Satan in America: The Devil We Know, W. Scott Poole, Rowan and Littlefield Publishing, bibliographic essays, 242 pp., index, $39.95
The Preface: 'Night Stalker': American Exceptionalism and the Reality of Evil, ix-xxiv.
There is not much connective tissue among Poole's generalizations. Poole slides from Richard Ramirez (Night Stalker of the mid-1980s), to he Pequot War of colonial Massachusetts, on to the Philippine Insurrection at the turn of the century, and then winds up at the MyLai Massacre of 1968. Poole believes that war and serial killers are synonymous. "The American nation is not alone in perpetuating evil," he states. Moral evil is the substance of the human experience and humanity's tendency to destroy. For Poole, history and culture stands in contradiction to each other. History does not allow humanity to stand apart from the reality of evil but the contemporary white, suburban American culture's goal is to isolate individuals from pain and the awareness of pain. History is at war with culture.
To explain this struggle Poole relies on Sigmund Freud's vast but disputed generalizations and ipso facto declarations. Monotheism created Satan; white, American culture has embraced monotheism; white American culture has created Satan. "The study of American history is not the story of . . . the devil's decline into invisibility. Rather, is is a study of his ascent." The image of Satan is integral to all aspects of American culture. (xv)
Poole states that 'radical evil has been part of America's collective history.' Slavery, territorial expansion, the Mexican War, the variety of wars with the Native Americans are indicative of a serpent that 'coils at the root' of American liberty tree. Racism, sexism and classism are the works of the 'conservative forces with American society'. (xvii)
Poole ranks evil countries; 1. Nazi Germany, 2. Stalinist Russia, 3. America. The United States' understanding of its own evil has been clouded by mythology structured by religion. (xx) 'A culture gets the devil it deserves,' states Poole. American leaders have marginalized groups and views them as being Satanic. (xxi) Also, a belief in Satan correlates with a restriction of civil liberties. (xxii) 'America is the fallen angel that never knew it fell,' states Poole. (xxii) So, Poole sees America as the fallen angel, Lucifer, Satan.
Man, I am glad W. Scott Poole did not disguise or hide his interpretative framework. Now, Satan in America can be read in light of its own prejudice. CWL turns to the first chapter and wonders: Is Lucifer a victim of America too? Was Saddam and the Ayatollah right?