sweating with the bloggers

I’m not positive, but I think that I may have been sharing exercise equipment this evening with Ann Arbor’s most well-known and respected blogger, professor Juan Cole. Cole, a professor of History at the University of Michigan, has received a great deal of attention over the past few days for a piece that he’d written entitled “If America were Iraq, What would it be Like?.” Unlike most things that get pushed around the blogosphere, this piece really was deserving of the attention it garnered. It wasn’t snide. It didn’t bait its audience. It just laid out the facts as they are, made them relatable to American readers, and in so doing broke through the noise of everything else this past week, all the nonsense about swift boats and National Guard service. Here, in case you haven’t yet read it, is how the article starts:

President Bush said Tuesday that the Iraqis are refuting the pessimists and implied that things are improving in that country.

What would America look like if it were in Iraq’s current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.

Those of you who are fans of Dr. Cole’s work will be happy to know that he, if indeed he was the man that I think he was, keeps himself in great shape. (A healthy blogger is, after all, a productive blogger… or is that, “An unhappy blogger is a productive blogger?” I can never keep those sayings straight.) A very tall man in baggy shorts, who wears his black socks half-way over his knees, Cole was easy to spot and keep track of from ‘fat man’s nook,’ the area where I like to wallow. I spent half an hour watching him leap from one machine to the next, leaving himself no time to rest in between. He was a man possessed. He reminded me for some reason, in the way he approached machines, of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry. I stood there in awe of the older man, staring at him and wondering what I’d say if I had the courage to approach him.

I told myself that I should ask him about the piece that I linked to above and whether or not it meant anything to him that so many people are now reading his analysis of Iraq, but I know that I, being me, would have asked him something else, something less appropriate. In this particular case, I know I would have asked him about the medical-looking device that he had strapped to his arm. All I could see of it was a bit of plastic tubing peaking out from behind gauze, but it captured my interest, and I know, if I’d opened my mouth, that’s what I would have mentioned. I think that perhaps he was receiving some kind of chemical drip, something to keep him awake and focused on current events, a tiny micro-stream of insulin and caffeine. It was either that, I thought, or some kind of device he wore to drain an open sore, like a little micro sump-pump…. I like the first explanation so much more.

On the subject of draining open sores, my father used to tell me that his uncle Raymond, after he came back from the Pacific, where he served during World War II, would have to have his mother, my great grandmother, insert “milkshake straws” into the open sores on his back to drain them. I can’t remember all the details of the story, but Raymond, a demolitions expert and a diver in the Navy, I believe, had to spend a great deal of time living in a cave on Guam, surrounded by the Japanese, subsisting on moss and insects. That, everyone thought, was what caused his weeping sores. I believe he was dead before I was born.

One thing I should add before you go running over to his site, Cole is an academic, and he doesn’t mess around with the kinds of smart-assed quips that the rest of us with blogs like tossing around so much. So, if you go to his site, be prepared for a different experience. His posts aren’t personal. They aren’t dripping with angry venom. They’re… well… scholarly. And good. He sticks to the facts, he uses reason, and he makes solid points. And, because of this, he really stands out from the blogger pack. (If you don’t believe me, check out his site and then read the New York Times Magazine piece on the other folks blogging about politics.)

Lastly, while we’re on the subject of college professors, have you read the interview with Bush’s old Harvard Business School prof? Here’s a little taste:

“I don’t remember all the students in detail unless I’m prompted by something,” Tsurumi said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “But I always remember two types of students. One is the very excellent student, the type as a professor you feel honored to be working with. Someone with strong social values, compassion and intellect – the very rare person you never forget. And then you remember students like George Bush, those who are totally the opposite.”

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  1. dorothy b. raught
    Posted September 28, 2004 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    great looking site—nice change.
    thanks for the link to dr.cole’s site. educational and very interesting. spread the word and let’s get those fuckers out of office. regards, dorothy the old pharmacist

  2. Trish Buntz
    Posted September 28, 2004 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    You should have just walked up to him and slurped on his mystery tube like it was a milk shake straw.

  3. Posted September 28, 2004 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Your entry about Bush’s prof reminded me of this:
    “At Andover, having employed “tears” once in the essay, Bush sought a substitute from a thesaurus his mother had given him and wrote “the lacerates ran down my cheeks”. The essay received a fail grade, accompanied by derogatory comments such as “disgraceful””

  4. mark
    Posted September 28, 2004 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Here’s hoping we all live to see the lacerates running down his cheeks come November 3rd.

    And, you’re right, Trish, I should have just helped myself to a big swig of whatever Dr. Cole was having (or draining). Maybe I’ll go back to the gym some day and do just that.

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