The Many Tall Tales of Ben Carson
Ben Carson seems to have lost his mind. It’s no certainly no secret that the man speaks as though he were a lunatic, but the level of scrutiny applied to a leading presidential candidate seems to be breaking him.
He has no voting record in any legislative body to study, and he has little-to-no policy positions or papers to parse. He does, however, have six books. Carson suspended his presidential campaign in favor of his book tour, again, and reporters followed. He was queried regarding numerous questionable tales peppered throughout his biography. As with debate moderators, the questions from campaign correspondents seemed too much for Carson to endure. His default docile demeanor was discarded. He raised his normally dulcet voice to the point of cracking. He interrupted. He pointed and flailed. He paced and nearly mounted his podium. Carson questioned again and again why he was receiving what he described as the most scrutiny of any candidate he had ever witnessed, yet the media cared not one little bit about President Obama’s sealed Columbia University records. Which, it should be noted for the record, are not sealed at all – yet another piece of evidence suggesting that the good doctor inhabits an alternate reality.
Ben Carson doesn’t believe that the pharaohs of ancient Egypt had the pyramids built as tombs (despite all of the hieroglyphics scrawled upon the pyramids). Carson describes the biblical story of Joseph storing large amounts of grain – he sees the pyramids – and voila! He admits that his theory is considered crazy by anyone with any sort of knowledge on the subject, yet he maintains it nonetheless. Why would a man intelligent and driven enough to rise from inner-city poverty to the apex of his profession - and not just any profession, but friggin’ brain surgery – why would that guy spew such nonsensical drivel?
For one thing, it’s working. He's sold tons of books, Cuba Gooding, Jr. portrayed him in a film. And for the time being, at least, he is atop the republican polls. He’s the front-runner. So his schtick is definitively attractive to certain segments of American society.
Despite significant evidence to the contrary, I refuse to believe that politicians are just plain stupid. Not even Louie Gohmert or Sarah Palin. They may spew ramblings which are utterly ridiculous and patently false, but there is always a ready audience in the conservative base for even the most outlandish. In that world, any push-back or correction is seen as yet another example of (imaginary) liberal media bias. Politicians use any and all criticism for fundraising emails, and no conservative has ever lost primary votes for going to war with the liberal media.
We already know that Carson thinks Obamacare is a form of slavery, and that the Holocaust happened because Hitler took the guns from the Jews. That he compares women who've had abortions to slave owners, and thinks gayness isn't real because straight people decide to turn gay in prison. So what is he saying now, and why is it crazy enough to get me to write about this guy yet again? Because the nonsensical fables framing his biography speak more to whom exactly he is talking to in this country, than about the man personally.
Though none of his friends or relatives have thus far been willing to back up his statements or characterizations, Carson claims to have been a very violent and scary young black man. He tried to kill people. His own mother, even. Just ask him. Ben Carson claims to have attacked his mother with a hammer. Fortunately, his brother stopped him. Unfortunately, his mother has alzheimer’s and can’t be seen. Also, his brother can’t be bothered to comment, because Ben wouldn’t want the media jackals to have their way with him.
His poor mother was not the only family member to feel the wrath of young, violent and scary Ben. Though he’s changed his story about which relative, the story remains the same; Ben was so enraged that he took up a knife and stabbed his fellow teenage relative in the abdomen. Miraculously, the amorphous relative was wearing a large metal belt-buckle, and since Ben had used such force in his thrusting of the knife, the blade broke clean off the handle and fell to the floor without harm. Ben then ran into the bathroom, where he found a bible. Where he found the Lord. Scary, black teenage Ben emerged from the bathroom a changed man. A docile and dulcet man. Because Jesus.
Then there’s West Point. Carson was in the ROTC, and claims to have had dinner with General William Westmoreland following a parade in 1969, where he was offered a full-ride scholarship to West Point. Thing is, West Point doesn’t offer scholarships, tuition is free to those who are accepted, followed by military service. But Carson didn't apply because he wasn't interested. Also, General Westmoreland was likely not there at all when Carson says he was. Carson marched in the 1969 Memorial Day parade in Detroit, while records of Westmoreland's schedule show that the general was in D.C. in the days both preceding and post-, with no mention of Detroit.
Mr. Carson was accepted into Yale. Says that during on-campus riots following the assassination of MLK, he sheltered poor white students from the violent and scary, black Yale students outside. Once again, no witnesses have been willing to back his claims.
Also at Yale, Carson claims to have been given $10 for being “the most honest student” in Perceptions 301. Students had taken an exam, sections of which were lost in a subsequent fire, so they were to retake portions of the exam. When the 150 students arrived, the retake was twice as difficult as the original. One-by-one, student after student rose and exited without completing their exams. The professor finally returned with a photographer from the Yale Daily News, and a $10 reward. However, Perceptions 301 was not an actual class at Yale, so Carson's account has severe flaws. Odd to have a professor of an imaginary class, who Carson would have known had he been in the class. Also, the Yale Daily News had no pictures at all of Carson, yet alone having to do with him being the most honest student in a nonexistent class. This story is not a complete fabrication, though. It was found the Yale Record, under the heading PARODY.
Then there was the time that lazy and stupid young Ben was failing chemistry. Says that even if he had gotten an A on the final, he still would’ve failed the course. That he intended to learn the entire book the night before. Instead, he prayed. Implored for a miracle, lest he fail out of medical school and become a failure in life. An angel tutored him in his sleep, and when he went to class the next day, he recognized all of the questions on the final from his dream angel tutor. He miraculously "aced" the test and passed the class. Because Jesus!
While blaming the shooting victims at Umpqua for their own untimely deaths, Carson described how he had reacted when a gun was pulled on him in the past. Though he was a vegetarian at the time, Carson claims that he went with friends for fries at a “Popeye’s organization” in Baltimore. While inside, a robber stuck his gun into the ribs of Carson, who calmly suggested that the man instead wanted the guy behind the counter working the register with the loot. Carson says that a police report was filed by the employee. This may have happened. That particular establishment, on 300 N Broadway, had numerous encounters during the time in question ('81-'83). It is odd, though, that a robber would pull his gun on a random student in line, instead of the guy with the cash. If Carson had said that the guy demanded his watch, or wallet, or something at all (along, perhaps, with those of other patrons of the Popeye’s?) then his story would make some semblance of sense. But then he would likely have stayed and filed a police report himself, which of course didn’t happen.
Again, these stories are not random ramblings of a pathological liar, they fit a very specific narrative which feeds into the brand that Carson has been selling for decades. That white Christian conservatives have been right all along. That without Jesus, young blacks are violent and scary, reckless individuals - individuals, though, who could still achieve anything in this world, if they would simply calm down and bow their nappy heads.
Especially informative are Gifted Hands' reflections on the biblical character of Joseph. Carson's pyramid theory is utter madness, yet it works for him because it is based completely in faith, and any attack on his faith equals martyrdom, which he can use to rally Christian conservatives to his cause. Carson also describes the story of Joseph showing off his flashy tunic as a young man, how he was brash and boastful, and was sold into slavery out of jealousy. But, Carson recounts, Joseph determined that if he was going to be a slave, he would be the best slave of all. Joseph was indeed the best slave, and, in Carson's words, wound up running the place.