Old History, New History

Nov. 2 - Of course I want to talk about Election Day. But first, this.

Our Studieskolen class went to the National Museum on Friday. We spent a couple of hours in two exhibits: Denmark in the Middle Ages, and Denmark 1660-2000. The exhibit might just as well have been entitled, "Danish History After the Vikings." Danish history without vikings is like pizza without cheese.

Life in the Danish Middle Ages apparently revolved around two things: praising God and killing Swedes. Naturally there were other things to do with your time—being cold, being hungry, or bearing children, for example—but these appear to have been mere recreations undertaken to relieve the monotony between bouts of piety or bloodshed.

As we discussed our museum visit in Monday's class, someone made the inevitable observation that life was perhaps simpler back then—more free time, less stress, and so on. It was also pointed out that the lifestyle of the middle ages was friendlier than our own to the environment.

I don't dispute either point. Life surely was simpler back then (and shorter and more painful). Civilization was also kinder to the environment, although the environment didn't return the favor.

Whenever I hear treacly talk of that happier, more environment-friendly period known as the middle ages, however, I'm reminded of something Mark Twain wrote in a letter on the subject of Wagnerian opera. "I donít ever seem to be in a good enough humor with anything to satirize it; no, I want to stand up before it and curse it, and foam at the mouth—or take a club and pound it to rags and pulp."

So I'm not going to pretend I can calmly and judiciously dissect the problems with the notion that life was better and greener back in the good old middle ages. And as part of my effort to be a better person, if I can't be calm about something I'm going to leave it alone until I can.

So instead of a frothy polemic on the absurdity of this progressive neo-luddism, here's a picture I took of some statuary from one of the exhibits:

I'd like to able to tell you what that's a photograph of. I'd like to be able to say, for example, Dutchess of Roskilde, 1684, by Anders Mikkelsen (1654-1712). Instead I can only say, Weirdly Intriguing Statue, Presumably Danish, from Sometime Between 1200 and 2000.

Here's a picture from the "modern" side of the exhibit: it's an actual hash booth from Christiania. (A placard advises visitors that the hashish and marijuana on display aren't real.)

* * *

Saying that today is Election Day in the United States would be the height of superfluity. I think we're all looking forward to getting this thing behind us. That's why I'm hoping so desperately that it will be behind us by the end of the night (your Tuesday night, America: my Wednesday morning).

The results from Dixville notch are already in: Bush wins, 19-7. Ralph Nader garnered exactly zero votes—or, as a former employer of mine would say, he got negative bupkis.

That's about as insignificant a statistic as you'll hear today. Dixville Notch has voted Republican in every election since (and including) 1960, with the exception of Humphrey in 1964. Find your tea leaves elsewhere.

* * *

I'll be going to bed early tonight and setting my alarm for 3:30am, which is 9:30pm Eastern time. I figure that's late enough that some actual results may be coming in, but early enough that the race won't have been decided. (I say that guardedly. In 2000, living in New York, Trine and I plunked down in front of the television at 6 or 7pm and ordered a pizza. Trine asked when we'd know who'd won. "Depends on how the election goes," I told her, "but we ought to have a pretty good idea before we go to bed." She asked what would happen if the electoral college produced a tie. I laughed. "That just doesn't happen," I said.)

I'd like to say something clever or witty or insightful about this election, but I have nothing to offer. My biggest hope for today's results don't even hinge on a candidate—they hinge on the process. I want America to make me proud. The abuse I take over here for supporting George Bush doesn't get to me too deeply because the folks who hate him the most seem to have the least understanding of American politics. But the mockery of our 2000 election still smarts. A repeat of that catastrophe would be unbearable. Do we really want to be the butt of Italians political jokes?

Personally I don't think it's going to happen. I have enormous faith in Americans. I happen to think our own democracy is in better shape than those of Europe, if only because we don't have some continental superstructure hanging over us and sucking away our sovereignty one little piece at a time.

Europeans seem to enjoy mocking our Electoral College, despite the fact that it's just a smoothly-functioning, historically proven version of the clunky weighted-voting system they established at Nice for the EU.

But none of that matters. The fact remains that they don't understand the Electoral College, and their igorance is a massive pain in my ass.

All I hope for is a good, clean election—with no widespread fraud, no big litigation, no excessive rioting (it seems naive to wish for no rioting in a country where winning the pennant causes enough violence to get people killed).

I shouldn't say I want America to make me proud—I'm already proud of America. I just want it to be easier to be the proud and jingoistic little yahoo these superior Europeans think I am.

Oh... and I stand by my earlier prediction: Bush over Kerry by a comfortable margin.

Happy Election Day!

© 2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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