Jonathon and I regularly reminisce about all we've forgotten from our excellent high school education. Immersing myself in calculus is one luxury I have no room for (at least not until I've either gotten a terminal degree or realized my dream of being a shepherdess in the Outer Hebrides) but I'm getting reacquainted with history. Cross training for the First Exam,* if you will.
A wide variety of nonfiction books would be ideal, but I'm text-booking it for efficiency's sake. Currently, I'm working my way through William R. Keylor's The Twentieth-Century World and Beyond. This activity is about a seventy-thirty split between refreshing my memory and learning new things, all the while entertaining myself by reading snark into Bill's (may I call him Bill?) writing. Take these two paragraphs for example:
It was not until the decade of the 1890s that the United States, having become an industrial power of the first rank and consolidated political control of the territory on its own continent, acquired the economic and military capability to project its power to the southern half of the its hemisphere. The pursuit of American strategic and economic interests in the Caribbean region in particular and in Latin America in general was justified, as has so often been the case in American foreign policy, by a high-sounding moral principle, Just as the westward continental expansion of the nineteenth century was touted as the "manifest destiny" of a chosen people on the march, the subsequent extension of American hegemony over Latin America at the expense of European powers was couched in two moralistic phrases: "hemispheric solidarity" and the more commonly used "Pan-Americanism."
The ideology of Pan-Americanism was rooted in two myths about the geographical and political conditions of the western hemisphere. The first was the widespread misconception that the two continents of the new world formed a single geographic unit that stood apart from the other continents of the earth. In reality the continents of North and South America, though connected by a narrow strip of land, achieved their normal communication by sea in the nineteenth century and by air later in the twentieth. By sea, Rio de Janeiro is considerably closer to the west coast of Africa than to any port in the United States. By air, Washington is closer to Moscow than to Buenos Aires. The myth of political affinity derived from the use of the term "republic" as a label for the governmental systems of the Latin American nations. As "sister republics," the United States and the countries to the south came to be regarded as joint custodians of a common legacy of democratic government that distinguished them from the monarchical tradition of the old world. The perpetual tendency of the reputed "republics" of Latin America to lapse into various forms of dictatorship while the nations of Western Europe moved toward democratic rule belied such sentimental invocations of a hemispheric partnership of republicanism.**
It's there, right? I'm not just imagining the barely restrained snark?
The other thing I like about this particular excerpt is the context it provides for the refrain of the Cole Porter song "The Good-Will Movement" from the ridiculous musical Mexican Hayride (1944):
Is the Good-Will Movement,
It's in that pep,
*When three of my professors will spend six hours over two days quizzing me on all of theatre history ever.