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D’ale bra’ 141 t: ,*4 MCV W ilia/USW/ 1, Ohlhison ArT,,t N4,1;0101’7, hit symbol that guards the town and announces: no minorities. No gays. No pinkos. No “other” of any kind. Nothing that ever changes the way we are or the way we think, and that’s always to obey God, our commander in chief to go to work, perhaps in the chemical factories, and never to question anything that goes on there, either. He spends time honing in on racial hatred in America, especially as directed toward Muslims, and examines the underlying fuel for such vitriol and violence, exploring the way that differences in faith act to generalize this kind of racial tension: It wasn’t that Muslims were simply the new American “niggers,” the most hated and feared of minorities, for fear of blacks has… most often been individualized for non-blacks, as captured by the Willie Horton stereotype of the black man who will rape or rob a single white personnot a group of black men who would fly planes into towers. From here, having laid a strong foundation, Maharidge moves the argument toward a comparison of our American moment with that of Weimar Germany, training his easy, accessible narrative to serve a heavy, frightening rhetoric with considerable success. He only undercuts his argument when, in a quest to sound measured, he repeatedly asks his reader to “take Hitler out of the main picture and look at the history.” I wonder: Can we take Hitler out of the main picture and still look at the history? I don’t know. I don’t think Maharidge knows, either. Thus, these waters are muddied from the start. Taken as a whole, the narratives in Homeland teach us about ourselves and allow us to begin to understand those whom we might otherwise have little desire or willingness to understand: white supremacists, people storming mosques. One of the most complicated and subtle anecdotes comes late in the book, as Maharidge, on the streets of New York City, follows a group called ANSWER, an amalgam of left-leaning activists, as they march in protest on the eve of the war with Afghanistan. As he follows, he chronicles the near-violent reaction the group receives from people on the street. At one point Maharidge finds himself in the crossfire as a Latino bystander begins shouting at an older Latino activist. “Fucking bomb em!” the younger man screams, and the activist yells back, “Lower class Hispanics are going to war, brother!” Later, after the two men engage in a conversation about capitalism, Maharidge takes a moment to talk to each of them. The activist was certain he’d made headway with the other, younger Latino, saying, “Yeah, he understands?’ Yet, when Maharidge asks him, the younger man admits he didn’t understand a word the man had said. When Maharidge points out to the Latino activist that he’d seen no working class marchers, and asks how they will reach the working class, the man says, “We will engage them in dialogue.” “How?” Maharidge asks. The man answers, “Like we’re doing now?’ Homeland reads like a novel at times, with clear narrative and a nicely omnipotent narrator. Maharidge is especially gifted in the art of listeninghis most convincing arguments, as well as his most disturbing, are those that come from the mouths of people he interviews. Each of the four books that compromise Homeland are separated by short sections called “News Diaries.” These stand in stark contrast to the rest of the book, sometimes reading like hate mail, sometimes like bad slam poetry: Atlas didn’t shrug Atlas kicked ass and when Atlas spoke everyone listened Essentially the News Diaries act as confessionals, moments when we’re allowed to see the internal angst of the field reporter. And while many of the images therein serve nicely as snapshots of an America confused, overall the Diaries are a distraction. Furthermore, though the photo essay by Michael Williamson, which begins the book, is certainly haunting, the photos only rarely serve Maharidge’s text, and are at worst confusing, illuminating specific scenes never mentioned in the text. Simply put, what’s most remarkable about Homeland is its tone: There’s both a passion and a distance to the author’s reporting that is both honorable and honest. He drives his point home with humanity, not with vitriol. Toward the end of the book, Maharidge subtly and eloquently sums up his journalistic philosophy as he explains why he’s never visited the World Trade Center site: I tell my students to practice “Star Trek” journalism,” that is, go where no one else is going. Not only is it a waste to be one of the pack; what is happening off to the side is often the best story. Indeed, after 9/11 the entire rest of the United States was suddenly off to the side, a great din roiling under the too-loud voices of shock-jocks and home-spun stories of patriotism. It’s a good thing for us Dale Maharidge went there, and listened. Carrie Fountain is a poet and freelance writer living in Austin. 9/10/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25