Humanities Washington Lectures: True Stories Full of Excitement, Intrigue, Hope & Forgiveness

Posted on February 9, 2022 at 6:00 am

By Dana Mannino

If I were going to write a prescription for my pandemic-weary soul, I would pen it for some excitement, intrigue, hope, and reconciliation. One way to experience these is to be safely transported to another time and place by a skilled storyteller. The library has two such experiences for you.

Excitement & Intrigue

Matthew Avery Sutton
Ph: Humanities WA

WSU professor Matthew Avery Sutton’s book Double Crossed: The Missionaries Who Spied for the United States During the Second World War is a fabulous work of nonfiction. I’ve read about a third of it so far. The library has multiple copies available for check out.

Sutton brings to life the history of missionaries, priests, and rabbis who repurposed their skills to carry out espionage, assassinations, and bombings during WWII. Some of these operatives went on to play a role in establishing the institution what we now know as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

This spy narrative with unlikely protagonists makes for a thoroughly engrossing escape of a read.

Sutton’s work is very accessible, and I appreciate the opportunity to ponder big, over-arching questions as well as poignant, specific questions, such as:

  • What does it do to a person to transition from preaching to committing morally compromising acts?
  • How did these individuals justify the change to themselves?
  • What role has religion played in the founding of important American institutions?
  • Has this shaped the way Americans see their role in the world?

If those questions sound fascinating, you won’t want to miss Sutton’s virtual visit:

Double Crossed: The American Missionary Spies of WWII
Wednesday, Feb 16, 7–8:30pm | REGISTER

Sutton discusses the research that went into Double Crossed and will take questions from the audience. Whether you have read the book or not, this evening will draw you into a dramatic and thought-provoking story from the WWII era—just the sort of non-COVID excitement and intrigue we need.

Related reads

Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of the Men and Women of World War II’s OSS, by Patrick K. O’Donnell

MacArthur’s Spies: The Soldier, the Singer, and the Spymaster Who Defied the Japanese in World War II, by Peter Eisner

Return to the Reich: A Holocaust Refugee’s Secret Mission to Defeat the Nazis, by Eric Lichtblau

Hope & Reconciliation

Rais Bhuiyan Ph: Humanities WA

Like me, I bet many are suffering from conflict fatigue. It seems like lately I can’t start a conversation without tripping on a disagreement or stepping on a landmine of indignation and outrage.

I keep asking myself: How can we heal? How do we put ourselves back together?

Fortunately, an expert in forgiveness and reconciliation will be visiting the library for a virtual program soon.

In 2001, Rais Bhuiyan was shot in the face in a hate crime directed at perceived Arabs and Muslims. Bhuiyan lost the sight in his right eye, and 35 pellets remain embedded in the right side of his skull and face. Yet despite this very devastating attack, Bhuiyan publicly forgave his attacker and fought to prevent his eventual execution.

Bhuiyan’s story has been documented in the 2015 book True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas, by Anand Giridharadas, and in the 2016 documentary Eye for an Eye, by filmmaker Ilan Ziv.

Bhuiyan’s virtual visit to the library sparks so many questions about hope, reconciliation, and his experiences:

  • How did he cope with the anger he must have felt in the immediate aftermath of the shooting?
  • After making the decision to publicly forgive his attacker, did he still sometimes feel anger?
  • What about his friends and family? Did their anger live on past his?
  • Did he ever feel alone as he transitioned from anger to forgiveness and peace?
  • Does he think reconciliation is always possible, or only sometimes?

You can hear Bhuiyan share his story, and maybe ask your own questions, during his virtual lecture:

One Second of Hate: A Story of Forgiveness
Thursday, Mar 10, 7–8:30pm | REGISTER

Related reads

The Gift of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories from Those Who Have Overcome the Unforgivable, by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt

High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out, by Amanda Ripley

No Future Without Forgiveness, by Desmond Mpilo Tutu

Winter can be a difficult season during the best of times. If, like me, you need a little excitement amidst the gray, I hope you will attend these lectures. And perhaps, like what is shared in these true stories, we can make it through difficult times with equal parts grace and grit.

Both of these virtual programs are presented in partnership with Humanities Washington.

Librarian Dana Mannino

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