Ahlin: Mary Contrary not buying Bachmann's nouveau-history
Not sure whether I'd get to the lake ahead of the company we had coming for the Fourth of July weekend, I still made a quick stop at the grocery store. Although I wasn't surprised to find the parking lot full, what I was unprepared to encounter w...
Not sure whether I'd get to the lake ahead of the company we had coming for the Fourth of July weekend, I still made a quick stop at the grocery store. Although I wasn't surprised to find the parking lot full, what I was unprepared to encounter was an all-too-familiar voice hollering to me as I neared the automatic doors.
"Whoa, Sunshine, slow down. You're a heart attack waiting to happen with all that huffing and puffing. Come on over here in the shade and sign my Anti-Nouveau-History petition."
At the edge of the building, holding a clipboard and dressed up as the Statue of Liberty, stood Mary Contrary.
"I don't have time for a petition, Mary." I felt my blood pressure rising. "As it is, I'm not sure I'll get to the lake before our guests arrive."
"Temper, temper." Mary clucked her tongue. "What you need, Sunshine, is a deep breath and something more important than groceries on your mind."
"What on earth are you talking about, Mary?" I felt myself sigh. I was stuck.
"Nouveau-history, Sunshine. In this case, revising history to fit fashionable tea party ideology." She smiled. "Take Michele Bachmann."
"Oh, please, Mary, this isn't going to be another harangue on her blunder about Lexington and Concord being in New Hampshire instead of Massachusetts?"
"Heavens, no. I'm talking big picture here, the attitude that history - just like everything else - can be revised to fit today's talking points." Mary frowned. "Take Bachmann's remark about the Founding Fathers, you know, 'work(ing) tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.' "
"Well, Mary, I know that was silly. And I did wonder later - you know, when she said she really meant John Quincy Adams, who was a boy when the country was founded - anyway, I wondered whether she just couldn't admit she was wrong. Why, her mistake gave her the opportunity to talk about the range of attitudes toward slavery in those days. After all, issues were as politically complicated back then as they are today."
"Bingo!" Mary smiled approvingly. "Maybe you're smarter than you look, Sunshine."
"I don't follow, Mary."
"Hmm. Maybe you aren't smarter than you look." She frowned. "The point is, Bachmann's tea party talking points give the Founding Fathers sacred status. She can't admit some of them believed it was God's will they owned slaves or that is was God's will for women to have the same legal rights as children. Heck, that gets into knotty, thorny, difficult stuff, and pure ideologues like Bachmann don't want to go there."
"Mary, I think people are impressed by Michele Bachmann because she's so sincere about everything she says."
"Sincerity and reality are two different things, Sunshine. But I'm glad you brought that up. See, political correctness used to drive folks nuts because what started out well-intentioned became phony-baloney, you know ... everybody's a victim ... don't offend anybody. Now the phony-baloney is fundamentalist fervor and attaching religious meaning to everything from history to taxes."
Mary paused. "Of course, you can't have religion without a demon on the other side. It's like back in 2009 when Bachmann thought it was an 'interesting coincidence' that swine flu broke out during the Carter and Obama presidencies - like Old Testament plague visits Democratic administrations. Or when she talked about AmeriCorps as 're-education camps for young people.' Her tea party talking points are all about fear of 'socialism,' and that's all tied up with the old communist, anti-Christian stuff. Just like people used to be scared of not being politically correct, now they're scared to offend somebody's religious beliefs, even if those folks happen to be revising history and spouting nonsense."
"OK, I get it, Mary, but right now I need to shop for groceries."
She looked me up and down. "Better go easy on s'mores over the old campfire, Sunshine."
I hurried into the store without dignifying that remark with a reply.
Ahlin writes a Sunday column for The Forum. Email email@example.com .