Before I tackle Eric Larson’s latest, The Splendid and The Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz, I read three smaller volumes, each completely different from the other. The first, Truth Worth Telling by Scott Pelley, was a compendium of a few of his experiences as a correspondent for Sixty Minutes. On the tenth anniversary of the Afghan war, he anchored Sixty Minutes from the war zone.
It was worth reading, if for no other reason than to get his take on politics right up to the present administration. And on the war in Afghanistan. He was not embedded with any particular unit so it was difficult to separate risk from reward. The humanitarian at times overpowered the journalist. It would be difficult not to experience such a monumental shift in attitude in a country where civilian death is always imminent–in a territory where so many have been uprooted from their homes, where so many are displaced with no hope for a return to normality in sight.
On current politics, it wasn’t difficult to discern his distaste for the current administration….although he was careful not to taint the reporting with outright bias. When the current president slams Pelly’s profession by calling the media “evil,” it would be difficult to practice restraint. But he did. Admirable.
Truth Worth Telling gave me a new perspective on our government and on the war in Afghanistan. It also renewed my respect for journalists in the field. After the Lara Logan fiasco in Benghazi, I tended to cast a jaundiced eye on reporters. Logan, at the time a correspondent for Sixty Minutes, failed to thoroughly research her story about the raid on the embassy–or perhaps she wanted a little more sensationalism. It resulted in an embarrassing Sixty Minute retraction and her subsequent dismissal.
Not a Day Care by Dr. Everett Piper, not exactly an indictment of the millennial generation but very close to it. Dr. Piper is the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Perhaps the premise of the entire book is summed up in one statement: “What has happened to the American spirit? We’ve gone from ‘give me liberty or give me death’ to ‘give me a trophy or I’ll throw a tantrum.'” This is the era where every kid thinks he / she is supposed to be a winner whether or not they put forth the effort. It has resulted in the “infantilization of the American spirit.” This is the era of “trigger warnings”…I’m about to say something in the classroom that might be offensive to you and I don’t want you to be hurt by it. It’s the era of “safe spaces”….a place to go when someone hurts your feelings or dares to critique your work. Having taught millennials in the last few years before my retirement from OU, I am in complete agreement with Dr. Piper. I truly believe our mantra for many (not all) in the millennial generation should be “Suck it up, buttercup.” No more “trigger warnings,” no more “safe spaces.” Quit sucking your thumb and move on.
And finally, I knew better than to read Denali because I had seen the movie sponsored by Patagonia— an example of the new trend in advertising—tell a story instead of hitting the consumer between the eyes with a hard-sell message. Denali is a dog…not just any dog. Realistically, he might have been Ben Moon’s only really good friend. Ben wrote the book because he and Denali shared so many life experiences, including cancer. For Ben, it was a long journey through surgery, chemo…eventually having to wear a colostomy bag. Because he was a surfer, a climber, a hiker, adjusting to that new reality was difficult. Denali and his love for Ben got him through it. When it becomes apparent that Denali is ill, Ben takes care of the big dog just as Denali took care of him. Denali narrated the movie; the end will tear your heart out if you’re a dog-lover. Or even if you’re not.