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A Historian Who Believes There Are No Good Guys, Bad Guys

Much of politics and history, especially in the U.S., is about Us and Them. Us, the Good Guys, versus much of the Rest of the World: the Bad Guys. If you're with us, with moral as well as material and diplomatic support, you're also good guys (though not as good as us). If you're against us, or simply not with us, you're bad guys. And our mission is to bomb, starve, and sanction you into changing your mind.

Historian Mark David Ledbetter does not accept such a simplistic view of wold affairs. His study of history, contained in three works of towering research, America's Forgotten History: Parts 1-3, tells him that every nation, at some point in its history, has been guilty of genocide or war crimes. It just happens that different nations are at different points of development and engagement with the rest of the world, and therefore, we don't all behave and think the same.

But that's just one element of Ledbetter's new book, Dancing on the Edge of the W…

Man Speaks in the Middle of a Forest ... Still Wrong?

From the Preface to Works in Progress [available, now in March 2017, only as a download from my website. [This is the slightly changed preface, and it encapsulates the essence of the book and its raison d'etre.]

If a man shouts a sentence in the middle of the forest where no one, man or woman, can hear him, is he still wrong?

No one can say, not having heard the content of his sentence; and the same thing is true, at this moment, of Works in Progress (and a few of my other books at my website and elsewhere, which, unlike when I had well-known publishers publishing and publicizing my work, are lost in the Amazon jungle of millions of titles): They may be shouts in the middle of a forest, but since no one* has read it yet, no one can say whether or why it is right or wrong—or whether “right” and “wrong” have any meaning in the context of such an act of pure self-expression.

And yet, I needed to shout this book to the world. Or at least to myself. (And maybe that's why the phe…

True Independence: Being Fatwahed by the Churches of Salman, Roy, Pope Francis, and assorted Rightists

I never sought notoriety or tried to be banned. What kind of writer desires not to be read--except, perhaps, by his relatives, employers, wife/ex-wives/ex-mistresses, and children, who might be hurt or disturbed by intimate revelations or by seeing themselves portrayed in some character? Part of me desires to be loved by everyone--I know this is a silly desire, but as a child, especially when my parents were not with me for many years, I had known the perils of unpopularity: being lonely, being bullied and beaten, being teased or insulted, being left out of the happy, joyous moments (spending a feast day alone, or a birthday alone, with no one to wish me or celebrate it, for exampl). Almost at no point during my growing up was I physically strong enough to defend myself, though I tried to compensate with intellectual achievement and notoriety (or fame) of a sort.

Still, there was something in me, possibly as a result of my childhood or my innate nature, that yearned to tell the naked…

Muhammad Ali, the Greatest and the Wittiest

I had recently forgotten that Muhammad Ali fought for much more than himself, and is a man with the courage of his convictions, and wit besides:

Here are a few inspiring and entertaining quotes from him, many of which resonate with me:

Social Consciousness and Commentary:
"Boxing is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up."
"Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn't choose it, and I didn't want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name, and I insist people using it when speaking to me and of me."
"Nobody has to tell me that this is a serious business. I'm not fighting one man. I'm fighting a lot of men, showing a lot of 'em, here is one man they couldn't defeat, couldn't conquer. My mission is to bring freedom to 30m black people."


"I'm gonna fight for the prestige, not for me, but to uplift my little brothers who are sleeping on concrete floors today in America.""I am America. I am the pa…

The Mahatma, the Goats, and Young Cats: My New Humor Collection

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When I was in my late teens, I used to read Punch magazine, and one of my favorite writers was Alan Coren, who published a humor collection titled Golfing for Cats. It turned out that the book had nothing to do with either golfing or cats; but golfing and cats were the two hottest subjects on the bestseller list at that time, so he married the two and made up the title. (Alan Coren's book ended up doing quite well.)

My story is totally different. Neither cats, goats, nor Mahatma Gandhi are particularly hot at this moment (the Mahatma, if resurrected, would be horrified by Donald Trump and prefer to return to his grave), so the Alan Coren anecdote only partly explains the title of my new book: The Mahatma, the Goats, and Young Cats, all of which do occur in my collection of humor and satire, but are not its main subjects: this being a diverse humor collection ranging from Jesus to Ronald Reagan, from Indian politics to American nukes and deficits, from Adam and Eve to modern puber…

More Quotes from "Impressing the Whites"

These are random quotes from Impressing the Whites, completely out of context ... hopefully, they will provoke your curiosity:

Half-naked and barefoot villagers in remote parts of India had begun to spend anxious nights worrying about, of all things, their bad breath—because capitalist commercials had effectively penetrated their ancient, spiritual, breath-free minds.

A young Frenchman who had recently visited China was greatly upset. Why? Because the modern Chinese were not as spiritual as he had been primed by the Western media to expect. In fact, these bloody Chinamen with their 30 million cell phones were as materialistic as . . . as . . . as he was!

Not only do colored immigrants owe African-Americans for the work they did in resisting slavery and discrimination, but we also have experiences and strategies to share. I remember sharing my chapters on “Impressing the Whites” and “The Fourteen Commandments” with a black man on a flight from Portland, Oregon, to New York’s JFK. This …

The Failure of Courage and Impressing the Whites

Impressing the Whites is a book with universal resonance, one that has been taught at an American university, and also in South Africa. And yet, it is known to very few outside a tiny circle in India and among a few Indians in North America. Why? 

[You can download the book here if you wish, or buy it from other channels.]

An Indian television host said to me, "We speak of it privately, among ourselves, but we dare not raise the subject in public."

Why? 

Because the wrath of the giants might be visited upon them?

Possibly. Life is too short not to have a good time while it lasts.

And yet, life is also too short to live it as a complete coward, even though prudence, at times, is called for (prudence can also be an excuse for cowardice). 

And so, I dared. And the result: "Impressing the Whites." and a host of other books, including, "When David Davidar Drank My Wine"--which can now be downloaded directly from my site.

But some people, who almost instinctively and e…