The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 22 September 2003

When You Ride Alone You Ride with bin Laden

What the Government Should be Telling us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism

by Bill Maher

The author of this polemic was famously denounced after making some comments on his television show in reference to the bravery of the men who flew airplanes into office buildings on September 11, 2001. This reader admired his moxie, actually, but don't think "bravery" was the best choice of words. Fanaticism, certainly. Anyway, Maher took what he had left to say on the subject to another television show and to this book. He takes America to task for its boorish ignorance of the rest of the world and for our inability to "connect the dots" between our behavior and the reactions we fetch from around the world, including such reactions as the September 11 attacks. This is a brief book, just 132 pages heavily padded with artwork based on World War 2 patriotic posters. Maher lambastes America for failing to sacrifice anything in the name of our security. The title, for example, refers to a World War 2 poster "When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler". Back then, we were able to learn something about conserving gasoline and even gas rationing. Today, we'd never hear of such a thing. Our representatives tell us to go shopping OR THE TERRORISTS WIN. This is absurd and insulting, and Maher is right on target with his critique of this attitude. His argument is best summed up in his chapter "They Hate Us because We don't Know Why They Hate Us." Our cluelessness about the rest of the world gets us into serious trouble and then we act like "hey, I wasn't trying to offend anyone!" We have to get a clue, and connect the new Hummer with what oil money means to the rest of the planet. OK, but Maher, who repeats his message a couple of times, goes over the edge somewhat in his comments on our national security apparatus. He attacks as "political correctness" American sensitivity toward other races in security monitoring. And his commentary on Islam and violence paints an entire culture with far too broad a brush. The book ends up feeling somewhat shrill, though I can't deny Maher is right on the mark most of the way through.

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