They Want to Kill Americans is a wide-ranging investigation into the movements that coalesced into the January 6th insurrection and their continuing efforts to take over the government, preferably, it seems, by force. They are unified in their white nationalist disdain for nonwhite Americans and their demand for unlimited personal freedom through an authoritarian government that oppresses, perhaps genocides, everyone else.
It’s an ugly story, but all too true. This is a book that will scare you. It scared me and I am someone who is not prone to conspiracies, thinking, like Hanlon, that incompetence and ignorance are more likely than malice when things go awry. But not this time. There really was a conspiracy that resulted in January 6th and that conspiracy continues.
Nance is a former intelligence analyst which means he is trained to write clearly with well-organized material leading to a shared understanding. He does it well. The book is as coherant an explanation of the Trump insurgency then and now as you will find. Of course, coming from that background makes him a clear communicator in many ways, but also makes him reliant on acronyms, addicted might be a better word. He created an acronym for the Trump Insurance in the United States (TITUS) but really, why couldn’t he just write Trump Insurgency? How many times did I have to go back to the introduction to remind myself what TITUS meant? I don’t know. But it was a lot. I began to feel a twitch of irritation every time I saw that acronym.
I valued the information I gleaned from They Want to Kill Americans. Yes, it scared me. We need to be scared because we need to act to preserve our democracy. And that leads to my biggest criticism of the book. There are 320 pages in this book and about 10 deal with what we can do to stop it. And even then, most of them are deemed likely to fail and inadequate. I mean, we are straying into learned helplessness now. You can’t scare people like this without offering more hope or they will just shut down, stop watching the news, and wait for democracy to die.
There are things we can do. We can vote in every election. We can care about who is on the school board, town council, and in the statehouse. We can run for office. We can take back our democracy. We can purge the armed forces and law enforcement of anyone belonging to groups advocating force or violence. So, if there is a second edition, I want Mr. Nance to spend a tenth of the book on solutions. Otherwise, readers will despair and despair will end democracy just as quickly as armed insurgency.
I received an ARC of They Want to Kill Americans from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.