CSotD: Smoke Gets In Our Eyes

The whole world is indeed watching, and, as Andy Marlette (Creators) suggests, the outrageous number of mass shootings in this country is becoming part of our brand.

I don’t know how Germans feel about being associated with beer, and my favorite Mexican restaurants don’t feature mariachi music, but it seems Americans buy into our macho, gunslinging image, or, at least, they don’t do much to fight it.

I disagree with Jeff Stahler (AMS) that we care more about sports injuries than mass shootings. While perhaps only Buffalo Bills fans knew much about Damar Hamlin before that game, he was (A) a particular person and (B) his injury happened in front of a national audience.

The cartoon seems less an indictment of people’s indifference than an argument in favor of releasing surveillance camera videos of mass shootings, or photos of the victims. We had read about lynchings for decades, but it was Emmett Till’s mother’s insistence on showing his body that made people care about the issue.

I’m not sure that’s the solution, but I am quite sure that if the Aurora theater shooting, rather than happening at a late night screening in Denver, had happened on live TV at the Oscars, it would have had greater impact on the nation as a whole.

And I do agree with Stahler that anyone who claims to want legislation to protect unknown, theoretical life is a liar if they don’t also wanting sensible gun legislation to help prevent the killing of named, post-born human beings.

Rob Rogers points out the futility of “buy back” programs so long as we continue to allow lobbyists to contribute to political campaigns. The people who most should turn in their guns are unlikely to do so, but, then again, how many legislators could we expect to turn away campaign donations?

There are many reason for wishing we could push through serious political finance reform. Our gun situation is certainly one of them.

Ann Telnaes (mainly here, but now also here) sums things up with this exhaustive overview of the crisis, in which she includes not just the NRA’s intensive lobbying efforts but the combination of our Wild West national identity and our inability to view history except through the filters that produce the “history” we prefer.

As with money in politics, the teaching of bad history is part of our gun problem but the harm extends well beyond that single topic.

In fact, bad history is a major problem that is heating up as part of the New Confederacy’s power grasp.

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Clay Bennett — CTFP)

(Kevin Siers)

Bennett and Siers are correct in attributing Florida’s throttling of an AP Course in African-American History to racism, though it’s tempting to ascribe it to the “They Just Don’t Get It” school of unintentional racism.

Bennett hits the mark by going back to the Jim Crow days of separate facilities, because, while African-American History is a subset of American History, it is, indeed, a part of the whole, which brings us to that ugly word “We,” which too often means “We the default” which means “We the majority” which means “We the white folks.”

That brings us to Siers, who rightfully terms default history as white, and points out DeSantis’s insistence that black history must fit within the white context.

JD Crowe seems a bit harsh in making DeSantis so deliberately racist and homophobic in his goals and his appeal, but, then again, look at what DeSantis has said and done so far, not just to suppress a black-oriented approach to African-American History, but to suppress teaching of LGBTQ+ issues, and to suppress books that don’t hew to a straight agenda and to promote laws forbidding medical treatment for transgender people.

Add the outright promotion on Fox News and by some mainstream, syndicated cartoonists of Replacement Theory and it’s clear that the days of misinterpreting the intentions of the New Confederacy have long since passed.

Which brings Bennett closer to the mark with this cartoon, because, racial issues aside, we teach American History as a fairy tale, and, worse, we’ve known it for decades.

James Loewen wrote Lies My Teacher Told Me nearly 30 years ago, assailing the tradition of teaching American history as a tale with a direction, a morality arc moving ever upward towards glory and perfection and America as the pinnacle of goodness.

It’s one of those things you can’t unsee, and if Loewen and Howard Zinn — whose A People’s History of the United States goes back even farther — have a tendency to see conspiracies where there is mostly ignorance, and intention where there is mostly incompetence, they both argue convincingly against a form of pseudo-history I refer to as “The Virus That Spread From Plymouth Rock.”

Whether intentional or not, this dominant school assumes that “America” is an outgrowth of the Massachusetts settlements, such that even Jamestown is a bit of a digression, and that not only are “we” the direct descendants of the Pilgrims, but that nothing happened until “we” got there.

Which, to paraphrase Elliott Gould in Getting Straight, would be a helluva surprise to the people in Florida and what is now the American Southwest, both indigenous and Spanish.

I discovered this when I wrote a curriculum about rodeo which began when the first horses arrived, went up through the development of the cattle industry (in which both terms and technique were created by the vaqueros, not the anglos) and then to the development, as Telnaes cites, of the American cowboy as a national icon.

Teachers said they liked it but couldn’t use it until spring, because they taught history chronologically, and apparently the only thing that happened west of the Mississippi before the Gold Rush was Lewis & Clark, and, even so, history didn’t really start out there until after the Civil War and the Golden Spike.

Hanlon’s Razor states that we should never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, and this certainly pertains to the way we teach history.

But Hanlon didn’t deal with impact, only with intent.

The impact of bad history is that it doesn’t tell us how we — the real we, not the default we — came to this point.

But Mike Luckovich illustrates the intent of refusing to expand and improve American history: DeSantis has specifically stated that nothing should be taught that makes kids feel bad.

And we know which kids, and whose kids, he means.

What Randy Newman sang in mockery of their historic approach might be acceptable as true African-American history in the New Confederacy.

8 thoughts on “CSotD: Smoke Gets In Our Eyes

  1. Luckovich also gives us an ironic twist on Norman Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live With.”

  2. ‘. . . which too often means “We the default” which means “We the majority” which means “We the white folks.”’

    Which really means “We the white MEN.” Always did, probably always will.

  3. Along with H. Zinn I refer you to the excellent work by Daniel A. Sjursen ‘A True History of the United States’ (buy from independent booksellers or the publisher, not amazin)

  4. If I’m remembering correctly from years ago, the State of Texas has great influence on textbook material of any kind and has influenced textbook publishers for decades, due to the volume of books they buy. The rest of the country is affected by Texas’ influence as publishers will not create one edition for Texas and another for every other state.

    Wish I could remember the specific circumstances where I heard this–I was involved in the book retail and wholesale / distribution field back in the 80s and 90s, going to many trade shows…think that was where it was first told to me.

  5. Thank you for the link to Andy Marlette, and for the fine discussion of sanitized history classes. I sometimes wonder if space aliens had really been observing us for a while, what kind of account they would write.

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