Thursday, November 29, 2007

"You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test."
--G.W. Bush, Townsend, Tennessee, Feb. 21, 2001

This is one of the 'best' embarrassing presidential quotes I've heard from this guy. It's the perfect enactment of the way his public persona works in the context of his political achievements. There's the obvious and ironic idiocy of it; he's thought of as a bumbler, a bad speaker. A slightly subtler level is the tautological nature of its reasoning--just as, in his politics, acts are self-justifying in a way that would make a hardcore existentialist shudder. Finally (and still not so subtle), there's the reduction of the value of literacy to the ability to pass a test--just as the Bush administration's agenda is to whittle everything meant for the public good down to what will directly serve the profits of employers and owners.


The detachment I can achieve in relation to that quote went out the window when I heard Naomi Wolf on "Democracy Now!" today. I usually don't get scared per se, but this does the trick.


In a perfect illustration of the power of fear, I responded first by thinking about what to do about fascism, then by buying things: Wolf's book and the bp Nichol reader. Then, tonight, I saw I'm Not There, the new Todd Haynes movie about Dylan.

It's absolutely stunning, confirming again that Haynes is the best filmmaker in the U.S., and one of the couple best in the world. I need to see it again before writing extensively about it. Cinematically nearly perfect, incredible acting, moving and strange, and characterized by a tone that's neither naive nor self-referential, that's somewhere between or outside of a number of other dichotomies of narrative cinema. Quotation without scare quotes. It's probably--in a strange way--the best film about U.S. culture I've ever seen.


  • At December 1, 2007 at 10:25 AM, Blogger Ron Czerwien said…

    Thanks, Andy. Somehow I missed the Wolf interview. I've sent the link to people I care about. I'll be stocking the book at our store for the holidays, in the hope others will give it as a gift. Not a cheery one, but a necessary one, I think.


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