C-SPAN’s Book TV is airing a talk I gave at the New York Public Library in February about the historical trajectory of Hezbollah in the context of the rising tide of Arab revolutions. As change-fever spreads across the Arab world, we’ll begin to see answers emerging to the fundamental questions I explore here: What shape will revolutionary politics take as they’re institutionalized in a newly dynamic Arab political space? How will Hezbollah’s rejectionist “Resistance Axis” fare once it has to compete in the marketplace of ideas with a real alternative?
Last weekend I gave a talk at McIntyre’s Fine Books in Fearrington Village, near my hometown of Chapel Hill. Fearrington Village is known locally for its Belties, a characteristic species of striped cow. They made a fine audience when I described my encounters with Hezbollah. Later, after I ate shrimp and grits then took a meandering run through Fearrington’s retirement condos, the Belties were still there waiting, patient and bovine, by the bookshop. Very affirming, serene creatures.
My first appearance in Boston is coming up this Saturday as part of the Boston Book Fair. Noah Feldman from Harvard Law is moderating a panel called “Global Hot Spot: the Middle East’ featuring Nir Rosen, Haleh Esfandiari, and me.
I hope to see all my Boston-area friends at noon on Saturday at the Trinity Church Forum, 206 Clarendon Street, Boston.
As I’d hoped, my mother thought my talks in Chapel Hill and Fearrington Village were excellent. She found me very articulate. There were some other, perhaps more unexpected, surprises on the homecoming leg of my book tour. My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Greenlund, led an intimidating phalanx of educators from my past (among them Ms. Brooks; Mr. Baldwin; Profs. Kramer, Gingher, and Betts).
And I got to go on what for me is the original public radio station: WUNC. You can hear the segment with The State of Things host Frank Stasio here. (Thanks, Amber!) North Carolina provided the perfect venue to explore the remarkable tactical parallels between Hezbollah’s approach to social organization and the rise of evangelical mega-churches. I don’t mean to stretch the comparison too far, but my encounters with evangelical movements in North Carolina showed me an early, effective model that paired social activities with religious educations, proselytizing with community service, and faith with political activism.
I’m returning to my old stomping grounds this week to visit my mother and while I’m at it, to talk about Hezbollah in Chapel Hill, Durham and Fearrington Village. These appearances complete a circle.
The last time I was in Chapel Hill as a working journalist was in 1996, as editor of The Daily Tar Heel, muckraking about developers, the BCC, the mayor’s race, NIMBY soccer moms, and “town-gown relations” (who came up with that horrifying cliche?).
Now I’m back doing the same thing, at somewhat greater length and I hope with a sharper capacity to entertain. The subjects aren’t all that different: Islamism, guerilla war, Middle Eastern politics, NIMBY soccer moms, and “Arab-Israeli relations.”
7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 7, Flyleaf Bookshop, Chapel Hill.
7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 8, Regulator Bookshop, Durham.
11 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 9, McIntyre’s Fine Books, Fearrington Village.
I’ll have two public events in Washington, DC. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you at either one. I’ll report back here on the Elliott Abrams panel, which will be live webcast at the CAP website.
5 p.m., SUNDAY, October 3: Politics & Prose (5015 Connecticut Avenue NW).
12 p.m., Thursday, September 30: Center for American Progress (1333 H Street NW). Brian Katulis moderates a discussion between me an Elliott Abrams from the Council on Foreign Relations.
I plan to write about the moderated conversation with Elliott Abrams, Brian Katulis and me on Thursday, but I wanted immediately to put up the video of the event, from the Center for American Progress website. You can watch it below or on their site.
Monday night marked my first public presentation as a published author. Lots of friends, family, former students, and even a healthy contingent of people I’ve never met came to the Half King in Chelsea to hear about A Privilege to Die. We sold out of books, and one of my standout graduate students informed me that when I talk about Hezbollah “it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than hearing you talk in class.”
Thanks to everyone who came.
A Privilege to Die officially releases today. (Yesterday was the soft launch.) If you’re in the area, I hope you can make it:
7 p.m., Tuesday, September 28: Barnes & Noble, Upper West Side (82nd and Broadway). I’ll talk about the book and take questions.
7 p.m., Monday, September 27: The Half King Bar & Restaurant (505 W. 23rd St.). Eat, drink and ask questions about the book. We’ll stay afterward and enjoy the bar’s offerings.