Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pat Buchanan’s “Culture War” Is Alive and Well in Texas and Arizona

When the Texas Board of Education approved its politicized history curriculum on a straight party-line vote, 10-5, the fanatical revisionism of the Board’s right wing faction went beyond the foolishness of one member’s insecurity over the branding of an economic system. One of the absurd changes adopted was to replace the word “capitalism” with “free-enterprise system.” Apparently, a member of the Christian Right faction led by dentist Don McLeroy (who has no wisdom teeth and takes his history from the Tooth Fairy) worried that capitalist has negative connotations as in “capitalist pig.” Perhaps we should embrace “free-enterprise pigs” to describe BP, Transocean, and Halliburton –- it’s got a nice ring to it. (Parenthetically, socialists could raise a similar and more valid grievance, given the Teabaggers’ signs, over the distortion of their ideology.)

The battle lines were drawn even before the debate began when Board member Cynthia Dunbar led the opening prayer by affirming her inaccurate belief that we are “a Christian land governed by Christian principles,” in the name of “my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” That’s all well and good, except that we are a secular nation governed by secular laws, with no Christian state religion, but rather a “wall of separation” between church and state, as most famously enunciated by deist Thomas Jefferson.

One of the Board’s most galling changes was to rebrand “Slave Trade” as “Atlantic Triangular Trade.” This goes to the heart of what is most disturbing about ideological right wing historical revisionism –- the introduction of half-truths, distortions, and vexing omissions to textbooks in an effort to “whitewash” 246 years of slavery in America. From its beginnings in 1619 when African slaves were first brought to America, captured like animals in their native lands and chained in the holds of slave ships to be sold as chattel in colonial Jamestown, to slavery’s official end in 1865 coinciding with the end of the Civil War and beyond, slavery has been a dark and tragic narrative in our nation’s history.

What the Texas Board of Education has done is to compel the writing of a parallel history of America, one in which slavery is concealed, and its central role as the cause of America’s bloodiest internecine conflict claiming more than 600,000 lives, discarded. Not only does this fantasy entertained by white Christian fanatics violate the history of our nation –- for to disregard truth and facts is to empower lies and violence -- but it deeply disrespects the history and contributions of African Americans.

The history of racism in this nation, which parallels slavery’s beginnings in 1619, is alive and well in the deliberations of the Texas Board of Education, circa 2010 –- 391 years later, and counting. It is a festering wound that is further infected by the lies of white ideologues on the Board who would dismiss the civil rights movement as creating “unrealistic expectations of equal outcomes” among minorities and remove any reference to race, sex or religion in discussing what different groups have contributed to the national identity. The same thing is happening in Arizona with another law signed by its lily white governor outlawing “ethnic studies” as somehow antithetical or divisive, when in fact it constitutes part of the multicolored fabric that built this nation and its capital, brick by brick.

Anyone who fails to see the ideological connection between the Texas Board vote, long in the making, and the Arizona curriculum slam of nonwhite Americans, has not been paying attention. There is much cause for alarm, not only for parents who wish for their children to receive a well-rounded and truthful education that teaches facts and unbiased, objective history and science, but for all citizens who thought the struggles for civil rights and the ongoing fight to keep Christian religious dogma out of science and history textbooks were settled history. For those who were there at the start of the troubles, there must be in all of this a sickening, familiar odor of déjavu, from Texas to Arizona to Rand Paul revisiting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, like Robert Duvall’s glorification of war in Apocalypse Now: “You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Pat Buchanan framed its current context:
“There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself. And in that struggle for the soul of America.

My friends, even in tough times, these people are with us. They don't read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke, but they came from the same schoolyards and playgrounds and towns as we did. They share our beliefs and convictions, our hopes and our dreams. They are the conservatives of the heart. […]

And as they took back the streets … block by block, so we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country.”
This speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention was the high point of Pat Buchanan’s political career. Ironically, it is known as the “culture war” speech, and even though Buchanan mellowed, it lives on in the hearts and minds of Christian conservatives such as Don McLeroy, Cynthia Dunbar, and their allies in Texas and Arizona like a secret covenant that informs their radical right ideological agenda. The Christian Right’s culture war isn’t just a bumper sticker –- it’s real and it’s on the march.


Anonymous said...

As a southerner, I can tell you that the South is always 100 years behind in the evolutionary process. I think everyone should put pressure on their school boards to not buy the books and maybe the other 49 (or at least 25 or 30) states might be able to bring down the racist backwards zealots in the State of Texas. Let real History professors make decisions instead of the hypocritical deacons of Texas Ghurches. "The Man" - 1; Our Kids - 0

Anonymous said...

"Slave Trade" as "Atlantic Triangulation Trade"! This is SO frustrating. Schools were the one place we could count on (hope for) to present facts and open-minded queries and observations. Thanks for the alert. This march has to be stopped quickly.

Carlos said...

There is hope that this can be contained to Texas, given the outcry in so many other states. The use of digital book technology makes it easier to modify the textbooks to retain objective history and science. But continued vigilance is needed.

Brianna said...

The slave trade was a triangle in the atlantic, betwen Africa, the southern colonies, and the caribbean islands. Rum and sugar cane from the caribbean, slaves from africa, and tobacco from the colonies. Unless they're neglecting to mention that slaves were part of the mix, this is actually not that serious a rebranding.

Carlos said...

Human beings are not commodities and the fact million of people were trade as such for commodities, is why this is known as the "transatlantic slave trade", "Atlantic Slave Trade", "Atlantic Triangular Slave Trade", "Triangular Transatlatic Slave Trade", etc. The word "Slave" is in the vast majority of historical descriptions for a reason: The trade in millions of humans was the principal aspect of this trade, not non-human commodities. The Civil War was not fought over rum, sugar, and tobacco, and people unfamiliar with the so-called "triangular trade" would never know it involved slaves, because zealots on the Texas Board dropped the word "slave".

This is part of a pattern of concealing the centrality of the slave trade and its attendant horrors, for untold thousands never made their chained journey alive. Africans refer to the traffic of at least 11 million (lowest figure) slaves across the Atlantic as "Maafa", which means Holocaust.

It's why the changes were properly called a "whitewash" by a Board member who voted NO to them.