A Man of (Open) LettersJust revealed: A student at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth received a visit from two Homeland Security agents two months ago because he requested on inter-library loan a copy of Mao Tse Tung's Little Red Book. The student was writing a paper for a class on totalitarianism and fascism.
Like I've always argued, active participation is the greatest teacher.
An interesting point here is that an interlibrary loan request constitutes a domestic communication between two university libraries. A fairly routine and minor request at that. Now, on the assurances of George Bush this past Sunday, domestic spying is limited to known Al Qaeda ties and affiliates. Ignoring for the moment that warrant-less surveillance strikes me as unconstitutional, can someone please tell me who in the U Mass interlibrary loan equation is an Al Qaeda operative?
I'm going to make this easy in an open letter:
Not that you read or anything, but in case you're about to waste precious resources investigating my reading activity, I admit now that I own several thousand books. I am after all an elitist academic. If you search, you'll find quite a few books about Marx, many of which you'll be proud to know I picked up off the curb in front of a house in South Orange, New Jersey on a household trash collection night in 1989. Somewhere near my suspiciously French Larouse Gastronomique (1966 edition, many illustrations in full color), you will find a three volume set of the works of Lenin (printed on cheap paper, in Moscow).
There's another three volume set somewhere of Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution -- it's a paperback box set that's the same size and shape of my box set of Carl Sandburg's Lincoln biography, so I get them confused, naturally. I've got an entire bookshelf dedicated to the works of Franz Kafka and another dedicated to the works of George Orwell. You may find this literature instructive but perhaps Laura will protest that reading aloud to you at bedtime from these works is not conducive to restful sleep. I've got an annotated edition of Mein Kampf which I find quite soporific, if I just concentrate on the mind-numbing rhetoric and not the nightmare of unreason which I mistakenly thought was outdated. I find on looking that it is shelved between Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and a copy of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I'm not reading anything into that sequential grouping, but maybe you're neo-con policy advisors can.
Since God doesn't talk to me directly as he does you, I rely on several New Testaments, a Koran, and at least two versions of the Torah. I have to keep cross-checking these because between my faulty memory, translation problems, and your foreign policy, I seem to think we're supposed to beat plowshares into swords. I know I used to have a copy of Che's diaries around here somewhere too, but I think I lent it to the hot hippie barista down at Peets Coffee, before she disappeared mysteriously.
I have several copies of The Federalist Papers and the Constitution of the United States, which you may recognize from the White House bathroom since, judging from your actions over the past five years, you've been scrimping on the Charmin and using whatever else might be handy. I have many bookcases filled with volumes of American history and law, which I am happy to lend to you or your agents providing you read them carefully.
Since I'm writing my dissertation on Henry Adams, I've got beaucoups books by him. He thought that the line from George Washington to Ulysses Grant put progressive evolution into question. If Adams were alive today, I'm sure you'd be glad to be the guy who could prove to him that Darwin was completely wrong. Since my art books don't have a lot of words, you might like to peruse them, but then again that reprint of Ben Shahn's "This is Nazi Attrocity" poster from World War Two looks perhaps a bit too much like a picture from Abu Graib for your comfort. Oddly enough, shoved in at the end of the shelf of art books is Stanley Kutler's transcription of the Nixon tapes, entitled Abuse of Power. On the next shelf, you'll find Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here.
Please have an agent interrupt one of my phone calls to the UCLA library to let me know when you'll be coming by to take down my name and pick up my books. I'll stock up on marshmallows and maybe, just maybe, you'll let me keep my Campfire Songbook. I'm sure the way things are going, it'll come in handy soon.