News that New Gingrich and his third wife, Callista, are going on vacation from his campaign to become the next US president in 2o12, reminded us of the time Newt and Callista went to Africa.
In the video, above, Newt talks about how when he was a boy, he wanted to work with the natural world. I had those same dreams. Mine were fueled by watching Richard Attenborough’s “Life on Earth.” But my hopes for the future didn’t include putting the animals into zoos.
Maybe that’s where Newt Gingrich and I went our separate ways.
Gingrich emotes (as much as he’s capable) here about his youthful dreams of becoming a vertebrate paleontologist, or a zoo director. (He’s visited over 95 zoos in the world.)
Perhaps part of a campaign to look less animal and more human, Gingrich and his current wife went on a whirlwind Smithsonian-National Geographic-San Diego Zoo joint trip to Africa that took them from Luxor, Egypt, to Rwanda (where he supposedly “hiked” in the Ruwenzori), the Serengeti (in time to see the annual great migration), Zambia (where his wife, Calista, walked out of the hotel room to shoo away a monkey in order to photograph a giraffe), Mali, “a very poor country,” and finally, Marrakech, which “surprised” them in its comparableness to “Italy” (and therefore a place he would recommend to anyone).
Throughout the interview, Newt can’t help doing the zoo-director-educational-bit: in Madagascar, they “spent time with the lemurs, which are “very early pre-monkeys” that didn’t evolve from their ‘primitive’ state because the island was isolated from the mainland.
In Cape Town, he saw actual people when he went to mass: there, the “Ho-sa community” sang Amazing Grace “in Ho-sa” (we think he means Xhosa). It reminded him of being in Beijing, where they heard the same hymn sung in Chinese. These two experiences culminated in profound thoughts about the “diversity” in the world – though to us, it seems more of an indication of the power that neo-Evangelical Christianity has to flatten diversity.
And finally, it comes out: he and Calista are “fortunate” to be working with “Citizens United” (watch out, the webpage opens to a creepy montage of shooting, explosions, and other war sounds). Citizen’s United landing page states that it “seeks to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty with security,” and seems to misuse French writer, Alexis de Tocqueville’s admiring-yet-wry critique of “American Exceptionalism.” In Newt and Calista’s hands, de Tocqueville’s analysis is wholly laudatory: America, as a ”new republic,” is a place where one’s social standing has no bearing on one’s potential, but a place where “liberty, equality, individualism, and laissez-faire economics defined the ‘American Creed,’” in which the American people rise “to great challenges — sometimes out of necessity but often out of the determination to create a better future.”
Values that couldn’t be more “African.”