The former mayor of Charlottesville delivers a vivid, first-person chronicle of the terror and mayhem of the August 2017 "Unite the Right" event, and shows how issues of extremism are affecting not just one city but the nation itself.
The deadly invasion of Charlottesville, Virginia, by white nationalist militias in August 2017 is a microcosm of the challenges facing American democracy today. In his first-person account of one of recent American history's most polarizing events, Michael Signer, then Charlottesville's mayor, both tells the story of what really happened and draws out its larger significance.
Signer's gripping, strikingly candid "you are there" narrative sets the events on the ground - the lead-up to August's "Unite the Right" rally, the days of the weekend itself, the aftermath - in the larger context of a country struggling to find its way in a disruptive new era. He confronts some of the most challenging questions of our moment, namely how can we:
- Reconcile free speech with the need for public order?
- Maintain the values of pragmatism, compromise, even simple civility, in a time of intensification of extremes on the right and the left?
- Address systemic racism through our public spaces and memorials?
- Provide accountability after a crisis?
While Signer shows how easily our communities can be taken hostage by forces intent on destroying democratic norms and institutions, he concludes with a stirring call for optimism, revealing how the tragic events of Charlottesville are also bolstering American democracy from within.
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"Mike Signer does something remarkable in Cry Havoc. He takes responsibility. With candor and integrity, he describes his actions, his omissions, his ambitions, and his limits as a mayor in the midst of a consuming public crisis. This book will make every reader ask, 'What would I do? What choices would I make?' And it will make every reader a more wise and skillful citizen." (Eric Liu, CEO, Citizen University and author of You're More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen's Guide to Making Change Happen)
"A report from the frontlines of Trump's America. Polarization, race, politicized memory, violence, and good-willed efforts of citizens and politicians to navigate it all. Mike Signer gives us his on-the-ground view of 'Charlottesville under siege' revealing the deep vulnerabilities and promise of American democracy." (Daniel Ziblatt, Harvard University, coauthor of How Democracies Die)
"Incredibly compelling. Cry Havoc connects a richly detailed personal story of local politics with national trends that should scare us all." (P. W. Singer, author of LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media)
"Former Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, in providing an account of the tribulations in the lead-up to and aftermath of the Unite the Right rally, demonstrates the pain and struggle of a community defending itself from hate and constructing a collective path together toward a vision of belonging. He also offers an intimate glimpse into what it takes to carry the immense weight of responsibility and accountability to the public amid such turbulence. In doing so, Signer gives his readers firsthand insight into the necessary conflict that is at the heart of true bridging. But that through compassion, faith, and commitment to one another, extremism can be overcome toward a broad expansion of the circle of human concern." (John A. Powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair & Inclusive Society, University of California, Berkeley)