I spent the early hours of Bloomsday — happy Bloomsday, all, especially you, stately plump Buck Mulligan — riven with insomnia, so I took the chance to catch up on some reading. First, Michelle Goldberg’s closer look at Michele Bachmann as something other than comic relief. Although lord knows, you have to laugh. First, a scene-setter with Bachmann at a 2005 town-hall meeting, and what happened when two lesbians tried to have a conversation with the congressional candidate:
A few dozen people showed up at the town hall for the April 9 event, and Bachmann greeted them warmly. But when, during the question and answer session, the topic turned to gay marriage, Bachmann ended the meeting 20 minutes early and rushed to the bathroom. Hoping to speak to her, Arnold and another middle-aged woman, a former nun, followed her. As Bachmann washed her hands and Arnold looked on, the ex-nun tried to talk to her about theology. Suddenly, after less than a minute, Bachmann let out a shriek. “Help!” she screamed. “Help! I’m being held against my will!”
Arnold, who is just over 5 feet tall, was stunned, and hurried to open the door. Bachmann bolted out and fled, crying, to an SUV outside. Then she called the police, saying, according to the police report, that she was “absolutely terrified and has never been that terrorized before as she had no idea what those two women were going to do to her.”
GOP front-runner! Yes!
Actually, a more useful response is not to mock. Dave Weigel points out that it’s far wiser to look closer and try to figure out where she got so many of her crazy ideas. Like the one about the slave-owning founding fathers “working tirelessly” to end slavery. That one comes from a man she describes as an intellectual mentor, John Eidsmoe, a professor at the law school at Oral Roberts University, and yes, they have one there:
In books by Eidsmoe and others who approach history from what they call a Christian worldview, this is a truism. Despite his defense of the Confederacy, Eidsmoe also argues that even those founders who owned slaves opposed the institution and wanted it to disappear, and that it was only Christian for them to protect their slaves until it did. “It might be very difficult for a freed slave to make a living in that economy; under such circumstances setting slaves free was both inhumane and irresponsible,” he wrote.
Weigel notes there’s always a market for historical revisionism, and he’s right about that. Particularly for those who backed history’s losing horses, it’s always nice to see, a few years down the road, a critical re-examination of the race that shows your horse was misunderstood, or slipped a mickey in the saddling area, or whatever. You could almost argue that history is revisionism, that no one has a monopoly on truth, and that when you look at things with different eyes, a story looks different. But whether facts do or do not equal truth, this seems a stretch.
Off-topic, but via Ta-Nehisi Coates, a few notes on Shelby Foote’s own peculiar historical myopia.
Then I read, or reread, having skimmed it earlier in the evening, an ex-CIA guy’s account of how the Bush administration requested the agency go after Juan Cole, the University of Michigan scholar and influential Middle East blogger who rose to prominence as one of the most well-informed critics of the Iraq war and related fiascos. I was struck by this passage:
Professor Cole said he would have been a disappointing target for the White House. “They must have been dismayed at what a boring life I lead,” he said.
I don’t doubt it. Cole was one of our seminar speakers the year I spent in Ann Arbor, and my overwhelming impression is that he was a college professor right out of Central Casting’s nerd closet, a multilingual wonk whose idea of fun was to stay up all night reading al-Jazeera and other Arab and Israeli news sources in the original languages. In fact, after that year, when I was doing a brief job tryout at Minnesota Public Radio, I suggested him as a guest for a morning news show. The producer said she’d asked before, and that he declined all live interviews before lunchtime, as he slept late after his overnight web perambulations, and couldn’t be articulate at an early hour.
But I also don’t doubt the administration would do such a thing, either. He was pretty relentless. I bet Cheney was behind that one.
By then I was feeling rather sour, so I read my old college pal Mark’s project, in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, on military suicides. Very grim. Suicide is now the leading cause of death among active-duty personnel. Not what you’d call a day-brightener, and by now daylight was only a couple of hours away.
So I slept a little. Still, I could use something silly at the moment. Time to stop by Cute Overload, where they did not disappoint. A kitten video! Yay.
This is the very last, final, no-more-after-today day of school. Yesterday was a half day, today was a half day. Why not have one last full day and call it a year? Dunno. You’d have to ask an administrator. The only event of the day is yearbook distribution and the talent show, and from now until the day after Labor Day, I am free to sleep until I feel like not sleeping, which I estimate will be 45 extra minutes a day. My nature is to be an early riser, and even sleep deprivation doesn’t really get in the way of that. Dammit.
I keep meaning to change the nightstand book to “Game of Thrones,” which I just finished reading on the iPad. Despite my oft-mentioned distaste for fantasy fiction, I have to say, it’s worth the trip. Not a lot of style in the prose, but the plot makes up for it. As an introduction to e-reading it’s a little frustrating, as the technology doesn’t accommodate my flip-around style, but I’m getting used to it. My sister has taken to her Christmas-gift Kindle like a duck to water, and now reports paper books get on her nerves. Not so much with me, but she has a six-month jump on me. And for those of you who are watching the series, I can only say, DO NOT MISS THE FINALE SUNDAY. You won’t believe the cliffhanger. Or maybe you will. The foreshadowing’s been there all along, but even I was wowed.
OK, at nine minutes to quitting time, I’m slapping some frosting on this misbegotten cake and calling it done. They can’t all be masterpieces. Next time, more sleep.