Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book reports

  • Fires of Faith by Eamon Duffy. I have but have not yet read The Stripping of the Altars, but arguably I can be forgiven because it's huge and I've already read much on the English "Reformation" (Michael Davies' Cranmer's Godly Order, for example). Most of the English were happy being Catholic and thus welcomed Mary's reign. A respected historian, Duffy agrees with what I of course wanted to read, that the horror stories of "Bloody" Mary's rule are a Protestant myth (Foxe's Book of Martyrs). (The Protestants and the Masons having won in Anglo-America, they have manufactured our history.) Her government burned people but so did the Protestants, on principle (protecting the common good), and Catholics in England did it relatively sparingly and as a last resort. I think Cardinal Pole's a saint. The church's successful revival in England under him (holy people including good writers effectively teaching; Trent's reforms), on top of the people's retained piety from before the changes, was why (according to Christopher Haigh) many English people remained Catholic through the 1580s.
  • Name, Rank & Serial Number by Charles S. Young. About both sides' POWs during the Korean War. I didn't realize that it was really two wars; we won the first (saving South Korea; sounds like a good cause) and lost the second (trying to take the north; when the Chinese stepped in, we were through). Or that there's a myth that our POWs were cowards who helped the enemy. (I haven't read or seen The Manchurian Candidate.) Young (I don't know if he has any bias) says 1) because of limited war, the atomic threat preventing total war, Korea was fought for show, because it was strategically unimportant (was there a smarter way to contain Communism, which would have kept us out of Korea and Vietnam?); 2) the war should have ended early but both sides dragged it out by using POWs as a bargaining tool; 3) all POWs survive by making little, non-treasonous concessions to the enemy (like sitting through the Chinese' political lessons; "only give name, rank, and service number," to use the right term for the last, is never literal) but our Cold War propaganda unfairly blamed our Korean War POWs (bad psychology at the time, then as now a "progressive" field: blame moms for raising pampered cowards and even Freudian stuff about incest); 4) the North Koreans and the dire conditions at the beginning of the war were brutal to POWs but the Chinese were relatively decent jailers (the political indoctrination didn't work because our boys remembered that America's system worked; the Chinese were clueless); 5) the Chinese lied about Americans conducting germ warfare, forcing POWs to confess; 6) the inmates largely ran the Americans' camp for North Koreans (including South Koreans forced into North Korean service) and Chinese, and, with our agents, bullied many POWs into defecting (though of course many really didn't want to go back); 7) a CIA agent, Edward Hunter, made up the idea of Chinese brainwashing (Orientalism meets pop psychology?), part of discrediting American POWs. (Looking Hunter up, he seems to have been a fine anti-Communist.) I knew that 21 American POWs defected and that at least some eventually came back.

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