March 03, 2005

A Nation of Fools If

A Nation of Fools

If you’re anything like us, dear reader, you get all of your news from The Nation, one of America’s foremost left-of-reality newsweeklies. After all, a quick perusal of The Nation would keep you up-to-date on all the latest events, without any of that nefarious corporate spin.

As such, readers of The Nation for decades have kept abreast of all kinds of important political information: Alger Hiss was framed; Lynne Stewart is innocent; American universities are run by the Right; &c.

In fact, dear reader, just the other day, one of the junior editors here at “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly”—let’s just call him “Chip”—was perusing the voluminous backlog at The Nation’s glorious “website.” In doing so, he came across a piece by one of his favorite columnists, Patricia J. Williams.

Ms. Williams, for those who are not familiar with her oeuvre, is an African-American law professor at some obscure Ivy League school called Columbia. Although this surely makes Ms. Williams one of the most occupationally fortuitous members of society, it has not stopped her from using her post at The Nation to rant and rave about the horrors of America.

Perhaps Ms. Williams believes that, in other countries, it would prove far easier to Mau-Mau fancy-pants universities to tenure untalented hacks.

Anyway, “Chip” came across the December 13, 2004 installment of her regular column, which she has appropriately titled “diary of a mad law professor.” (It seems as if Ms. Williams, much like bell hooks, is allergic to capitalization.)

This article, entitled “From Birmingham to Baghdad,” starts as follows:

I, Condoleezza Rice, was leaning over the kitchen sink, hacking up a half-dozen or so rotisserie chickens and slinging the parts into a serving dish in time for the first of the party gusts. I filled the bowls with popcorn and peanuts, brewed a pot of French roast and pulled a lost toddler out of the laundry room. I sidled up to Arnold Schwarzenegger and gave him a big old smooch. And when the Devil walked in the door, he took one look at me and said, “You win.”

Yes, it was Halloween night and I, Patricia J. Williams, had gotten myself up in the guise of the soon-to-be Secretary of State of the United States of America. I had it down, from the proper little suit to the neatly tucked bob of a hairdo. And it was funny for a while—vampires deflected, ghouls leapt back. After a time, I took the mask off, but people still called me Condoleezza for the rest of the evening. And that felt strange and sad somehow.

The rest of the article offers Ms. Williams’ largely unsubstantiated take on Secretary Rice’s personal life, and tells us that “Nobody ‘hates’ Condoleezza Rice.” Oddly, at the end of said piece, Ms. Williams informs us that “She [Secretary Rice] is a tightly fitted mask of compulsive politeness pulled over both great grief and corrosive, unhealed cruelties.”

To which we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” respond: Well, at least you don’t hate her. We—like Ms. Williams—tend to admire folks who are distinguished by their “corrosive, unhealed cruelties.”

We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” did not mention this article in order to quibble with Ms. Williams’ take on Secretary Rice, however. Far from it.

Instead, we want to note a strange coincidence: Last Halloween, the members of the crack young staff dressed up as writers and editors for The Nation. Accordingly, just as Ms. Williams was donning her Condoleezza Rice uniform, “Chip” was putting on her Patricia J. Williams costume.

As you can imagine, dear reader, dressing up like Patricia J. Williams was funny for a while—white people engaged in preemptive cringing, college administrators genuflected. After a time, “Chip” took the mask off, but people still called her Patricia for the rest of the evening. And that felt, as you could imagine, strange and somehow sad.

After all, it is difficult to masquerade as a columnist preternaturally incapable of sustaining an argument. It’s tough to moonlight as a law professor who makes Maureen Dowd seem like a paragon of wit and sanity.

Other members of the crack staff, however, did not have things any better. Just ask “Chip,” who was dressed up like Alexander Cockburn all night. Not only did he have a rib-tickling last name, he was compelled to shout ridiculous conspiracy theories: As far as Mr. Cockburn was concerned, the punchbowl had been spiked by Zionist agents.

We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” suppose we ought to be grateful that Susan Estrich doesn’t write for The Nation. After all, Halloween ain’t so pleasant when you have to stare at a woman who’d make Medusa seem fetching.

Posted at March 3, 2005 12:01 AM | TrackBack