God, guns and guts

"America: The Book" probes the rotten core of U.S. history

Keri Carlson

If you haven’t heard it enough already, this is a divided country. And judging by the latest list of top-selling nonfiction, neither political side is willing to look at this country with a colorblind eye.

With Michael Moore on the left and Ann Coulter (author of “How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)”) on the right, both sides are using jabbing humor at the other party’s expense.

The left-leaning writers of “The Daily Show” have come to capitalize on all the pointing and name-calling. But

instead of playing the blame game, ” ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction” scrutinizes everybody!

Though Democrats, Republicans and third parties cannot escape its wrath, the book will be most offensive to the U.S.-flag wavers, Toby Keith listeners and believers of No Child Left Behind Act education.

Jon Stewart, with other “Daily Show” writers, destroys all textbook notions of “America the beautiful.” This deconstruction is perfectly executed by taking on the high school history book format. Complete with timelines, charts, and even discussion questions and classroom activities at the end of each chapter, the book exposes what school books “forgot” to include. Instead of the apple pie version of democracy, this book gives you the rotten core.

Of course, just like “The Daily Show,” the book makes the bitter taste sweet through humor. The biggest laughs come from the side boxes found throughout the book titled, “Were You Aware?” Example: “Plato did not originally want to call the Athenian form of citizen government ‘Democracy,’ but rather, ‘Plato ‘n’ Friends.’ “

But the book’s overall humor comes from its unmasking of U.S. myths: “Why no women, blacks or non-Christians have answered the founders’ challenge (for presidency) is a mystery, though most indications point to some inherent genetic flaw. (William Howard Taft came closest, having what most observers agreed were boobs).” Sure, it’s brash – extreme even – but is this any less truthful than textbooks? The history books do not simply encourage images of the United States as the land of opportunity and freedom; they turn the ideals into facts.

“America (the Book)” is a direct challenge to history writers and this country’s education system in general. “The Daily Show” posse says the problem does not stem from either Democrats or Republicans – everyone has taken a bite from the same poisoned apple. The problem seems to come from our egos. And though we might not be knocked off our high horse yet, we’re starting to lose grip on the reins.