BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Bone and Sinew of the Land’ recovers some American history that actually has been erased

When it so happens—more regularly now than before but never yet regular enough—that a cheap zinc or bronze cast of some semi-famous slaver is yanked from its pedestal in the middle of a city night, or when a suburban school board in broad daylight votes to no longer compel students to adorn their bodies with the name and imagery of a particular child trafficker, invariably there rises the cry:

“You’re erasing history! You’re censoring our Confederate past! You’re rewriting collective memory to sanitize it!”

This, of course, is worse than nonsense and akin to defending the maintenance of NAMBLA-installed plaques to Jerry Sandusky. It should be regarded as such whether it’s an argument being made by angry, open bigots in Facebook comment sections or under the auspices of the National Review.

But some worthy portions of our history have indeed been buried, erased, and minimized. Harvard’s Anna-Lisa Cox’s latest book The Bone and Sinew of the Land is an example of what it actually looks like when that sort of history is excavated for a popular audience, and what a positive effect that can have.

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A rare Internet discussion where both sides prove their point

One of my most favorite and most unproductive things to do is argue on the Internet with people, and I know it’s so, but it feels productive in the sense that I better understand why I feel the way I do. Occasionally, I much later change my mind when I recall some argument without first remembering which side of it I was on.

One of the worst ever to get involved in is abortion because it is not the sort of thing that will resolve in common understanding. I used to wear a T-shirt I made that said ‘LEGALIZE ABORTION’ because that was the joke. It would be like a shirt that said, ‘BAN MARIJUANA’. Back then, both already were common policy and said nothing more than STATUS QUO.

But recently, I engaged with someone on Twitter on the subject of reproductive autonomy and made many mistakes but (of course) don’t feel that I was wrong.

The major mistake I made was not recognizing how the person I talked to had latched on to an age that was not rationally important to what I was saying but definitely was viscerally: 10-year-olds should have access to long-lasting contraceptives. Really, I meant anyone with internal reproductive systems should be able to have access to it as soon as they begin puberty and are at risk of becoming pregnant. But the person I talked to fixated on the example age, and I should have given them an off-ramp so their automatic emotional defenses could lower.

The second mistake was to allow any snideness or attack to creep in to what I said. To have a productive discussion with anyone, you can’t call into question their motives, even if their motives have changed throughout the conversation.

Beyond that, what follows won’t be decisive or much use to anyone else, and I’m sure many have had it before, but I was surprised by how quickly someone went from believing that unborn lives were preeminent to finding reasons to prefer everything else.

Continue reading “A rare Internet discussion where both sides prove their point”