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One Huge Problem With Jesse Ventura

Saturday, May 31, 2008
I should preface this by saying that I voted for Jesse Ventura when he and Mae Schunk "shook the world" in 1998. And I would have voted for him again had he sought re-election, but Jesse has his flaws. He's smug. He's egotistical. When he spoke at my college, many of my fellow students thought that he had feigned weeping while discussing his deceased parents in an effort to manipulate the crowd in some fashion. I also distinctly remember him asking "don't it?" over and over, precisely the sort of grammatical boner one would not want to make in front of several hundred college students. Still, I voted for him. I desperately wanted to see a third party candidate break through the two party duopoly and Jesse Ventura, it seemed, was just the person to do it.

Of course, his quasi-libertarian brand of common sense populism was a refreshing change, too.

Now that Jesse has returned to the national spotlight with Don't Start the Revolution Without Me, I have been listening to him again. I find myself nodding along, agreeing with Ventura on many points, especially his critiques of the farcical two party system we've got going in this country. I also find myself shaking my head, grinning and grimacing whenever the Governor brings up spurious information to bolster a particularly dubious point. Still, I'd love to see him run for office again. Like he says, every time he throws his hat into the ring, people pay attention to the elections, real issues enter into the debates, and voter turnout increases exponentially.

But there's one thing he's said recently that really, really sticks in my craw. In an interview with Meria Heller, Ventura makes this statement:
I don't watch much TV, but I do something else: I read books. And last year I read sixteen books. Now, certainly not all of them on 9-11. But, I love to read history books. I don't read fiction because I have my own imagination and I don't need some writer to try to take my own imagination from me, so I like to read history and what I consider somewhat factual books...
You can hear it for yourself by clicking on the link below (the passage I quote can be found between the 36-minute, 47-second mark and the 37-minute, 10-second mark).

Okay, maybe it's because I work with literature on a daily basis, but Good Lord, what a thing to say! Especially coming from an actor (that's fiction) and a professional wrestler (um...that's not really "somewhat factual," is it?). I mean, really, fiction doesn't take one's imagination away; it engages it. Sheesh, This is what I'd like to say to Jesse: good fiction gets people thinking. It energizes our minds and encourages us to talk about issues we mightn't talk about otherwise. Albert Camus once said that a novel is a philosophical work in narrative form, a text designed not just to entertain but to teach, inspire, and motivate. (Of course, one could argue that history is not so much fact as interpretation, too. But that's another, more post-structural topic). And, really, didn't George Orwell's fiction get people talking about the things you yourself discuss today? C'mon, Jesse! Do you mean to tell us that you battles with Jimmy Superfly Snuka and Hulk Hogan mean nothing?

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