By Kit-Bacon Gressitt / Excuse Me, I’m Writing / September 4, 2011
U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R–Minn.) might not be able to sustain her Tea Party-fueled lead among the perfidy of presidential wannabes, but while she remains in the race, admit it: She makes for good entertainment — in a morbidly fascinating sort of way.
Newsweek magazine’s blatantly sexist cover image of Bachmann, declaring her the “Queen of Rage,” actually elicited a complaint from National Organization for Women (NOW). Yowza, what a coupling! If Bachmann’s campaign lasts, NOW will surely do all it can to otherwise denounce her for her homophobia, anti-women’s and civil rights positions, and bent toward theocracy. But in the meantime, fun, fun, fun!
And the media’s promotion of a catfight, persistently pitting Bachmann against former Alaska governor, 2008 republican vice presidential candidate and Saturday Night Live feeder Sarah Palin — as though they are running a race distinct from the males — is annoyingly inevitable in a culture in which female candidates for our highest offices remain extraordinary and, hence, subject to gendered ridicule by the entrenched patriarchy.
But Palin’s undeclared candidacy seems ever-less a consideration for Bachmann: She barely pulled a whopping 2,000 Palinistas to her nationally-ballyhooed I’m-not-declaring-until-I’m-sure-I-can-win rally speech in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday.
Bachmann at least had the ovaries to declare, but there’s a lot more than brass ovaries to her morbid fascination. The New Yorker’s recent profile, “Leap of Faith,” by Ryan Lizza, did a tidy job of enumerating the oddly extreme influences that have contributed to the Bachmann ideology. One book in particular from Bachmann’s recommended reading list proved even more enlightening than Lizza indicated: Call of Duty, The Sterling Nobility of Robert E. Lee, by J. Steven Wilkins. Wilkins is an evangelical pastor of a breakaway Presbyterian church with passions for maximal fundamentalism and sugarcoated slavery.
Remember the brouhaha that arose from the August 11 candidate debate in Iowa? The crowd booed when a columnist asked Bachmann if, as president, she would submit to her husband, as she has said, prior to running for president, that she does. The uproar was curious, given her overt declarations of bibliocity (let’s go ahead and make that a word), yet she deflected the question. But Call of Duty — #3 on her State Senate must-read list — suggests that Bachmann’s two-step had a disingenuous spin.
Wilkins’s dedication of the book to his six children reads as follows:
To Matt, Jeremy, Bray, Jordan and Caleb,
with the earnest prayer that they might be true gentlemen
and to Charity,
that she might love, honor and obey such a man.
Poor Sweet Charity!
Wilkins goes on to write that “nothing excels the value of a ‘woman who fears the Lord’ (Proverbs 19:14).”
Yep, real Christian men prefer their womenfolk scared. An entertaining juxtaposition with the frequent suggestions that Bachmann herself is kind of scary.
Wilkins concludes his chapter on the godly wife with, “A good wife is truly the most valuable asset any man can have. ‘Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord’ (Proverbs 18:22).”
Please note that the emphasis on “thing” is Wilkins’. Although suggestive of his objectification of women, you have to wonder if Bachmann has internalized that classic rite of marital tyranny, if she actually thinks of herself as a “thing,” subjecting herself to her slightly loony husband’s questionable will — again, something she previously indicated to a Christian audience that she does. Of course, she might have been pandering to the poor women whose oppression she was promoting, but then that wouldn’t be godly, would it.
It would, however, be interesting to know if Bachmann takes Wilkins as literally as she says she takes the Bible.
Wilkins relates how Lee’s wife, Mary, expressed “great distress” at the lack of seats for slaves at worship services, discouraging their attendance. Did Mary then request that chairs be brought to the room or some extra pews be installed or at least a few hay bales be strategically placed? Nope: “As a result, Mary doubled her efforts in the spiritual instruction of her maid Cassy.”
Although Wilkins touts Mary’s response as indication of her humility, grace and caring heart, it’s actually a bit of a non sequitur, although that’s plenty common in politics. Could we then count on President Bachmann to respond to, say, another hurricane spiraling up the eastern seaboard with a declaration of spiritual disaster in that hotbed of heathenism, San Francisco?
To be fair to Mary, her reaction was in keeping with her era — according to Wilkins and presumably Bachmann. Wilkins, citing revisionist texts as ludicrous as his own (e.g. Time on the Cross, by Fogel and Engerman), writes that “the average slave in the South had a higher standard of living than the average poor white in the region.” He quotes Lee as writing that slavery was “a greater evil to the white than to the black race” and “blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially, and physically.” Lee reportedly believed that emancipation required a gradual process over time “for the sanctifying effects of Christianity to work in the black race and fit its people for freedom.”
The clincher from Wilkins and presumably Bachmann: “The two races whose lives were intertwined in the old South were more intimate and dependent upon each other than any two races in any country in the world. This mutual dependence produced an intimacy and trust between white and black races that has seldom if ever existed anywhere in history.” Including the South, you nincompoops! “… In fact, it bred on the whole, not contempt but, over time, mutual respect. This produced a mutual esteem of the sort that always results when men give themselves to a common cause.”
That is actually much more disturbing than entertaining. But if you share a common cause for following Bachmann’s nincompoopery, subscribe to Dump Bachmann, a blog that has covered her since 2004, when she was a Minnesota state senator having ousted the 28-year republican incumbent Gary Laidig with a run Bachmann said was not planned. This miraculous faux pas earned Laidig’s recent wrathful description of Bachmann as a “girl scout with a switchblade knife.”
Wonder why NOW didn’t go after that one. …
For the original, please go here.