January 14, 2012

What conservatives consider "objective history"

Author Tim Wise gives us a semi-facetious example of conservative history:

Telling White Lies: Patriotic Correctness and the War on Ethnic Studies

By Tim WiseAmerica was founded by people who were escaping oppression and yearning to be free. Upon arrival in the New World they established religious freedom, except for those people who weren’t religious enough, or were suspected of witchcraft, or were Catholic, or who adhered to some silly pagan faith like those practiced by the Indians whom the colonists encountered. The colonists then set about building a new nation in which all men were created equal, as long as those men weren’t women, or something other than European, or poor. Along the way, mistakes were made (haven’t you ever made a mistake?), and sadly, Native Americans died in large numbers because they didn’t have resistance to the diseases brought over from Europe, or the bullets we occasionally were forced to fire at them when they weren’t willing to let us live on their land, or when they didn’t show sufficient appreciation for the nice spot we had made for them in Oklahoma.

Also, Africans were brought to America and held in bondage as slaves, which was wrong. But most were treated reasonably well by their masters because you can’t get much work out of a slave if you kill him or chop off his arms or his foot like John Amos in that movie, Roots. And remember, slavery has existed everywhere, and back then everyone believed in slavery—well, except the slaves or the abolitionists—so, ya know, you can’t judge that period by today’s moral standards. It’s not like the human brain was capable of supporting liberty and freedom as far back as 200 years ago! So stop living in the past. At some point we have to move on. Mistakes were made. Haven’t you ever made a mistake?
He then ridicules the people who think this way, such as the racist conservatives trying to eliminate ethnic studies in Arizona:This is what conservatives believe to be objective history. In fact, as I’ve recited it above would likely be seen as not nearly fair enough to the likes of those reactionary forces who would ban Ethnic Studies, and not only for the sarcasm with which I’ve said it. To them, discussing genocide, slavery, or the slaughter of people around the world at the hands of the United States military at all, even if prefaced with the obligatory phrasing about mistakes being made, is ipso facto a heritage offense, a violation of patriotic correctness, a sign that one hates one’s own country and should be presumed traitorous. They would hardly approve of even the above-displayed level of national apologetics, so willing is it to nonetheless reference some of the sordid underbelly of our imperial existence.

No indeed, to many of them, only a sanitized, hyper-nationalistic narrative scrubbed of all reference to injustice will do. They are like Michelle Bachmann, for whom there is apparently no event in American history that she cannot manage to splendidly mischaracterize; or like Glenn Beck, who apparently believes there is a straight line between the Biblical Israelites and the Founding Fathers because a fanatical Mormon (whom the LDS church had to disavow so extreme were his views), said so.

If Judge Kowal’s ruling is allowed to stand, students in Tucson will be the worse for it, and the floodgates will be opened for similar reactionary laws to be passed in other states, where whites feel threatened by the growing population of Latinos, and the demographic transformation of the white republic for which they so fondly and wistfully long. The America of their youth—that small town, Leave It to Beaver, Boy Scout troop idyll, which relegated racial others to the margins of national existence—is dead, and they cannot, will not, let it go. So they lash out against those who would teach truth, who would expose students to a critical examination of the history so nostalgically revered by the aging, fading hegemon. Their path is the politics of white resentment, white anxiety, and the last gasp of a white supremacy that demographic and cultural trends suggest is living on borrowed time. But until that system blessedly takes its last breath, its committed practitioners and defenders are capable of doing much damage.

For us, the path is clear. Not only should we demand the reversal of Kowal, and the continuation of Ethnic Studies in Tucson, but we should take matters into our own hands. If truth cannot be taught in schools then let us teach it to our children, in after-school programs, weekend workshops, in our homes, churches, mosques, synagogues and community-based organizations. Relying on a public school system to do the job for us—especially when that system was established by, and ultimately for members of the dominant group, and has persistently perpetuated inequity from the beginning—is a fool’s errand.
Comment:  As I've said before, our culture is a propaganda machine for the dominant American mythology. Every insult or stereotype involving Indians--Drunken Savages, "Sioux Suck," human sacrificers, "Secret Indian Predictions!" etc.--is designed to reinforce this mythology. Whether you realize it or not, you're being fed this mythology 24 hours a day.

And what is this mythology? Again, that Indians were a primitive and superstitious lot. That the white man brought civilization and enlightenment to a wild and untamed continent. And therefore, that the Euro-Americans' had a right and a duty to take the land from its worthless owners. That the invaders' inherent goodness outweighs any badness they did along the way.

That's what Arizona is trying to shut down: any challenges to the cultural propaganda machine. IOW, the multicultural critique of America's supremacist ideology. The white-power boys will whatever it takes, including censoring and rewriting history, to remain in power.

For more on the subject, see Tucson Bans Native Books, Shakespeare Play and Tucson's Mexican American Studies Rejected.

Below:  Entertainment media says Indians were evil and deserved to die!

No comments: