Rep. Michele Bachmann (D-Minn), Tea Party leader and potential presidential candidate, recently told a Manchester, New Hampshire crowd that she was in the state of “the shot heard ’round the world.” Ethics Foul. Minnesota disgrace. Congressional Disgrace. Tea Party disgrace. National disgrace.
U.S. educational system disgrace!
As most grade school children know (Some grade school children? Grade school children in New England, maybe? Please?), the source of that loud shot, the Battle of Concord (the Battle of Lexington was fought on the same day) was fought in Concord, Massachusetts, which, like Lexington, is a next door neighbor of my home town, Arlington, Massachusetts, known as Menotomy on April 18, 1775 —which, as Rep. Bachmann can tell you, was also the date of Phil Sheridan’s ride. Oops! I mean Paul Revere’s ride!
Anyone can make a mistake, and public speakers are bound to make many. There are some mistakes, however, that a high-profile individual has an obligation to make a special effort to avoid. In Bachmann’s case, fulfilling this obligation involves:
- Knowing the basics of the history of the American Revolution when she leads a group that takes its name from an event in that history.
- Taking special care not to say embarrassingly stupid things when her political movement, her party, and her ideological camp is unfairly accused of being stupid as a matter of course, whether is being stupid or not.
- Encouraging the depressingly and dangerously ignorant American public to learn about and understand history, and not prove that one can become a powerful political leader without it.
- Know what she is talking about. In particular, she has an obligation of diligence not to quote literature that she has obviously never read, not to mention to avoid getting Concord, New Hampshire mixed up with its namesake to the south. After all, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous poem is displayed at the Concord battlefield:
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
Like Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, and other political figures (as well as too many outspoken celebrities to list), Rep. Bachmann not only is reckless about displaying her ignorance, but also unapologetic for it. This is irresponsible and arrogant, and for a leader of a political movement that invokes America’s origins and its Founding Fathers at the drop of a three-cornered hat, it is cynical and offensive as well.