Cathy Wilcox sets the stage today, and, while in Australia this generally means soft-pedaling the treatment of aboriginal people, painting rosy pictures of a less-than-splendid past is a hot trend throughout the world, and certainly here.
I clicked on a Facebook ad offering free curricula to help young people learn to identify fake news. It turned out to be written by Mike Huckabee, whose daughter was an expert in fake news. I suppose it’s part of a series, along with Jeffrey Epstein’s “Dating Tips for Teens.”
As a result of my curiosity, my feed is now full of ads for free curricula with which you can teach children the glories of America as seen from the right wing of the lunatic fringe, and it’s scary to see how much partisan misinformation is being fed — free! — to gullible parents and teachers, the saving grace being that I dealt with Curriculum Committees for a quarter of a century, and I know how hard it is to get past “We’ve always done it this way.”
James Loewen, who died last month, wrote in “Lies My Teacher Told Me” about the bizarre way we teach history as an ongoing morality tale, as if we were on an indisputably upward track to glory and perfection.
It would make me wonder how textbooks of the future will treat our current backslide, but, then, they teach the 1920s not as a time of Red scares, grinding poverty and massive profiteering, but as a jolly period of flappers and romantic mobsters and swell cars.
They’ll think of something.
Speaking of how we treat aboriginal people, the recent dust-up in Canada over depictions of native people in children’s books — covered here by DD Degg — included a lot of frantic overstatement, but, at heart, it was spot-on about the way First Nations people have been stereotyped and diminished.
What is frustrating about it is how easy it is to get things right.
For instance, in writing about Dene people in the Athabascan for a children’s story about the voyageurs in that region, (illos by Dylan Meconis) a short phone call to an anthropologist in Canada confirmed that, if one of the voyageurs in the story spoke Slavey, he’d be able to understand, though barely, a group of Dane-zaa hunters speaking Beaver.
What difference did it make? Did I fear furious calls from linguists? No, but it was the difference between getting it right and getting it wrong and the woman at the university was happy to share her expertise.
Similarly, phone calls to tribal historians and cultural experts among the Comanche, Mohawk, Hopi, Navajo and Lakota have not simply kept me from making ignorant mistakes but have offered insights that helped me add nuances to my writing.
Why not invest 15 minutes in a phone call, if getting it right and doing good work is your goal?
Juxtaposition of the Day
There are, of course, times when objective accuracy gives way to subjective exaggeration, given that not only are cartoons cartoons but they are sometimes intended to shape public opinion.
Obviously, Lio isn’t attempting to depict an actual place, and, if there were such a town, they would hardly be that forthcoming in admitting their failures. But you can’t fault Mark Tatulli on facts, because — despite all the proud, star-spangled denial — the vast majority of Covid deaths are now among the unvaccinated and unmasked.
Sack offers a somewhat different exaggeration. He’s commenting on the anti-vax talk-radio hosts who, after spreading misinformation and paranoia to their audiences, have themselves succumbed to the disease.
It is not true that failure to get the vaccine is an absolute death sentence, any more than smoking absolutely insures cancer.
However, the connection is obvious and indisputable, though, if there were a 1:1 ratio in the matter, it would be a much easier sell.
As noted here before, that’s also true of drunk driving: If everyone who had a third drink were killed on the highway, nobody would drink and drive, but most drunk drivers make it home safely, which hardly makes it a smart practice.
And I have no doubt that there are far more talk-radio hosts spreading dangerous misinformation than just the ones who have died of Covid, but it’s fair commentary: They worked to gain ratings by airing their views and cannot object when those heavily promoted opinions draw attention on the occasions of their deaths.
It’s a sign of our changing times, I suppose, that the death of Rock Hudson from AIDS changed America’s view of the disease, making us more sympathetic and helping focus us on searching for a cure rather than condemning the victims.
Today, though Sack offers a chilling warning to the holdouts, such deaths generally seem to go unacknowledged in one camp and to be greeted with schadenfreude in the other, while inspiring reform almost nowhere.
Frustrating as that may seem, however, cartoonists like Steve Sack and Ann Telnaes need to keep sounding the alarm, if not for the stubborn people who absolutely will not listen, at least for those at the edges who might.
It falls under the Starfish Rule: You can’t save them all, but that shouldn’t keep you from trying to save as many as you can.
Significantly Less Significant Juxtaposition of the Day
In no episode of Lassie did Timmy Martin ever fall into a well. Nor did Jeff Miller.
There was, however, a time when Lassie pushed a crook into a well, then helped Hugh Beaumont save him.
Beaumont went on, of course, to be the victim of a lot of other bogus TV mythology.
Finally, we salute First Dog on the Moon for making fun of those one-dimensional dullards who fancy it makes them “intellectuals” to feign ignorance of sports, unaware that well-balanced people can appreciate sports as well as opera and ballet.
Though not many on this side of the Equator understand the specific object of First Dog’s devotion.
Perhaps those tiresome anti-sports snobs should Google Edward Villella …
… or the woman of whom Johnson wrote: “My old friend Mrs. Carter could make a pudding as well as translate Epictetus from the Greek.”
Though, admittedly, we don’t know how she felt about footy.