In case you missed it, America’s newest official candidate for the presidency, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, kicked off her campaign in her hometown of Waterloo, IA yesterday by confusing John Wayne with John Wayne Gacy. Honest mistake. Anybody could have made it.
I mean, it’s still odd. I know first-hand how attuned Iowans can be to their own local histories. Iowans by god know who was born in their town, and for Bachmann to mix up The Duke with a serial killer, to somehow mistake Waterloo for Winterset, well, that’s unusual.
Still, to her credit, Bachmann has offered up the most profoundly true statement we’re likely to hear from any candidate between now and November 2012 when she acknowledged that she’s not perfect. Which is true. She once explained that the founding fathers eliminated slavery. She said that the battles at Lexington and Concord were fought in New Hampshire. Then, at a speech later on she said it again. She flat-out made up some shit about what caused the Great Depression.
Good times, especially for late-night comedians.
The thing I’m worried about isn’t that Bachmann was wrong about something, it’s that she will be proven right. Sorta. Recall Sarah Palin’s recent dramatic reinterpretation of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. Go ahead, recall.
Within hours, Palin’s faithful minions had descended upon Wikipedia, attempting to rewrite history to prove that Sarah wasn’t a barking gongbat, she was some kind of fucking history savant. As if we didn’t have enough reasons to worry about Wikipedia already.
Not that ideologically directional revisionism is a new thing – our nation’s textbooks grow more … interesting … by the year, don’t they?
William Gibson has dismissed the idea that science fiction is about the future.* It’s true. SF is about the present, and the same goes for history. Yeah, things happened in the past, but the process of establishing the canon is often little more than a battleground between ideologues who see history as a weapon to use on the enemies of the moment.
So let’s all keep an eye on Wikipedia in the coming days, shall we? If we don’t, we’ll wind up in a world where John Wayne Gacy starred in True Grit and The Sans of Iwo Jima. And I just don’t know that I can live there.
UPDATE: Well what do you know. I was right.
* Check it – I just linked to Wikipedia. How’s that for irony?