“We like stories, and expect stories, of young girls going to school in Afghanistan.” Our sister blog Wonkette scooped us on this one, from President Bush’s news conference with Hamid Karzai in Kabul on Wednesday.
We all like stories of girls going to school in Afghanistan—it’s maybe the best thing we can hope for from the Bush version of pax americana. To “expect stories” is somewhat more ambiguous: it might be interpreted as a call to storytelling as fabulation. Just as, we learned recently, Bush’s aides told him stories about the New Orleans levees that were simply untrue for hours, maybe days, after those levees had collapsed.
Recall that back in 2001 Bush introduced the members of his cabinet with the phrase: ``Each person has got their own story that is so unique, stories that really explain what America can and should be about.'' And in presenting Secretary of State Colin Powell: ``a great American story.'' And for Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta: ``I love his story.'' (I wrote about this in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in a piece called “Stories Abounding”). Events since then may make us wonder if the story—the simpler the better—is his only grasp on the world.
Though I am a believer in what psychologist Jerome Bruner some years ago dubbed “the narrative construction of reality,” with Bush the narrative rendition of the world has become more and more total, and disturbing. Surely stories need some critical analysis? Without critique, stock stories about “weapons of mass destruction” or “operation Iraqi freedom” become your sole handle on reality.
At least all the budding Karl Roves of emergent regimes now know what their leaders need to provide the U.S.: stories of young girls going to school.