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The Grouchy Historian: An Old-Time Lefty Defends Our Constitution Against Right-Wing Hypocrites and Nutjobs Hardcover – October 10, 2017
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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"A smart, often entertaining polemic." (Kirkus Reviews)
"An unabashedly biased, deeply researched book that refutes the right-wing argument that the framers of the U.S. Constitution favored small government, limited taxation and minimal regulation. . . . The book’s subtitle doesn’t mince words.” (Edward Guthmann The San Francisco Chronicle)
“If Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and Teds Nugent and Cruz can call themselves Constitutional conservatives, then Asner can call them out on their so-called knowledge of America's bedrock documents. . . . Although it is, indeed, wry and witty, Asner’s 'defense' is no mere entertainer’s polemic.” (Booklist)
About the Author
Ed Asner is a television legend, well known for his role as Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and subsequent spin-off Lou Grant. He is the winner of seven acting Emmy Awards, and has been nominated a total of twenty times. Asner also made a name for himself as a trade unionist and a political activist. He served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild, from 1981-1985, during which he was an outspoken critic of former SAG President Ronald Reagan, then the US president, for his Central American policy. He lives in Los Angeles.
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My favorite part was the refresher on the origin of the Bill of Rights few of us probably remember from that two paragraphs of high school history. Devised as a means to avoid a second convention with deliberate strategy, this chapter is a reminder of how fragile those rights continue to be. No, the Constitution and Bill of Rights wasn't written For the people, that is the individual citizens, it was written by and for the well-to-do, the landed, the speculators, lawyers and businessmen of the day to form a Union of States with a strong federal government. That We the People have claimed that Constitution and those Rights, made it our own, is what gives this document its living, breathing voice in the world. *That* is the origin of its divinity, not its authors, framers, or infusion of 'christianity' where none existed - except to separate it from the state.
In my opinion, Grouchy Historian is more than worth the time to read, if only to begin to form an answer for trolls, bots and media as they slur our most vital defense against ourselves to an excuse to destroy what progress we’ve made as a nation and a people. Bonus includes: The Constitution and Bill of Rights to refer to without having to flip through tiny print versions or break away to look up; an extensive reference list of “go look it up for yourself if you don’t believe me”; as well as Supreme Court Cases with file numbers.
There's more: a detailed review of the five months they spent in Philadelphia, wrangling over the contents of the Constitution, told from James Madison's point of view; brief portraits of the Framers (based on the work of Charles Beard); an examination of the Bill of Rights and some Supreme Court cases depending on it (with special attention to the Second Amendment in Chapter 23 -- which alone justifies the price of the book to me.) It's all well researched and extensively end-noted. An Appendix contains the text of the Constitution, and there is a long Bibliography (161 books, 29 articles, 36 Web and new sources, 22 cases, and 50 "other sources.")
I learned a lot, and laughed a lot. Full marks.
“The Grouchy Historian” pushes back against the irresponsible hijacking of our Constitution by right-wing zealots. With a crusty sense of humor with a charm of its own, Ed Asner provides readers with an informative and provocative book on the Constitution and what it really means. This enlightening 353-page book includes 24 chapters and includes the Constitution.
1. A well-written, well-researched book with a large and welcomed dose of Mr. Asner’s sense of humor.
2. Mr. Asner may not be a Constitutional scholar but he has a very good command of the topic and through his wisdom and humor may in fact connect better with the general public.
3. I like the format. It’s not your traditional straightforward narrative. Asner breaks up the topic by providing lists, dialogues, even comebacks and of course his great sense of humor.
4. Each chapter begins with chapter-related quotes. “The Convention is really an assembly of demigods.” – Thomas Jefferson.
5. The introduction provides an excellent preview. “Most of the Founders and Framers were Deists.”
6. Provides a synopsis of all the important Founders. “Historians can find no hint that Madison held any belief in Christian theology. On the contrary, like his fellow Virginian and good friend Thomas Jefferson, he firmly believed in “separation of Church and State.” “They were all men of the Enlightenment who valued reason over dogma, tolerance over bigotry, and science over faith.”
7. A fun chapter on heckling the right wing. “Them: The Framers were opposed to taxation. Me: The first day in office, Washington (as President) and Hamilton (as his secretary of Treasury) taxed carriages and whiskey, then opened a bank to put the money in.”
8. Really does a number on the hypocrisy of the Christian Right. “In 1863, the Christian Right met at two conventions to blame the Civil War on the godless Constitution. Their solution: another Christian preamble. In other words, that war and the millions of deaths that would follow were the fault of the “heathen” Framers and not the slaveholders trying to preserve a cruel and evil system of oppression.”
9. A look at God and the Constitution. “In 1820, an editorial defending slavery argued that Africans were descendants of Ham and “their slavery an accomplishment of Noah’s prediction” which was “divinely inspired” [italics mine], thus “the present condition of the African is inevitable; all efforts to extinguish black slavery are idle . . .””
10. An interesting look at Charles Beard’s economic interpretation of the Constitution. “The members of the Philadelphia Convention, which drafted the Constitution were, with a few exceptions, immediately, directly, and personally interested in, and derived economic advantages from, the establishment of the new system.”
11. Provides a list of all fifty-five delegates and a blurb on each one. “Robert Morris FINANCIER, PENNSYLVANIA Of all the delegates, Robert Morris had the most widely diverse economic interests: his land speculation ran into the millions of acres. He owned every kind of Continental security and traded stocks in the tens of thousands. According to Beard, “No man of his time . . . [was more] involved in the personal affairs of so many eminent men . . . all closely identified with the new system of government.””
12. Facts and trivia throughout. “In 1791, the first Senate suggested that the president of the United States be addressed as “His Highness the President of the United States of America and Protector of their Liberties.””
13. Has fun with Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. “On Evolution: Carson has stated that the Theory of Evolution was “encouraged by the Adversary” (i.e., Satan) and that only God can make a man. He also claims that Natural Selection, carbon dating, and the Big Bang Theory are all “fairy tales.””
14. Absolute fun dealing with Coulter’s hateful anti-immigrant comments. “Mexicans just do not clean up after themselves. It is as if they have never thrown a piece of trash away in their lives . . .”
15. Fascinating historical facts. “The Passing of the Great Race became the first book in English to be translated by the Nazis when they came to power in 1933.XVIII And later, it was none other than Adolf Hitler who wrote a personal note to Madison Grant, thanking him for writing the book, calling it “my Bible.””
16. An interesting look at how the Bill of Rights came to be. “So it came as a shock to find out that the Bill of Rights was, in fact, a reluctant afterthought—a political and cynical ploy by the Federalists led by Washington, Hamilton, and Madison.”
17. A review of some of the worst examples of where the Bill of Rights did not live up to expectations. “In 1922, Laughlin drafted his model law for compulsory sterilization. It targeted the following subjects: the feeble-minded, criminals, the insane, epileptics, the blind, alcoholics, deaf persons, deformed persons, and the indigent.”
18. Scalia and Citizens United. “To see exactly how he did this, let’s consider the famous case of Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission (2010), in which the Supreme Court, by a 5–4 decision, ruled that billionaire donors can legally give unlimited and anonymous amounts of money to political candidates under the protection of “free speech.””
19. Clarifying some abused terms. “A strict constructionist can be defined as one who interprets the Constitution by determining what the original text is as written by the Framers.” “There’s no way around this: the Framers endorsed slavery. They counted every slave as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of representation. They also extended the slave trade for twenty years.”
20. A look at 2nd Amendment, guns and the NRA. “But even here it’s worth noting the built-in regulations that allowed disarmament in cases of “real danger of public injury from individuals.” Again, as always, our American forefathers limited any and all freedoms when they clashed with public safety.”
1. Asner is not a Constitutional scholar so don’t expect an in depth analysis of the U.S. Constitution but do expect an informative and entertaining read.
2. I don’t agree with one of Asner’s six Amendments: “Asner Article I. The Senate. No state shall be awarded two senators from states that do not have populations equal to that of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.”
3. I would have liked to have seen more references to source notes.
4. I would have added more visual material.
5. No formal bibliography.
In summary, this was an informative and entertaining way to learn about the U.S. Constitution. Ed Asner brings his passion, wisdom and humor to such an important topic and he delivers. it doesn’t have the depth of books from scholars but you didn’t read this book to be bored out of your mind either. I recommend it!
Further recommendations: “America’s Constitution: A Biography” by Akhil Reed Amar, “The U.S. Constitution For Dummies” by Michael Amheim, “The Constitution: Understanding America’s Founding Document” by Michael S. Greve, “Know Your Bill of Rights” by Sean Patrick, “Supreme Court Decisions: 20 Landmark Cases Summarized and Explained” by U.S. Department of State, “The U.S. Constitution: A Reader” by Hillsdale College Politics Faculty, and “The Federalist Papers” by Alexander Hamilton.
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Welll done sir!