Vintage Sci-Fi Month: “Foundation’s Edge” by Isaac Asimov

January is Vintage Sci-Fi Month and I’m hoping to feature a number of looks at vintage sci-fi I’m reading for the month to spur some discussion and hear your thoughts! Follow Vintage Sci-Fi Month on Twitter and get in on the fun, too! As I recall, the rule for calling something “Vintage” is that it was written before you were born, but feel free to adjust that as you like.

Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov

Foundation’s Edge won the Hugo and Locus Award and was nominated for the Nebula Award for best novel when it came out. That’s some great pedigree, especially coming from an author as prolific and influential as Asimov. I loved the early parts of the book in spite of myself. Yes, that’s right, I have a predilection to disliking Asimov which has only increased through my reading about the man himself and his treatment of women (more on that below). The Foundation Trilogy, long hailed as the pillar of science fiction, has managed to bore me three times through. Asimov, in my opinion, is not great at developing characters at all, and tends to focus on whatever pet idea he had in the book. All that said, I wasn’t sure I’d like this one, but found myself really getting into the premise of a mystery within a mystery within a wider, galactic story.

The initial premise(s) of the novel is absolutely fascinating. The two Foundations were in a secret war with each other; one is thought to have been destroyed, while the other comes to dominate humanity. Suspicious about the death of Second Foundation being exaggerated come to the surface, and the only female character written with any effort manages to maneuver a blowhard politician into outing himself as a potential “traitor” and getting pseudo-exiled on a snipe hunt to try to find Earth with an eccentric, obsessive scientist as a cover for actually tracking down Second Foundation. Seriously, that is an awesome premise, and the setup was deftly handled. I was absolutely engrossed.

But then the book kept going. And going. And going. The premise kept getting dragged on and on through permutation after permutation of the same ideas and characters remarking on how this or that aspect of the premise is good or impossible or bad or great or the worst. We get it, Asimov. The events in this novel are A Big Deal. That was understood with the premise itself! Let’s get into the meat of it! But when we do get to the meat of it, Asimov drops the ball, big time.

It is impossible, as the novel wears on, to ignore some significant flaws. Most egregious is Asimov’s treatment of women, which should not, perhaps, be surprising given his notoriously crappy treatment of real-life women (something that surely ought to downplay his legacy). There’s a whole scene in which the male characters debate over whether to go out on the town and hire prostitutes (without using the term), and ridiculously stupid joking about the needs of men regarding sex. It’s as though Asimov never grew past the earliest adolescence regarding both his attitude towards and knowledge of women, and it is extremely grating, especially as the novel goes on and on.

That is the second major problem with the book: it’s about two times too long. The awesome premise mentioned above isn’t enough to bank on throughout a novel that’s this long, but it is effectively what Asimov plays towards. Though he does give the payoff, that payoff is the absurd scenes centered around Gaia, which appears to be a form of escapism for Asimov but only annoyed me as a reader. The third major problem is Asimov’s struggling with the anthropic principle, which is again a major theme in the book. It’s almost as though Asimov attempted to answer this rather deep problem through Foundation’s Edge but ultimately the best he could come up with was “Well we’re here, aren’t we?” and some hand waving and readers are supposed to think that somehow solves the very real difficulties with the anthropic principle that Asimov himself brings up in the novel. It’s a kind of deus ex machina that Asimov tries to use in order to get rid of the Deus. In doing so, however, he only shows how absurd his own position is: a kind of brute fact approach tha doesn’t provide any answer at all. It’s annoyingly simplistic and detracts from the novel

Now that I’ve ranted for that long about the flaws, readers might think I disliked the novel, but I didn’t. It was a good novel, but one that could have been improved immensely by a much heavier hand from an editor. Foundation’s Edge is good, not great, which is a disappointment, because the premise on which it is built could have been a really fantastic adventure story. The characters were compelling enough in the beginning, but got replaced by the typical Asimov cutouts later on. Instead of being an epic novel, it’s a middling mess of hard sci-fi, adventure, sexism, shoulder-shrugging answers to big questions, and a psychadelic acid trip of a planet.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

My Read-Through of the Hugos– Check out all my posts on reading through the Hugo Award winners and nominees. Tons of sci-fi fantasy discussion throughout.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Vintage Sci-Fi Month: “Past Master” by R.A. Lafferty

January is Vintage Sci-Fi Month and I’m hoping to feature a number of looks at vintage sci-fi I’m reading for the month to spur some discussion and hear your thoughts! Follow Vintage Sci-Fi Month on Twitter and get in on the fun, too! As I recall, the rule for calling something “Vintage” is that it was written before you were born, but feel free to adjust that as you like.

Past Master by R.A. Lafferty

I’ve never read a work by Lafferty before this one, though he was recommended to me time and again. One of the foibles of loving books so much is that you sometimes think you know better than other people do about what you may enjoy. My apologies to all who recommended Lafferty–I should have dived in the first time his name came up!  I was absolutely blown away by Past Master. I wish I’d read it earlier.

This novel is dense. Though it’s short, I could hardly believe it only weighed in around 190 pages when I looked it up online. The book took me as long to read as most 400+ page novels do, largely because I found myself so drawn into the premise, prose, and symbolism found throughout. There’s no question here that Lafferty has steeped this book in layers upon layers of meaning, to the point that unpacking it all would take quite a bit of study. Whether it’s the play upon “Evita” (Lilith? Eve? Someone else?), the way Lafferty interconnects discussions of Utopia with questions about the soul, or how dreams play out in faster-than-light travel, there are so many rabbit trails one could follow in this novel that reading it sometimes felt like work at times. But the work was enjoyable–like the work where you don’t want to stop. You’re loving it, and you’re good at it, and it’s got to be done!

There are whole scenes in this novel that had me re-reading them in order to try to pick up on more strands of meaning. One scene has Thomas More… wait, what? Yes, I forgot to mention that Thomas More–the one who wrote Utopia and was executed for not recognizing the annulment of King Henry’s marriage–is one of the main characters in the book. Let’s step back. The plot has Thomas More get fetched from his own time before his death to help rescue a future Utopia, but the inhabitants of the future Utopia apparently don’t realize that More’s Utopia was more a biting satire in Lafferty’s vision than it was a goal for a future society. Anyway, there’s a scene where Thomas More is confronted by a beautiful woman who tries to seduce him, apparently wanting to seduce a Saint, and More and her get in a lengthy conversation about the meaning of her name, Evita, and whether she is like Eve, the mother of life, or a Lilith-like seductress and wicked person, largely based upon her name. Twists and turns come fast and hard in the conversation, and it is a delight–especially for me as someone who knows a decent amount of church history and has studied Greek/Hebrew (only the basics!). Scenes like that, though, are found throughout the book.

There’s no question that Lafferty is offering the book as his own form of social commentary. Is a utopia with all needs met worth selling souls for? What is the church to become or do in such a society? What might Thomas More think of applying his thought to a real world situation? Mis-applying it? Is Lafferty really just making one extended commentary and pushback on Vatican II, as the introduction to the version I read briefly suggested? These questions warred in my consciousness while I read the book, though they never took away the enjoyment I had throughout, they simply added to it. Lafferty’s prose style is also great. As I said, it’s dense, but it also manages to be lyrical at times and full of wonder throughout.

Past Master is one of those novels that you read and realize it’s going to stick with you for a long time. I am so happy I finally got around to reading it, and I recommend it highly to you, fellow sci-fi/fantasy lovers! Heck, even if you don’t really care about sci-fi/fantasy, it’s a great read and occasional exploration of religious/science themes and more. Go read it!

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

My Read-Through of the Hugos– Check out all my posts on reading through the Hugo Award winners and nominees. Tons of sci-fi fantasy discussion throughout.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Star Trek: DS9 Season 4 “To the Death” and “The Quickening”

All the feels.

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“To the Death”

Synopsis

Renegade Jem’Hadar are trying to open up a gateway that will allow them to get to anywhere they like. Sisko must team up with Weyoun and a group of loyal Jem’Hadar to stop them. As they try to integrate the crews for the mission, it doesn’t go well. Worf, in particular, is targeted by the Jem’Hadar in tests of strength. When the disobedience comes to a front, the Jem’Hadar first kills the instigator, and demands Sisko do the same to Worf. When Sisko refuses, the Jem’Hadar threatens to kill Sisko. On the actual mission, Sisko ends up saving the First, showing him something of Starfleet’s own way of living. They manage to destroy the Gateway and the Jem’Hadar part with the Starfleet people after executing Weyoun for questioning their loyalty.

Commentary

“To the Death” is a complex, action-packed episode that shows just how intense DS9 episodes can get. The stakes are super high, and believable because we don’t know enough about the Jem’Hadar to doubt it. The integration of crews is a stretch but could be seen as Starfleet being Starfleet and not being aggressive about their enemies. I like the escalation of threat throughout the episode. We know there’s no way these two groups can be together without conflict, but the way it escalates is great. I especially like Worf being center of attention for the Jem’Hadar, because it plays to so many narratives happening around both Klingons and Jem’Hadar.

Having Weyoun get killed was really surprising, too. It’s a fascinating look at how the Jem’Hadar operate that they were so upset by his questioning of their loyalty that they would go to such an extreme rejoinder. Overall, this is a great episode with lots of adventure. It scores lower on the “believable” aspects, but that’s fine, it’s Star Trek.

Grade: A- “Intense and heavy-hitting, it’s a thrilling episode all the way through.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It wasn’t particularly memorable, but I liked it.”

“The Quickening”

Synopsis

Kira, Dax, and Bashir get to a plant where they discover the local populace has been punished by the Dominion by being inflicted with a disease that manifests as black lesions working across their bodies until one day it kills them. Bashir is desperate to help, especially when he discovers the local doctor basically just euthanizes people as they request it due to the pain of the disease. However, when it turns out his medical equipment is actually hastening the onset of the disease, Bashir loses the trust of the people. When all seems lost, he manages to demonstrate that his treatment, though ineffective on the disease itself, actually acts as a vaccine and can deliver the next generation from the illness. The episode closes with Bashir still finding cures ineffective, longing to cure the people and Sisko telling him that the next generation will be the hope for the people.

Commentary

Bashir… is… awesome. I already loved him, but this episode was one long Bashir love-fest of showing the range of his emotions, skills, and the depth of his concern for others. The plot is basic, yes, but it serves as a fantastic setup so that we can see what Bashir will do when confronted with what seems like an unbeatable scenario. And he does win! But only kind of. And he’s distraught, and it is bittersweet, and it is beautiful and I love it.

There’s a kind of horrifying hope built into the episode. You as a viewer just know that Bashir will succeed, such that when he doesn’t, it is especially crushing. And seeing him also crushed is poignant and raw. It’s true that Bashir did save the people, but what of everyone alive now? They just have to last… and give the next generation hope. Powerful.

Grade: A+ “Heart-rending but hopeful, ‘The Quickening’ is a fantastic episode not just of DS9 but of television generally.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was sad, but great.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

Indie Highlight: “The Wings of War” by Bryce O’Connor and “The Ixan Prophecies” by Scott Bartlett

The “Indie Highlight” is a series of posts in which I shine the lights on Indie/Self-Published books that I believe are worthy of your attention. I’ll be writing reviews and recommending them, along with providing links on where to get the books.

The Wings of War series by Bryce O’Connor

The Wings of War series box set was one that got me with great ads. The artwork featured on the covers were fantastic, and we can’t help but judge books by their covers, so I was interested. I was sold when I saw the first four books lumped together for $.99 with more than 500 reviews averaging over 4 stars.

But all of that doesn’t matter if the content isn’t good. Bryce O’Connor has created a fascinating character in Raz i’Syul, a dragon person (the name for his species escapes me) whose life is compelling and tragic. Some aspects of prophecy get woven throughout the fantasy setting of the four books in this series. There are many fantasy tropes packed in here, but none of them feel particularly overdone or boring. O’Connor grabbed me with his characters right from the start and that’s the major selling point of this series. The world-building for the series is compact, generally focused directly around the actions of Raz and his companions. It will be interesting to see if the sequel (the promised 5th book is coming soon!) opens the world up more for exploration or maintains the narrow focus.

The series is sold, in part, as ‘dark fantasy’ and there are certainly some pretty dark parts in the books, though it is rare that the darker/violent moments felt like window dressing as opposed to intrinsic to the plot. There are times where it does dip into the unbelievable with some aspects of how the violence plays out, but it never drove me off the more powerful urge to read just one more chapter. The series is definitely a page-turner that had me looking forward to reading more while I was doing other things throughout the day.

The whole series weighs in at around 1700 pages so far, with at least one more book on the way. It’s a series worth checking out, especially if you like narrowly focused action-filled fantasy. Get the first four books for $0.99!

The Ixan Prophecies Trilogy by Scott Bartlett

The Ixan Prophecies Trilogy begins with Supercarrier, a book I got through Prime Reading and decided to give a chance because I like big spaceships shooting at each other. I didn’t anticipate a truly fascinating piece of world-building accompanied by shades of religion, prophecy, questions of the dangers of unfettered capitalism, and more.

The crew of a supercarrier that some believe is obsolete get thrust into a major conflict that may endanger the whole human race. Does that sound familiar? Maybe a little bit like Battlestar Galactica? I thought that too, but I didn’t anticipate the way that Bartlett would throw much bigger questions as well as a group of fascinating alien species at me to accompany what initially felt like a tried-and-true plot formula. The series continued to evolve throughout the second book, Juggernaut, and came to a satisfying conclusion with the third book, Reckoning. The possibility for more works was left open, and I was pleased to see Bartlett has put out more books.

At times, the actions of the crew were a little bit strange to me, particularly on a vessel that is run with military efficiency. The amount of questioning orders and second-guessing command decisions was a bit more than I tend to think necessary in fiction (admittedly, I have absolutely no idea how things go in the real military other than secondhand reports, so maybe I’m in the wrong here). The battle sequences are a delight. The aliens are interesting, often in ways that were unexpected. I love running into ideas for aliens that feel genuinely original, and Bartlett offered more than one in this series.

The Ixan Prophecies trilogy is definitely worth your time if you are into military sci-fi or like science fiction with interesting aliens. My complaints are minor enough to recommend the series for your reading. Additionally, Bartlett is super engaged through social media and his fantastic newsletter. I love when authors engage with readers, and Bartlett definitely meets that desire. Check out the first book, Supercarrier, for a low price (varying).

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 6: “Descent of Angels” by Michael Scanlon

I know I’m late to the party, but I finally decided to start reading the “Horus Heresy,” a huge series of novels set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (though it is set much earlier than the year 40,000). I thought it would be awesome to blog the series as I go. With more than 50 novels and many, many short stories, there will be a lot of posts in this series (I doubt I’ll get to all the short stories). I’m reading the series in publication order unless otherwise noted. There will be SPOILERS from the books discussed as well as previous books in the series. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books in the series.

Descent of Angels by Michael Scanlon

I went into reading Descent of Angels not quite knowing what to expect. In one group I’m in, opinions ranged from saying it was among the worst books in the whole WH40K universe to having it as the favorite book in the Horus Heresy series. Reviews on Goodreads put it just over 3/5, reflecting a generally mixed opinion as well. My own opinion is that the book could have easily been a short story instead of a novel.

In Descent of Angels, we meet Zahariel, a man from Caliban, a planet that is kind of Middle Ages in technology and thought. The book is set decades before the Horus Heresy begins and also introduces the Primarch of the Dark Angels legion. The first half has some background story for Caliban, developing the world somewhat as well as the traditions in which Zahariel is raised. The second half integrates Caliban into the Imperium and sees Zahariel going off to join the Dark Angels and fight for the Emperor.

The problems with the novel mostly fall around the way it is written. It just doesn’t have the same feel as other Warhammer 40K or Horus Heresy novels, in my opinion. There’s action, yes, but it all feels kind of strange and almost alien to the main plot, which is basically a coming-of-age story that unites sci-fi/fantasy worlds together. The whole thing reads more like a Star Wars novel than a Warhammer one, and that threw me off for basically the entirety of the novel. Moreover, there are numerous sections of info-dumps where the reader sifts through tens of pages of information before getting to any additional action or character development. Truly, this could have been presented as a short story telling us about Caliban’s integration into the Imperium, and it would have been much improved.

Descent of Angels is a disappointing work in the series. I’ll be interested to see if it truly becomes important later in the series. For now, I would have to say I’m not planning to re-read it. What did you think of the novel?

Links

Reading the Horus Heresy– Read along with me in the Horus Heresy and see all my reviews of the books.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

“How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi

Discussions of racism often get bogged down in disputes over definitions and intent. Ibram X. Kendi’s recent book How to be an Antiracist helps clear some of the fog around racism and antiracism by providing clear definitions as well as clear steps to take to combat racism.

Race, as Kendi defines it, is “a power construct of collected or merged difference that lives socially” (35) and racists are those who support racist policies while those who are antiracist support antiracist policies. Kendi’s definitions, as noted elsewhere, are expansive: any idea that there are things better or worse about a racial group is an example of racism, and we can act in either racist or antiracist ways–there is not neutral ground in the in-between.

Kendi then surveys numerous ways that racism and antiracism play out in public and private spheres. These chapters are extremely important because they show the simplicity with which we can identify racism when we cut through the attempts to dance around the topic. Biological racism, for example, is something someone does when they are “expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully different in their biology and that these differences create a hierarchy of value” (44). Ideas about bodies can also lead to racism, and someone who is bodily racist is “One who is perceiving certain racialized bodies as more animal-like and violent than others” (69). Kendi’s note of what it means to be antiracist in specific ways is uniquely helpful as it helps readers to instantly identify ways to counteract racist ideas. Regarding bodily racism, for example, the bodily antiracist is “One who is humanizing, deracializing, and individualizing nonviolent and violent behavior” (ibid). Thus, if someone refers to the behavior of a black man as exemplifying how young black men are “thugs” or attributes behavior to someone who is “acting white,” they are acting in ways that are bodily racist (and possibly biologically racist as well).

Racism goes beyond identifying bodily differences and also extends into cultural beliefs: cultural racism is the act of making one culture the standard and then imposing a hierarchy of value based on cultural backgrounds (81). Kendi notes the intense importance of attributing behavior to individuals rather than groups. Making an individual’s behavior determinate that of a group or making individuals responsible for whole racial groups is an example of behavioral racism (92). Kendi notes how color has been used to create inequities between light people and dark people, supported by racist ideas (107ff). Charges that Kendi is operating with some new or recent definition of racism and innovating in ways that are not found historically are dispelled when one looks at his use of sources, reaching back to scholars like W.E.B. Du Bois who already noted the ways in which colorism and similar ideas were deeply integrated into racial discrimination and pushing inequity based on race.

Kendi also does not fall into the trap of ignoring how racism can be based upon any color or perceived difference. Thus, he acknowledges that there is such a thing as Anti-white racism (122-135) and that it is a mistake to say that it is mistaken to claim that a group cannot be racist because they lack power (136ff). Kendi’s consistency on this point immediately undercuts many of the objections people make when discussing racism on a critical level.

Economics itself can be pressed into the service of racist ideas when one racializes the classes or supports policies that they justify by racist ideas based upon class (151). Additionally, racializing spaces and encouraging racial inequity based upon what spaces people are allowed to inhabit or visit continues to be a serious problem. Sexuality and gender can each play into racism as well, and Kendi surveys how they can be used together to create inequalities.

The book is filled with anecdotes, citations of studies, and citations of major historical voices to back up each claim. It’s a fascinating look at how we might work together to combat racism in all of its shifting forms. Perhaps most vitally, though, it also serves as a wake up call to how to identify many of these different forms of racism. How to Be an Antiracist is an incredibly valuable resource that I recommend to readers.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Presidential Biographies: Grover Cleveland #22 and #24

My quest to read (at least) one biography per President continues with Grover Cleveland, the twenty-second and (!!) twenty-fourth President of the United States. The biography I chose with my selectio n process (reading reviews online and utilizing and this website- My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies) is The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland by Richard E. Welch, Jr.

Here, I’ll offer my thoughts on that biography, and proceed to present my official ranking for the DEFINITIVE RANKING OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES!!!!!! The full list of the rankings with all the Presidents as well as comments on their careers, updated as I read through this list, may be found here.

The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland by Richard E. Welch, Jr.

The Presidenceis of Grover Cleveland is a dry, condensed look specifically at Cleveland’s presidencies. It doesn’t give a fuller account of his life beyond a few details of his early life, so, like the biography, we’ll focus here on his actual presidencies.

Cleveland was essentially an example of political conservatism of his time writ large. How this was applied, however, can appear somewhat inconsistent and even callous from the outside. Perhaps the most extreme example of the latter is his veto of a bill to provide starving Texas farmers with free seed to replant after a severe drought. Welch, Jr. notes that the reason for this was Cleveland consistently held to blocking any use of the government and its money for private gains. He was worried about the possibility of the government becoming something for individuals to rely on rather than pulling themselves up by their bootstrings (80-81, see also 14). So whether it was big lumber barons trying to get tax subsidies or private farmers trying to avoid starvation or bankruptcy, Cleveland blocked all assistance. It is difficult to see how this is a decent or laudable policy, though some today would hold it is, but it is one of the consistencies of Cleveland throughout his career.

There is no question Cleveland was a racist when it came to his feelings and dealings with both the newly freed African Americans and the Native Americans. Regarding the former, he made numerous racist comments in which he reveals his (common at the time) belief that Afircan Americans would not be efficient or effective. He did appoint a few black Americans to public offices, but did so in a condescending and inconsistent fashion, and even held the belief that it was the former enslavers who would “take care of” the freed black Americans rather than having the government intervene to do so. He did the bare minimum to defend African Americans in voting rights or getting appointments, and no more. Regarding Native Americans, Cleveland heavily favored an assimilation which would force Native peoples to give up their rights and practices in favor of conforming to the cultural standards of the white Americans. Though this was a more moderate approach than direct, active genocide, nonetheless it was an attempt to continue cultural genocide and forced assimilation–a policy that would continue well beyond Cleveland.

Cleveland also demonstrated the tendency of virtually everyone who claims to affirm “state’s rights” to do so inconsistently. Though he gave lip service to state’s rights, he also ignored state governments when it came to strike breaking, unsurprisingly sending federal troops in to force strikes to end, taking the side of the corporations and train industries over the workers and even over the protests of state governors (147).  This and other examples (such as his fight over the silver/gold standard) demonstrate Cleveland’s strange legacy of disavowing the power of the government while actively expanding it beyond what it had been.

Regarding foreign policy, Cleveland approached it with the same attitude he felt in other areas, essentially seeing the United States as morally superior to other countries, which then meant that he distrusted the representatives of other, less ethically superior countries (199). This led to any number of poor policy decisions in foreign policy as well as alienating people in South America and beyond (see, eg, 67).

Cleveland’s legacy is somewhat difficult to evaluate due to the radical divergence in historical analysis of his Presidencies. Welch, Jr. manages to sort through some of the fog surrounding his legacy in his The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland, which I would rate as a fair, but not excellent biography.

Grover Cleveland’s Original Ranking in THE DEFINITIVE RANKING OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES (Full and Updated List Here)

Grover Cleveland (22nd and 24th President – Original Ranking #12)- Grover Cleveland was an ambitious politician who largely stuck to his conservatism, despite his apparent inconsistency looking in from the outside. His apparent callousness might be seen by some as consistency of conservative principles. His attempts to continue reform of the public offices stirred up vicious opposition to his presidencies. Ever a friend of the status quo, it is difficult to see how this may have harmed or benefited the United States even more than a hundred years later. His legacy is uneven, but also largely free of the worst of all moral failings, despite some examples. His intense belief in the superiority of America and Americanism is another part of his legacy, whether that includes the attempts to forcibly assimilate Native Americans (seen by many at the time as a reform–and it was, compared to actively genocidal policies) or his relations with other countries, Cleveland was an example of a President who truly tried to put America First, for better or ill, and to do so in a way that left each person to themselves. Additionally, Cleveland essentially expanded government authority despite his disavowal of the same.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.