Ryan Lizza has an exhaustive profile of Rep. Michele Bachmann in the current New Yorker, containing several interesting nuggets and insights into the controversial congresswoman. One in particular stuck out at me, especially given her, ahem, singular views of slavery.
Bachmann, you will recall, has gotten into trouble for imagining that the Founding Fathers (many of whom were slave owners) "worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States," specifically citing John Quincy Adams, who was indeed a tireless opponent of slavery, but was more a founding son than founding father, and died 13 years before the start of the Civil War.
Perusing a campaign website from her state senate days, Lizza found a suggested reading list which included a 1997 biography of Robert E. Lee, by one J. Steven Wilkins.
Wilkins is the leading proponent of the theory that the South was an orthodox Christian nation unjustly attacked by the godless North. ... In the book, Wilkins condemns "the radical abolitionists of New England" and writes that "most southerners strove to treat their slaves with respect and provide them with a sufficiency of goods for a comfortable, though—by modern standards—spare existence."
African slaves brought to America, he argues, were essentially lucky: "Africa, like any other pagan country, was permeated by the cruelty and barbarism typical of unbelieving cultures." … Wilkins also approvingly cites Lee’s insistence that abolition could not come until "the sanctifying effects of Christianity” had time “to work in the black race and fit its people for freedom."
Ah, the ever misunderstood respect of the whip and the chain. Ah, the poor, misunderstood, antebellum slave owner. Ah, I think I'm going to be sick. Lizza quotes from a Wilkins chapter on race relations:
Slavery, as it operated in the pervasively Christian society which was the old South, was not an adversarial relationship founded upon racial animosity. In fact, it bred on the whole, not contempt, but, over time, mutual respect. This produced a mutual esteem of the sort that always results when men give themselves to a common cause. The credit for this startling reality must go to the Christian faith. . . The unity and companionship that existed between the races in the South prior to the war was the fruit of a common faith.
For several years, the book, which Bachmann’s campaign declined to discuss with me, was listed on her Web site, under the heading "Michele’s Must Read List."
The campaign may have declined to discuss the list, but someone should ask Bachmann whether she still considers the book a must-read, whether she believes that slavery was an institution which bred mutual respect between the races. And assuming her answers are no, she might want to explain what ever possessed her to promote such offensive nonsense.