Representative (now Senator) Chuck Grassley called my mother when I was 18 years old. Why? I had just graduated from the Capitol Page School, with the nation’s highest-paid teachers in terms of money per student, with a 99.999999% graduation rate not just from high school but from some of the best universities in our nation. I ratted the school out for the inferior instruction it offered.* Congressman Grassley said my mother should be proud of me for being a whistleblower — and I guess he knew what I had weathered. I don’t know.
A good friend of mine says he is evil. She is a litigator and understands how Grassley is “gaslighting” Professor Christine Blasey Ford. I agree — what could I say other than “he called my mother”? But to be honest, when he called my mother, she was not impressed, as I remember. Only impressed enough to relay the quick call. I didn’t think a thing about it until I spoke with my litigator friend (why would I?) — he became a Senator, and while he supports whistleblowers, they are largely the ones who whistle the Republican tune. Look what he’s doing to Ford now!
When it came time for college, most of my relatives faced a choice — the farm (Stanford) versus the city (Berkeley). For me, the choice was not the farm versus the city. My mom wanted me to go to a small women’s liberal-arts school, preferably the one she had attended, not one of those Seven Sisters schools. Not only the Sister schools were excluded; my mom was also down on the Ivies, even though my ancestor helped start one — a proFESSor of religion, no less, helped found Brown University by proFESSing religion at the Hopewell Academy, which later moved to Rhode Island (Anabaptist country). No one was going to the East Coast Establishment.
Meanwhile, Stanford — where they ruined women, I was told — and anything east of Los Angeles were out. So I came home, back West to California, as was appropriate. My mother managed to get me/allow me (she had no control, since I was writing my own applications far from home) to go to an all-male college that was turning co-ed. Now that was no fun -— or was it fun? Actually, I enjoyed it. It had been Claremont Men’s College, and after coeducation they found a donor whose name began with M, and it became Claremont McKenna College, preserving the CMC acronym.
But first they had to deal with the GCO Club — Get Cunts Out — of diehard misogynists. Seems kinda like the club that Brett Kavanagh would join — or was that only in high school?
Why won’t he allow the FBI to do a full investigation, anyhow? Why does he want to enter the Supreme Court with a rapist cloud over his head? After all, Clarence Thomas didn’t even speak in court for over a decade, knowing how little credibility he had/has. Who made the last phone call to Anita — his wife, no less? Wasn’t that bizarre? My only guess would be she got hammered one night and is still mad about how Clarence cheated on her — or didn’t tell her the full story that she knows/suspects, and that’s about his predilection for pornography.
* I ratted them out despite being threatened in front of the whole school for maligning a 150-year-old institution, since I was the rat “going” over there — the Doorkeeper’s Door — and complaining that we weren’t getting enough education. All the House of Representatives pages followed the few Senate pages’ problem — that pages could no longer go to school from 6:00 to 9:00, but instead from 6:00 to 6:30 or 7:00, including the breakfast break. Then they reduced our classes to five, but we still only got as far as roll call before leaving. I was in school, yet I was learning absolutely nothing, and the principal’s and vice principal’s defense was — anyway, full circle. I ratted them out. I was not the first or the last, and it was under Speaker of the House John Boehner that they got rid of House pages in 2011.
Listen to this exchange, elevating and advancing the most significant postwar political thinker – Hannah Arendt — who happens to be a woman in the United States. Indeed, a newly vacant seat is named after her. This woman spoke truth to power in 1963 in The New Yorker, and took a lot of flak for it — so much so that she passed away tired at another venerable institution that hosts her name – Bard College.
What I’m talking about is that Chelsea and Corey got into it this weekend. Chelsea Clinton tweeted that the burning of an LGBT youth center in Phoenix reflects Hannah Arendt’s most famous and infamous phrase — “the banality of evil.” Corey Robin, my esteemed colleague, a full professor at the City University of New York, corrected Chelsea, saying that she had misunderstood and that Arendt was actually saying the exact opposite of what she thought.
Now, no one likes a correction, so Chelsea took Corey’s bait, and they went back and forth at some length, she maintaining that the Arendt phrase was apposite and he maintaining that it wasn’t.
This is, according to two more political scientists (Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler), an example of the “backfire effect” — which is fodder for another blog, so going back to the Chelsea/Corey brainy brawl, Chelsea repeatedly stood up and defended herself, only to be corrected by Corey again and again.
Corey has the better argument, though Chelsea (who initiated the discussion) is doing us a civil service, as Corey points out. Chelsea, as the author of a bestselling children’s book (She Persisted), is really setting the agenda to let women speak as leaders — really saying women are leaders.
How could Chelsea not be right in instigating and showcasing the most heretical political thinker who happens to be a woman in the United States? To top it all off, Hannah Arendt was an immigrant, a refugee, in exile – and she can no longer defend (i.e. correct) how understood and misunderstood is her political thought – though we have all benefited from it and a new book series is launching with other heretical thinkers, men and women alike.
Chelsea Clinton is right. Corey Robin is right. Chelsea is showcasing how women happen to lead. I’m going to get Chelsea’s book, and reread Corey’s analysis.
Thought is heretical when it threatens our idea of universality, or our notion of the self or selves. Such threats can occur in the face of advances in science, human science, governance, or media. Regardless of purpose or intent, heretical ideas shape and determine our bodies and our consciousness and/or the ways we communicate about them. They also embody seismic or significant breaks in sclerotic contemporary political thought.
This series is shaped by the notion that contemporary political thought that advances significant or seismic ideas, independent of purpose or intent, and also threatens our ideas of universality, is heretical. Books in the series expose contemporary ruptures in thought, or a break in a school of thought. In doing so they will make visible, or apparent, threats that are observable, empirical, biological, chemical, or physical in the universe — suggesting not only how such threats can compel new ways of thinking, but also how they can lead to productive political action.
Series editor, Ruth O’Brien, The Graduate Center, City University of New York