I’ve been spending my Saturdays at the library. My living situation these days is such that I enjoying getting out of the house; the main branch of the Santa Monica Public Library is a bright, airy modern building, with reasonably strong wi-fi,and easily accessible power outlets at every seat. It’s also an quick ride on the Big Blue Bus, which is only $1 a ride (as opposed to the $1.75 charged on the Metro bus). I’d be lying if I didn’t admit its proximity to the Saturday Santa Monica Farmer’s Market is also a major plus. I put on my headphones, get to work reading or (less frequently) writing, and I could be anywhere.
Before I get to work, I usually pick up a few books that pique my interest. Today, I saw a copy of Dr. Ben Carson’s A More Perfect Union, and figured that, given he’s still a contender for the GOP nomination, I should give it at least a glance.
It has always struck me that Carson is the saddest case in the Republican Party’s basket of pathologies. A trailblazing neurosurgeon, and a philanthropist with an inspiring backstory, but since his speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, where he famously called Obamacare the “worst thing to happen in (America) since slavery” which made him the darling of the most anarchistic (I’d say “disruptive,” except I’ve come to hate the way it’s used) elements of the GOP, he’s become addicted to the spotlight. Cheered on by right-wing media, which demands he say more and more outrageous things to keep their attention, he has, in the name of ego, run for an office he is clearly not ready to occupy, and left his reputation in tatters.
Picking the book off the shelf (and yes, I also grabbed a copy of Gary Hart’s The Republic of Conscience as liberal cover) I didn’t expect to agree with him, but I was hoping to find a more thoughtful, measured argument than is allowed on Fox or Breitbart. What I found was frightening.
Sadly, Dr. Carson has written a book with all the depth and perspective of a grade-school history primer, topped by a thin layer of Tea Party polemic.
It’s the kind of book that can, with no irony present, state the
Constitution has “kept America…free from a government that imposes the will of elites on the people” either forgetting (or unwilling to admit) that the Framers were the land-owning elite of their day. They were founders of colleges, politically connected legislators, well-read and -traveled wine-drinking aesthetes, the type of person he and his supporters contend are unfit to hold office. He identifies a belief that “everyone deserves a college education and…a program of wealth distribution in order to make sure that everyone had a fair chance in an increasingly sophisticated world” as examples of how governments can slide into tyranny. (Less than a paragraph later, he seems to ignore the “increasingly sophisticated world” to bemoan that laws passed today are much longer than the 17-page Constitution.)
And of course, he claims that the colonialists resented “the British Crown demanding a larger share of the profits earned by American labor,” again forgetting (or unwilling to admit) that it wasn’t the laborers (or, as they were called then, slaves) who were calling for revolution, but their wealthy owners (or, dare I say, elites). And what was possibly his most offensive public statement–that the Holocaust would have been “greatly diminished” if only the Jews hadn’t been disarmed shows up, albeit in slightly more couched language. “German citizens were disarmed by their government in the late 1930s, and by the mid-1940s Hitler’s regime had mercilessly slaughtered six million Jews…through a combination of removing guns that disseminating deceitful propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance.” As, as he does on the campaign trail, he buttresses his arguments with a series of loose attributions (the “head of the ACLU” telling him that “a woman has the right to kill a baby until the second it was born,”).
There’s little more you can say about a person who believes that, and I pretty much stopped reading there. Thankfully, the book offers “A Quick Reference Guide,” so you can flip directly to the pages in book with Dr. Carson’s musings on marriage equality (it “sabotages one of the mainstays of tranquility: marriage,” and he appears to be unfamiliar with the concept of civil marriage); freedom of religion (an incoherent claim that “the wall of separation between church and state is important and must be maintained. However it should not be extended and reinterpreted as the separation of God and state); and abortion (pretty much what you’d expect, with the odd statement that “there was a time in America when great celebrations surrounded the news of a pregnancy,” which makes me wonder if he’s ever looked at anyone’s Facebook timeline).
Before this election cycle began in earnest, a constant refrain on Op-Ed pages and the Sunday gabfests was the Republican’s “deep bench.” There certainly are a lot of people who want the nomination, but the party has turned to such out-of-their-depth figures as Dr. Carson and Donald Trump, a political single-A team if ever there was, you have to wonder just what they were talking about.