Archive for October, 2010

Because I Have A Memory


A Whiter Shade of Pale

In 2010, nationwide polls reported that people who identified themselves as sympathetic with the Tea Party were overwhelmingly white, although estimates varied, and the Tea Party didn’t appear to be much whiter than, say, the Republican Party. Whatever else had drawn people into the movement, some of it, for some people, was probably discomfort with the United States’ first black president, because he was black. But it wasn’t the whiteness of the Tea Party that I found most striking. It was the whiteness of their Revolution. The Founding Fathers were the whites of their eyes, a fantasy of an America before race, without race. There were very few black people in the Tea Party, but there were no black people at all in the Tea Party’s eighteenth century. Nor, for that matter, were there any women, aside from Abigail Adams, and no slavery, poverty, ignorance, insanity, sickness, or misery. Nor was there any art, literature, sex, pleasure, or humor. There were only the Founding Fathers with their white wigs, wearing their three-cornered hats, in their Christian nation, revolting against taxes, and defending their right to bear arms.

In eighteenth-century America, I wouldn’t have been able to vote. I wouldn’t have been able to own property, either. I’d very likely have been unable to write, and, if I survived childhood, chances are that I’d have died in childbirth. And, no matter how long or short my life, I’d almost certainly have died without having once ventured a political opinion preserved in any historical record. Except that none of these factors has any meaning or bearing whatsoever on whether an imaginary eighteenth-century me would have supported the Obama administration’s stimulus package or laws allowing the carrying of concealed weapons or the war in Iraq. Because I did not live in eighteenth-century America, and no amount of thinking that I could, not even wearing petticoats, a linsey-woolsey calico smock, and a homespun mobcap, can make it so.

“What would the founders do?” is, from the point of view of historical analysis, an ill-considered and unanswerable question, and pointless, too. Jurists and legislators need to investigate what the framers meant, and some Christians make moral decisions by wondering what Jesus would do, but no NASA scientist decides what to do about the Hubble by asking what Isaac Newton would make of it. People who ask what the founders would do quite commonly declare that they know, they know, they just know what the founders would do and, mostly, it comes to this: if only they could see us now, they would be rolling over in their graves. They might even rise from the dead and walk among us. We have failed to obey their sacred texts, holy writ. They suffered for us, and we have forsaken them. Come the Day of Judgment, they will damn us.

That’s not history. It’s not civil religion, the faith in democracy that binds Americans together. It’s not originalism or even constitutionalism. That’s fundamentalism.

—Jill Lepore, The Whites Of Their Eyes

Para Mi Tesoro

Play Ball

Tonight begins the final chapter in the storybook season of the Texas Rangers, the little baseball team that could, and has, finally become known for something other than serving as pre-presidential plaything for George II.

Prior to 2010, the Rangers, in their entire history, had never won a playoff series. This year they have won two. Thus far. They need win but one more, the World Series, to be acknowledged as, for a brief turn of the wheel at any rate, the best team in baseball.

In winning the World Series, the Rangers will also serve God and Man, by dispatching those crime lords of theft and violence, the San Francisco Gnats.

As we await this humbling of the malefic, there arrives, via Repeating Islands, a tale that is darker than even that of the dread Gnats—the colonial farming of young boys in the Dominican Republic for the greater glory of the bank accounts of Major League Baseball.


The Last Night Of The World

It now appears that Science Men have determined that the accepted calculation of the fabled “Mayan doomsday calendar,” heretofore believed to have set the date for The End Of The World at December 21, 2012, may be off by some 50 to 100 years.

The party-poopers who authored the new textbook Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World, argue that previously accepted conversions of dates from the Mayan calendar to the modern calendar are significantly out of whack.

The Real Apocalypse, say they, may not occur for some time. Or, conversely, it may already have occurred.

Apprised Monday of this news, a wit over on the Great PumpkinGary Norton, once and future NION running buddy—opined that the Great Event has, in fact, already been visited upon us.

“1980,” he reminds, “was Reagan’s election.”



Canadian Driftwood

The War on Terra prisoner Omar Khadr has entered into a plea deal that may find him breathing free air in a little over a year.

Under what are believed to be the terms of the plea bargain, Khadr, after an additional year in American stir, could apply to his native Canada to have the remainder of his eight-year sentence served in that country. Once under Canadian authority, that government could, if it liked, free him. Canada, unlike the United States, is not in the business of prosecuting and imprisoning child soldiers. Khadr was 15 when he entered the War on Terra gulag. He has already spent eight years there. He is today 24.

On Monday, Khadr admitted before a military commission that he had thrown a grenade that killed an American soldier in Afghanistan, and that he had planted roadside bombs in that country for Al Qaeda. A panel of seven military officers will decide on his sentence, but under the terms of the plea agreement that sentence cannot be greater than the eight years therein agreed upon.

The plea deal spares Khadr the prospect of a life sentence, and the Obama administration the embarrassment of trying a child as its first War on Terra prisoner dragged before its revamped military commissions . . . as well as the near-certainty that any conviction would be thrown out bodily by one or more blistering appellate-court decisions, that would employ language so excoriating that anyone even tangentially connected with Khadr’s prosecution would be compelled to hide, for some months, under a bed, in shame.


Night Vision

When I Worked

October 2010
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