Review – “7 Events That Made America America” by Larry Schweikart

Review – “7 Events That Made America America” by Larry Schweikart

“7 Events That Made America America” offers up a collection of historical moments that helped define the American experience.  These slightly larger than bite-sized morsels give you a taste of some of the turning points in American History – turning points that might not be obvious on their face.  Moments that had ripples far beyond a single point in time.  It’s a fascinating read.

Fans of the Glenn Beck program will recognize the author, Larry Schweikart, from the book – “A Patriot’s History of the United States”.  I have that book in my “to read” stack, but in just the few moments I took to skim it – I could tell that it’s a relatively heavy historical read.  There’s nothing wrong with that – I’m looking forward to reading it at some point – but the time for me to dive in to it hasn’t arrived yet.  When I saw “7 Events” in the store, I was intrigued and gave it a glance.  I liked what I saw.  Concentrating on seven events, as opposed to the entire history of the US, felt like a better place to start.

The book is divided in to seven sections – one for each event.  Just looking at the titles will give you a flavor for what to expect:

  1. Martin Van Buren Has A Nightmare, And Big Government Is Born…In The 1820s!
  2. The Dred Scott Decision Wrecks And Economy And Hastens A War
  3. Johnstown Fights A Flood And Demonstrates The Power Of Private Compassion
  4. Ike Has A Heart Attack, Triggering Dietary Nannyism
  5. A Steel Guitar Rocks The Iron Curtain
  6. Ronald Reagan Tries To Keep The Peace…And Makes His Biggest Mistake
  7. Barry Makes A Speech…And The Media Gets Shills Up Its Leg

In each instance, Schweikart not only looks at the underlying event in detail, he also follows the effects of that event on down through history – showing both the intended and unintended consequences of each action.  He also looks at each event through the lens of the Founding Fathers.  In the chapter on Ike’s heart attack and how it gave rise to the overbearing and intrusive dietary policies and beliefs that we have today, he unearths a rather instructive quote from Thomas Jefferson:

Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.

Even at the founding, it was understood that government control of our healthcare and eating habits was no better than the subjugation of our spirit to the crown of England.  In today’s world of salt bans, ever changing nutritional guidelines, and the looming implementation of Obamacare – Schweikart uses this quote from Jefferson, and the example of Ike’s heart attack, to paint an troubling picture of the inevitable outcomes of government intrusion in our kitchens and doctor’s offices.

As clichéd as they may have become in some circles, George Santayana’s words still ring true – “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. There’s a lot that can be learned from this book.  From the ease with which government can grow when unchecked, to the power of private charity and community.  From the true goals of militant Islam, to the folly of making policy decisions based on junk science and popular consensus.  From the inherent basis found in too much of today’s media, to the futility in trying to overcome man’s innate yearning to be free from oppression.

It’s a shame that more of this perspective is not taught in schools today.  Luckily for us, information is more readily available now than at any other time in history.  Take a moment and read about the world around you.  Contrary to how most people approach the world, history didn’t start on the day that you were born.  The problems and trials that we face today seem unique and monumental – but chances are, someone, somewhere, has gone through something similar.  At its core, “7 Events” is as much a history book as it is a look at our future.  Take a look at what it has to say – it might seem more familiar, and be more useful, than you think.

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