The Undertow: Scenes From a Slow Civil War

Journalist Jeff Sharlet has covered religion and the far right for two decades. In his latest book, The Undertow: Scenes From a Slow Civil War, he outlines a new era in “the Trumpocene” – an age of martyrs and civil war. He describes a cross-country road trip he made among Trump supporters, election deniers, white supremacists, so-called “Incels,” militant Christians, and more, looking for the American soul. What he finds is a “haunting” of the ghost of Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old woman shot and killed while storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Sharlet describes how Babbitt has become “a powerful symbol” for the far right, and one the rest of Americans ignore at their peril.

The Age of Martyrs
Sharlet outlines how those on the far right have manipulated the memory of slain Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt to become “a martyr of the revolution.” Yet the real Babbitt is almost unrecognizable from the symbol of white Christian womanhood she has become.

“How Do You Know I Don’t Have a Gun?”
During a visit to an Omaha, Neb. church preparing for a holy war, Sharlet was threatened and forced off both church and public property at the point of a gun. He said the moment was pivotal for him as a writer and an American. When a church usher asks him, “How do you know I don’t have a gun?” Sharlet says this “has become the American question.”

Goodnight, Irene
Finally, Sharlet traces the signposts of fascism found in this new “age of martyrs” and offers a roadmap that may avert the “slow civil war.”

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