From the Left



Writing About a World That Is Turning Upside-Down (2019-2022): Columns, Books and Perpetual Deadlines

Luis Martinez-Fernandez on

After writing seven history books, tired of almost three decades of manuscript deadlines hanging over my head, in 2019, I felt an urgency to repurpose my pen to write regular opinion columns on a wide range of contemporary national and global topics.

When I joined Creators Syndicate as an opinion columnist, I traded long-term deadlines for weekly ones: one column (of around 750 words) every Friday. But when I decided to collect my opinion columns into a book, I retained those Friday deadlines and, alas, reimposed on myself the long-term burden of yet another book manuscript deadline.

This week, however, I have found some respite, completing the very last changes and corrections to the manuscript of my new book, which I decided to title: "When the World Turned Upside Down"; and subtitle "Politics, Culture, and the Unimaginable Events of 2019-2022." It is scheduled for publication in mid-February and already available -- excuse the plug -- for preorder from Amazon and other online vendors.

"When the World Turned Upside Down" consists of 66 columns written between February of 2019 and December 2022. Together, they stand at the intersection of historical writing, opinion journalism and chronicling. Readers will recognize each of those modes of thinking and writing, which combined produce a synergy for a better understanding of historical and contemporary realities: the past illuminating the present and vice versa.

A professional historian for over three decades, I address domestic and global current events from my discipline's perspective, applying its standards of rigor and its research and analysis methodologies. These essays are informed by knowledge of the past but also the recognition that present-day preoccupations guide which historical topics we study, the questions we ask and even the conclusions we reach. Italian philosopher of history Benedetto Croce encapsulated these ideas succinctly when he wrote that "All history is contemporary history."


Rather than a sudden determination, my decision to become a columnist and write this book came about gradually, motivated by an alignment of momentous domestic and international developments, many of them previously unimaginable.

First, Donald Trump was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017. His first 24 hours as president set the tone for his administration: a dark inaugural speech ghostwritten by Steve Bannon, promising to deliver us from "carnage"; lies about the size of the crowd gathered at the National Mall "documented" with manipulated images by the ill-suited -- remember Sean Spicer? -- White House Press Secretary.


Trump's administration turned out to be the motherlode of raw material for late-night comedians and columnists alike: his antidemocratic antics; serial pathological lying -- The Washington Post tallied 30,573 lies and misleading statements -- appointments of unqualified, inept and often corrupt senior staff and cabinet members; orders to deploy troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and to incarcerate undocumented children; adulation of assassin world leaders -- need I say alleged? -- (Vladimir Putin, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Kim Jong-Un); unending self-enrichment schemes, the Big Lie, his two impeachments (not that unimaginable) and to top the list, his incitement to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The years 2019-2022 witnessed momentous world events, some of which motivated several of the book's opinion pieces. The COVID-19 pandemic; accelerated climate change producing massive forest fires in the Amazon, California and Australia and catastrophic floods in all continents (even Antarctica); rising authoritarianism and wholesale human and civil rights violations in China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Hungary, Belarus, Myanmar and elsewhere; violent suppression of protests in Hong Kong, Moscow, Havana and Tehran; Putin's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine starting in February 2022; and Ukraine's valiant and successful counteroffensive since September 2022.

The final product is a book whose essays paint a portrait of a pivotal, convulsed period of American and global history, a time when the world turned upside-down, years of unimaginable events. What can be more unimaginable than the Jan. 6 attempted coup, the overturn of the half-century entrenched Roe v Wade decision in 2022, serious discussions about the potential for a second U.S. Civil War and the prospect of a Third World War, which as Putin said on March 3, 2022, and reiterated on Sept. 20, will be nuclear -- God forbid.

There is plenty of raw material on the horizon to keep me busy writing opinion columns indefinitely (a 7 p.m. deadline every Friday). And as far as another book deadline, I am free for now. But as Dr. Phil likes to say, past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. You can stay tuned for book No. 9.


Luis Martinez-Fernandez is the author of "Revolutionary Cuba: A History" and the forthcoming book "When the World Turned Upside Down: Politics, Culture, and the Unimaginable Evenest of 2019-2022." Readers can reach him at To find out more about Luis Martinez-Fernandez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.

Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate Inc.




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