Archive for May, 2011

May 3rd 2011
Does warfare ever change over time?

Posted under American history & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history

Outside of the machines and techologies that humans have invented to kill each other, I’m not convinced that warfare is a suitable historical subject, if the measure of a historical subject is demonstrable and meaningful change over time.  For example, check out this nationalist, masculinist rhetoric from the White House about the killing of Osama Bin Laden on Sunday.  (This Washington Post article was reprinted in my home-delivered copy of the Denver Post this morning:)

The Obama administration presented new details Monday about the death of Osama bin Laden, portraying the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda as a reclusive figure who had lived in relative luxury and whose final moments had finally exposed his cowardice.

As Americans solemnly remembered those killed at bin Laden’s command, senior administration officials sought to turn their tactical military victory into a moral one by undermining the heroic image he had long cultivated among his followers. They stressed that he had been discovered not in a remote cave, but in a mansion in a wealthy Pakistani city. They also sought to suggest that, as he tried to escape U.S. Special Operations forces, he may have used one of his wives as a shield.

“Here is bin Laden, who has been calling for these attacks, living in this million-dollar-plus compound, living in an area that is far removed from the front, hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield,” John O. Brennan, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism, told reporters at the White House. “I think it really just speaks to just how false his narrative has been over the years.”

Bin Laden’s narrative isn’t the only false or misleading narrative.  Brennan’s narrative is strikingly similar to colonial trash talk about military and political foes, which makes me automatically skeptical of it.  His words are guided by a nearly ancient script.  Accusations of unmanliness and [effeminate] luxury were two prominent rhetorical weapons wielded by Anglo-American men against both Indian and French men, and Indian men gave as good as they got on this score.  Continue Reading »


May 2nd 2011
Sausage party, or wiener roast? Founding Fathers/Presidential Chic, again!

Posted under American history & book reviews & Gender & GLBTQ & women's history

David Eisenbach, co-author of One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History along with pR0n king Larry Flynt, has responded to my critique of his book, which was more a critique of the genre than of his book in particular.  As some readers may recall, this was the nut of my comments:

It’s funny (and by funny, I guess I mean LOLSOB) how some analyses (like those offered by the feminists and queers) go from being dangerous, unsourced, risky, out-on-a-limb evidence problems, to being conventional wisdom in about 30 seconds these days.  Too bad for you, historians of sexuality–it looks like you risked your careers, your fortunes, and your sacred honor only to get buried in a footnote in a book by Joseph Ellis or Robert Remini, because those are the only books any authors of popular histories will ever read or cite.

These comments are of course aligned with my overall critique of Founding Fathers/Presidential history, which I explained most recently last summer:

Here’s a suggestion, boys:  just stop writing about the so-called “Founding Fathers!”  Stop it!  Stop!  Go find something new, interesting, and utterly undiscovered in the archives, for a change!

Like I said:  “the gamut from A to B” in early American history.  It’s all the so-called Founding Fathers, all of the time.  ((Yawn.)) 

Eisenbach replied to last week’s post on his new book like this: Continue Reading »


May 1st 2011
Middle-aged golden boys and girls translated

Posted under fluff & happy endings & students

Flavia wrote a hilarious post about perusing her fiance’s alumni magazine, “Middle-aged golden boys and girls,” in which she reflects on the very weird genre of the Class Notes in which alums are invited to share news of their lives with their classmates.  As we all are finishing our semesters and shaking the dust bunnies off of our doctoral robes in preparation for graduation, we should pause to reflect:  our students of today are the alumni of tomorrow, and it’s important to help initiate them into the art of casual braggadocio and/or desperately squeezing lemons into lemonade that is the hallmark of the Class Notes section of the alumnae/i magazine! 

Here are some (non-fiction!) examples from Flavia’s post:

Some people’s narratives are thoughtful, others are merely informative, and still others are hilarious and self-deprecating. However, to a snarky non-classmate like myself, the most fun are the writers who conform to every stereotype I’ve ever had about people of their age and class (which is to say, basically, my own age and class):

  • “Although I still work in corporate litigation, my real passion is for Iyengar yoga.”
  • “After living in eight countries since graduation, I’ve finally put down roots in Vienna, the most beautiful city in the world.”
  • “I recently stepped out of the rat race, took a 50% pay cut, and moved to Albuquerque. What I lost in prestige I gained in sanity. Try it, you might like it!”
  • “Even though I’m now ‘just a homemaker,’ I sit on the board of both our children’s schools, I’m involved in fundraising for the civic opera and the art museum, and I mentor young women thinking about careers in journalism.”  
  • “How to pick out the high points of the past five eventful years? Summitting Kilimanjaro was definitely a memorable moment, as was being profiled in the Wall Street Journal.”
  • “We recently relocated back to the States, and now live in D.C.–well, the ‘burbs, a decision prompted by a great French immersion program and our desire for our girls to remain bilingual.”
  • “Believe it or not, I’ve really gotten to have it all.”

That list totally cracks me up.  Here’s my translation of the above comments: Continue Reading »


« Prev