbed, made me realize that what holding somebody accountable means is sometimes rejecting their own account. memory is notoriously unreliable when it comes to things we're ashamed of and don't want to remember. it actually shifts around to jet out or transgression in a way that is very hard to control. and the more i researched the story, the more i began to see that at the truth that matters, the voice that has to be given moral authority is not the voice of the guys who do it. alex had his account of events, what he was think offering the forces that brought him to the bank and ultimately the story
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belongs to the people in the bank that went through the terribler and experience of the robbery. one of the people began talking to me four years ago. her name is jessica stott, a 19-year-old teller in the bank on that day. actually the lead teller, responsible for supervising the others. and she was extraordinarily generous with her time, and extraordinarily forgiving toward alex. so the portion of the book that shows what actually happened on that day depends heavily on her account of the event. i'll read a passage from that now. what three inch of plexiglas can't stop is a teller's fear.
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among fbi agents who work bank cases, mistrust of the bandit barrier if the subject of an oft repeated criticism. i heard from from a veteran in the new york field office. you have a bandit barrier and the teller shoves money underneath. i think it mays first supervisor who told me the only thing that can penetrate a demand barrier is a depound note. jessica to stott had imagines the scenario. if she was ever so unlucky as to find herself being robbed, she did not intend to shovel money underneath. look virginia, heather, jessica number two, and now elva, the other tellers that day, she had been instructed that a modern bank robbery was a terrifying but ultimately dangerless wide screen action movie. she knew where to find the silent alarm button, talked away in easy reach which would make
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the movie stop. it did however seem a little strength to her to all of them, that in this particular branch, there was a narrow gap between the plexiglas and the ceiling. at 5:15 and 53 seconds, a man in a ski mask ran through the entrance from the parking lot, plant it one foot on the countertop in front of elva, and leapt for the barrier's lip. elvas cry war move or surprise an terror. quickly modulated down to an embarrassed yelp. later she would say everyone had been 0 friendly and welcoming to her all day -- it was her first day -- she figured this want an initiation prank. it was only when the girls looked over to see the dark figure risings above their heads that panicked telescoped through the stations in a crushing surge. they all leapt back as one from the difficults difficults diffie
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end hover the teller's. jess dove under the has desk, striking her how many on the iron door of the disease safe of the heather and jessica dog piled on top of them. elva burst around the corner moment later and dove in, too. is this a drill, she murmured? do they test us? jess had to surprise a wild giggle. i think this is a little extreme for that, she said. if his is a drill, i'm quit, announced jessica number two. u.s. army field manual 90-10-1, an infantry man's god to combat in built areas describe this room-clearing procedure. a flash bang or fragment grenade falled bay four-man breaching team. while the team members moved toward points of domination, they engage all targets in their
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sector, reads the manual. because the soldiers are move and shooting at the same time, they must move using careful hurry. they do not rush with total disregard for any obstacles. obstacles in the present facility included a promotional display for mortgages for the faux gable rochet a water cooler and car raf another hot coffee. a fat are-legged play table in rain blow blocks in he corner printer and an array of polliestster belts paid out between waste-high tanks within which thronged a sizable afternoon crowd them four men in ski masks and sweat shirts breeching the bank's rear door had been dissuadessed from grenades by scottburn, who assured specialist sommer even if he was crazy enough to do this thing, flash bang was completely insane. but they did move toward the points of domination with
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careful hurry. chad palmer to the far door with his fully automatic ak-47 and banana clip of 37.6, two milliliter rounds at his shoulder. nathan to the rear door, with another ak-47 -- to the near door with another ak-47 and a duffle bag full of spare ammo clips and bleeder kit, and robertson to the personal cubicles with a pistol. according to a conventional tactical breakdown, the ban did barrier was not an obstacle. was architecture, dividing the lobby in two. this only entrance tee teller pit was a locked, reinforced door at the end. after breaching at the opinion, fn90-10, 1 indicated a two-by-two leapfrog pattern. infantrymen was not supposed to close a space without sufficient
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manpower. for rangers, however, regular infantry field manuals read the way freshman geometry text books read to a mathematics graduate student. chosen for teachable, blind to the way axioms might bend. the man who is body was twisting sideways to sort through the gap betweenplex si glass and ceiling, one glorified hand planned for purchase this other holding a mine mill meeter with a red laser sight, with specialist luke elliott sommer. jess thought, flat on her back amid the smell of can't and computer wires under virginia's desk in he teller pit, kept feeling that same urge to digle. the trappings of her new professional life loomed at unreachable heights. drawers, office supplies, fluorescent lights, the underside of virginia's stool.
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someone's legs lay across her chest. the breath of the material some was supervising came fast and close. seconds pulled out like taffy. the lobby rang with scuffs, cries, thumps, shouts, and then a loud metallic bang which sparked a fleury of desperate looks throughout the pile and then a tentative consensus there was no way that had been a gunshot. verge caught jess' eye and nodded toward the silent alarm button. jess staired out it for a short eon. all she would have to do is pull her arm out, reach her hand out across space, extend her finger up and a pair of giant legs turned the corner interest their station. the pile come blessed with a gasp. a man in a bulky gray situate shirt and black ski masked stared at them. hi eyes seem to glow through the
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eye holes. laser light, spike from the barrel of his gun, dancing through their torsos and limbs. the image of herself wither arm outstretched toward the button reverberate yesterday in mind with such insistence that she could barely think. she had almost done it. get up, the man said. nobody moved. the red bee exerted a tingling force like the fingertip of a ghost. i said, get up. one by one they scram dealt to their feet. the man was large and muscular, as he made the bead dart over the fabric off their bare arms to pause on each chest in turn his voice went suddenly personable. he explained he wants his canvas shoulder bag filled with 50s and hundreds no dye packs no bait money no severallized bills. jess had not been familiar with these concepts before working at the bank, and wondered where he had learned them. he sounded like guy her age, calm and cocky, she felt
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suddenly sure she knew him. had he come in before? none of this was quite real yet. time, he called out toward the lobby. 30 seconds, shouted a hooded figure with an assault rifle by the front entrance. if this bag isn't full in one minute, you're all going to get wasted. the blue-eyed man explained to the materials, emphasize thing point with his gun. now it was real. unreality is a big theme in this book. there's the unreality of war to civilians, who mostly see it through big budget action movies or video games where the reality of it is given an unrealistic gloss. there's the unreality of war to soldiers in training nowdays, who go through such detailed
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stimulation-of-battlefield conditions conditions that distinction between rehearsal show starts to blur. that's the unreality of reality television, which purports to give us an unfiltered grissom of human drama but where the stories are in fact quite carefully constructed. there's the unreality of luke elliott sommer, who was masterful at playing in the dangerous, fuzzy space of games and jokes and banter as he brought all the many, many, soldiers involved in his scheme, into greater contact with the reality of his plans. then there's the unreality of what alex went through and never fully processed. i have come to see that as a big part of what keeps trauma alive inside us. the disengagement from the
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reality of what we have gone through because the reality is just too painful for process, and all those year is spend trying to figure out how to help alex, i spend a lot of time think about trauma. nowdays, of course, we have a much richer understanding of trauma than we used to when soldier goods abroad and have horrible things done to them and do horrible things to others and come back and suffer from it. they're generally given a diagnosis of post post post-traumatic stress disorder, ptsd. it's gradually starting to be recognized at the va that some soldiers suffer from something different that requires a different kind of treatment. the term that is coming into use is "moral injury." you suffer a moral injury between you do or witness and enforce become complicit in a violation of your morals. lie, steal, treating women in a
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way you don't believe in, participating in a bank robbery you never actually wanted to be part of. and i find this a fascinating moment in the progression of therapeutic methods, psychologists have not historically been in the business of helping their clines atone for their sins. -- client as i tone for their sin bus that's what the moral injury framework is beginning to make some space for. now, i'm very glad for the increasing awareness today about trauma, but in some way i think moral injury is even more important to understand. it's very tricky, helping your loved ones deal with their trauma, but it's even trickier helping hem deal with their burdens of moral injury. how do you tell someone you care
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for, someone who is hurting, and attacked from all sides and relying on you to defendant some support them that they really screwed up, they need to do better, they need to change. i think if you can do that helpfully, lovingly, compassion natalie, it's one of the very highest acts of love. it took me a long time to come to that place to that feeling about alex's involvement but i did in the end confront him with all the evidence that i had amassed, that called parts of his story into question. i got very, very personal and direct with him. one of the scariest things i have ever done, and the results were startling, and transformational for both him and for me. that's the tropical storm of the
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book -- the trajectory of the back, the place where it ends which mean i can tell you how it went because i don't want to give it away. but i have come through this process with a renewed hope in the possibility for healing in families that are willing to graupel with some of these dark stories that no one wants to talk about, if they really stick with it. so, thank you all very much for being here. [applause] and i would love to answer any questions you may have. >> i fear i misproup nod your last name and is breaking rule under one. i apologize. >> no trouble. it's a common mistake.
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>> the issue of dealing with moral injury, that's not a new thing for people dealing with war. in thank god your friend it was only a bank robbery and not something else. if it helps. how do you think -- there is any support within the service and within the va
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>> so i do come from a science background. i love science, and i've gotten very interested in trauma n psychology and therapy, so my next book is kind of about, it's a little bit about what you're talking about. it's some state of the art ways for close families to heal each other from their trauma, to grow together and to hold each other accountable when appropriate in order to move past some of these things that stick with us for years. >> are you familiar with forever enduring, always ready, and as
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one of them testified in court and they couldn't believe how it got out of hand to the point where they killed one of their co-conspirators and his girlfriend in an effort to tie up loose ends, they said. it's one of those things that started out shooting in the woods at night and just sort of got out of control. i didn't know if you were familiar with that. >> i'm not, that's fascinating. [laughter] what year was that from? >> 2012. >> wow. okay. that's incredible. yeah, those dynamics -- >> called "the fear group." >> "the fear group." i will look into that. yeah, it's incredible the way these small group dynamics can evolve beyond the control of almost none in the group,s especially in these elite warrior cultures where there's a huge taboo against backing down. even in banter, you know? if you're, you know, one guy jokes about taking down a bank, then you joke about taking town a casino and killing -- taking
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down a casino and killing everyone inside. there's this escalation. if you can't rise to that level of banter, then you're showing yourself as weak. it's very, very hard to back down once you've started along that path. do we have any others? >> i have a quick question, if i may. >> of course. >> i might need to speak into the microphone. i don't want to squeeze you out. >> sure. >> you mentioned your relationship with alex is all healed s. that true of everyone in your family, particularly his father if he's still with us? >> yeah. yeah, he is still with us. norm is very much still kicking and doing his 200 push-ups every morning as he's been doing since he was 8 years old. the family has been incredibly supportive through this process. i don't, i think -- so i began this book in, what, 2008 or
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something insanely long ago like that with the idea of clearing alex's name. i just felt it was so unjust that he was going to spend his life as a convicted violent felon having been ricked into robbing this bank while, you know, pursuing a what he thought was extracurricular training that would help him on deployment in iraq. so the family was, as you might imagine, very much behind that project. we were all circling the wagons around alex trying to help him out in whatever way we could. and then, and then came the really complicated years when my story started veering out of alignment with the family's. and those were, those were difficult times. but at the same time, there was an amazing amount of tolerance for me to keep pursuing this. i think in part because by then i was alex's closest friend, and it was just so clear to everyone
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that he, he needed that. he needed someone to work through this with him. so i was worried about publishing the book, but my relationship with norm -- i mean, he read it, actually, you know, the things that end up pissing people off in your book are never the ones you expect. i was so like, oh, my gosh, what is everyone going to think about the way i portray alex and are they going to hate the way i quoted their corny jokes everywhere? no, totally fine with everything what i wrote about -- everything but what i wrote about my grandfather, the world war ii veteran, who had inspired alex to enlist, who is the source of so many -- so much of our family lore, so much of the mythology that alex and i grew up on. i discovered his war memoir in the course of researching this
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book. and learned through reading that that a lot of what he'd gone through abroad was much darker than had been passed down to us. i think this is a common experience for families who ask these very heavily mythologized veterans in their history. and that began to make clear that this legacy of trauma and moral injury, much more than trauma really for him, had played a significant role in making alex susceptible to the kind of influence that summer brought him under. and i think that deep reckoning with family culture and these sort of intergenerational history of trauma and moral injury going back through several wars, that's something that our family is still processing to this day. >> thank you. [applause] >> want to remind everyone ben
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blum will be out in telfair square signing copies of his book. thank you for an incredibly telling story. don't forget the round containers are there for your dollars so that in future festival events, we can keep saturday free for everyone. thank you all so much. thank you again, ben. it was great. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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>> and that wraps up booktv's live coverage of this year's savannah book festival. now, if you missed any of our programming, everything from today will air again tonight starting at midnight eastern time and again on monday, presidents day, beginning at noon eastern time. >> you're watching booktv on c-span2 with top nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> and it's three days of booktv on this presidents day weekend. on our "after words" program, you'll hear from former senate
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democratic staffer ira shapiro. he argued that the u.s. senate has lost its political center. he's interviewed by former senate majority leader tom daschle. emily duffton provides a history of marijuana in the united states, steven davis recounts the nixon administration's efforts to apprehend timothy leery, and we visit lynchburg, virginia, to tour that city's literary sites. that's just a few of the programs you'll see this weekend on booktv. for a complete schedule, visit >> and it's one of the things, clearly, that turns off a lot of people about donald trump, is that he does seem to have a certain outer borough vulgarity. his populism inevitably -- is populism inevitably vulgar? >> well, today happens to be the anniversary of caesar's crossing
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the rubicon in 49 b.c. caesar was a populist. was he vulgar? no. i don't think it's linked to populism, although i think that those people who wield the term populist as a weapon would like to have us think so. i'm glad you mentioned that, michael, because it seems to me that one of the fundamental objections to donald trump is aesthetic. he wears the wrong kind of ties. he likes his steak well done. he puts ketchup on it. these are unpardonable sins. now, of course, there's other things as well, but i think that a large part of this aspect of the hysteria over populism over donald trump is a


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