In the spring of 1970, just after the shootings at Kent State, Newsweek magazine asked six historians to answer a single question: “What ails the American spirit?” Lepore revisits that moment, and the decades since, to argue that American politics—and American political discourse—has been seized by the rhetoric, and the do-or-die urgency, of matters of life and death. Jill Lepore is a professor of American history at Harvard Univesity and chair of Harvard’s History and Literature Program. She is a contributing writer at the New Yorker. Her book New York Burning:Liberty, Slavery and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (Knopf 2005) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history. Her most recent book is The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History (Princeton University Press 2010).