Tuesday, March 14, 2006
If they only knew
Michael Ledeen relates an e-mail he received from Yuri Yarim-Agaev, a democratic revolutionary in the former USSR. It seems the local New Jersey Barnes & Nobel is not exactly stacked with the works of America's greatest thinkers.
A few days ago, I stopped by a neighboring Barnes & Nobel bookstore in Holmdel, NJ, to look for the writings of Thomas Jefferson. The store is large and contains many different departments, including some strange to my archaic education, such as New Age, Self Improvement and Gay and Lesbian studies. There still are some sections (though not as capacious) that are more familiar to me, such as U.S. History, Philosophy, and Law. I started to browse these sections for Jefferson's works. I found several biographies of the great man but none of his original writings. In the Philosophy section, however, I came across six different editions (editions, not copies!) of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto and two editions of Capital.Ah, silly students. If they had only read some Thomas Jefferson they'd realize he's a much more radical revolutionary than Marx. Tut tut. What is it with the youth today?
Somewhat puzzled, I approached the customers' desk. The lady at the desk looks into the computer database, finds one book of Jefferson's s elected writings and goes in search of it to the shelves. Soon she returns empty-handed.
"We do not have any in stock, but I can order it for you."
"Thank you," I reply. "I'll find the book myself on the Internet. Could you tell me, though, how is it that you have six different editions of the Communist manifesto but none of Jefferson's writings?"
"You know," she says, "Marx is often requested by college students, but they never ask for Jefferson."
As for students, it is hard to entertain the thought that they have such a natural overwhelming aspiration for the works of Karl Marx. Most likely it is the curricula of nearby colleges that require them to study the original works of the founder of communism, but not of the father of American democracy.The father of American democracy. Sigh. Well, Yuri is a courageous hero who helped bring down the Soviet Union, so I'll cut him some slack. Maybe he's just confused Jefferson with this chap.