9/11 and the Failure of Terrorism

On this day eighteen years ago, al-Qaeda carried out the most ambitious and deadly terrorist attack in history. The Islamist group hijacked four large commercial jets and crashed three of them into major U.S. targets: the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC. (Courageous passengers stormed the cockpit of the fourth hijacked plane, blocking its planned strike but leading to a crash in rural Pennsylvania, with all aboard lost.) The two towers fell, the Pentagon was partly wrecked, almost 3,000 people died, and Americans were terrified. The attack’s immediate success probably surprised even its planners. So what did 9/11 achieve for al-Qaeda? Nothing. In fact, the attack led to disaster for the Islamist group. That’s because terrorism does not work.

9/11 Didn’t Work

9/11 attacks on NYC Continue reading “9/11 and the Failure of Terrorism”

My New Novel, Secrets of Hominea!

My new novel just went on sale! Secrets of Hominea is a magical middle grade fantasy novel: a tale of giants, gnomes, queens, and adventurers — and of science and history. It’s for readers age 9 to 14.

middle grade novel

My first novel, The Jericho River, won multiple awards, including wins at the Next Generation Indie awards and the London Book Festival, as well as a bronze medal in the Readers’ Favorite awards. Continue reading “My New Novel, Secrets of Hominea!”

World History Encyclopedia

There’s a great website out there, and if you don’t already know about it, you should. It’s World History Encyclopedia: https://www.worldhistory.org/. It’s a curated resource on history, with short, user-friendly articles on a vast array of topics. And it’s more reliable than most online encyclopedias, since the articles follow academic standards and are reviewed by a dedicated team of editors. Continue reading “World History Encyclopedia”

Teaching History by Sailing the Jericho River

How an Unusual Novel and an Ohio Teacher Are Repackaging History Education

I’m the author of a fantasy novel that teaches history, and a high school teacher in Ohio has done some smart, creative instruction with it. This post describes her lesson-building and offers ideas on teaching with my book — along with links to sample lesson plans — in high school and middle school and at the college level. Continue reading “Teaching History by Sailing the Jericho River”

Trump, ISIS, and the Tactics of the Weak

A prominent Trump supporter recently offered a view that seems to represent much of the nation. “When I’m looking for somebody who’s going to deal with ISIS,” said Pastor Robert Jeffress, an influential TV host, “I want the meanest, toughest, son of a you-know-what I can find.” Few would doubt that Donald Trump is mean, but what makes Pastor Jeffress thinks he’s tough? What makes millions of Americans think Trump is tough when, in fact, his behavior suggests he’s unusually sensitive? What, for that matter, makes us think ISIS is tough — so much so that “looking for somebody who’s going to deal with ISIS” becomes the top priority? The answer is that Americans have been fooled by bluster and the tactics of the weak.

President Theodore Roosevelt: "speak softly and carry a big stick"
President Theodore Roosevelt: “speak softly and carry a big stick”

Bluster means loud, boastful, and threatening talk. It’s meant to give an impression of power. Terrorism plays a similar role, and in fact you might call it geopolitical bluster. It is devastating for its individual victims, but it has no military impact. So on a geopolitical scale, between nations, a terrorist attack is a loud, threatening statement. Continue reading “Trump, ISIS, and the Tactics of the Weak”

This is How Democracy Begins to Die

You might think it’s aristocrats and the rich who most threaten democracy. But actually democracy tends to die the hands of angry working people, who turn against elites and their own constitution and follow an authoritarian leader. That leader destroys democracy, or injures it so much that it begins to die.

The Acropolis - Athens: mother of democracy and of tyrants
The Acropolis – Athens: mother of democracy and of tyrants

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Governments can’t stop terrorism any more than lions can stop flea-bites.

When a single man can kill eighty-four with a truck, it’s time to let go of the illusion that governments can keep us safe from political violence. Lone-wolf terrorist attacks have become part of modern life, and no one can change that. We should accept it and at the same time recognize that we Westerners still live far safer lives than any people in the history of the world. Instead of sacrificing civil rights in favor of persecuting suspected minorities — in a doomed attempt to stop lone wolf terrorists — we should focus on preventing the most devastating attacks, by denying terrorists access to nuclear power plants, airports, and weapons of mass destruction. Continue reading “Governments can’t stop terrorism any more than lions can stop flea-bites.”

Star Wars and History: Divine Conception in Myth

~ This is the fifth of a six-post series called Star Wars and History. (See below for a list of the six titles.) ~

In The Phantom Menace, we learn that the Force conceived Anakin Skywalker in his mother’s womb, without a father. That divine conception puts him in company with the Buddha, according to some stories, and of course with Jesus Christ, along with a long list of pagan heroes. For instance, in The Secret History of the Mongols, a radiant being descends through the roof of a lady’s yurt and fathers Bodonchar Munkhag, founder of Genghis Khan’s dynasty. And in Greco-Roman myth, Zeus conceives the hero-king Perseus by descending on a virgin as golden rain — while Mars conceives Rome’s Romulus and Remus when his phallus emerges from a sacred fire tended by a virgin priestess.

Alexandre_Jacques_Chantron_(1891)_Danae
Perseus’ mother, Danae, and the golden rain

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Star Wars and History: Father vs. Son in Myth

~ This is the fourth of a six-post series called Star Wars and History. (See below for the six posts’ titles.) ~

In The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker fights his father, Darth Vader. Revenge of the Sith repeats this father vs. son theme when Darth Sidious (Palpatine) reveals that Sith apprentices often kill their masters: their figurative fathers. That aligns Star Wars with a common theme from myth. Many mythic heroes confront and kill their fathers. Mordred, for instance, kills his father, King Arthur (and is killed by him). And of course, the Greeks’ Oedipus kills his father and takes his place as king of Thebes. Gods battle their fathers too, including the titan Cronus, who overthrows — and castrates — his father, Ouranos, the sky god. But a similar fate awaits Cronus; he’s later overthrown by Zeus, his own son.

Mordred -- cropped
Mordred and King Arthur

Continue reading “Star Wars and History: Father vs. Son in Myth”