On dangerous ground

Published May 16, 2024

By Cash Michaels

Recently I was scanning through that very informative, notably insightful and exhilaratingly educational website, Facebook (don’t laugh), to find out about the latest birthdays, graduations, wedding anniversaries, kung fu movie clips, funny pet videos and Star Trek trivia, when I came across the following post:

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Well, obviously we’ve all heard a variation of that little nugget of wisdom before, but it’s what followed next that jarred my considered attention:

Those who prevent history [from] being taught fully intend to repeat it.

Now those prophetic words instantly worried the hell out of me, primarily because not only are they also true, but we’re actually seeing signs of what they forebode every day, and have been for some time.

A certain orange madman, who recently expressed an undying love for Hannibal Lecter no less, immediately comes to mind, threatening that if he’s reelected president, he’ll do all he can to change the United States to his dictatorial pleasure, and rewrite history in a manner more favorable to his liking.

Can he do it?

Five years ago I would have belly laughed and asked whoever was asking that question if they were freaking crazy. “This is the United States of America,” I would have boasted then, “…a land with so much history - good and bad - that there’s no way anyone can just come along and sell folks a bunch of B.S. to swallow and get away with it.”

And I would have been ignorantly wrong.

Today, we see members of a major American political party getting on television and knowingly lie their faces off about everything that the rest of us know isn’t true - that the COVID-19 pandemic was not as bad as medical experts warned; the January 6th insurrection was a nonviolent protest; the 2020 election was rigged; that anyone named Biden is a criminal and anyone named Trump is a saint; the gun proliferation across this country is not a problem, and the white supremacist movement poses no threat, among other things the rest of us know the obvious truth about.

In September 2021, 59 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in a CNN poll said, “ 'Believing that Donald Trump won the 2020 election’ was very or somewhat important to what being a Republican meant to them.”

WOW! What happened to believing in lower taxes, smaller government and a stronger national defense? Obviously a lot of Republicans have swallowed copious amounts of rhetorical crap generously shoveled by bovine-minded GOP influencers.

So when confronted with folks who just boldly lie to your face, you have to ask yourself the question, “Why, what’s in it for them?”

The answer is shocking. They do it because they’ve discovered that there are millions people in this country who will believe them. In fact, they’ve discovered that there are millions folks who actually want to believe them. They want to either believe the lies manufactured for them, or wallow in their own unrealities. These are people who apparently can’t, or won’t deal with the truth.

They’ve never learned how to.

Remember 16 years ago when then Senator Barack Obama got into a firestorm of trouble for saying that during his presidential campaign in parts of rural Pennsylvania, he came across folks in small towns who just didn’t know what to make of an educated Black man running for the White House, because all they knew was “clinging to their guns and Bibles,” and little else?

The revelation surprised him then. But today, that wouldn’t surprise us at all. Hell, much of the MAGA crowd are sadly folks who refuse to accept reality. And that’s their right.

The part that concerns me most is when MAGA leaders in state legislatures and local governments decide they’re not going allow the true history of this country to be taught to our children. When they start encouraging nonsense like teaching that the civil rights movement was a Communist plot or criminal enterprise, or claiming that important historical figures like Dr. King were wrong to promote desegregation, all to gain some imagined long term electoral advantage, they have to be countered, or else we’re all certainly in trouble. 

Think right-wing extremists attempting to undermine public education with private school vouchers in order to gain control over what is taught to our children, increase segregation, and exacerbate economic and class disparities.

Think Nikki Haley’s sad lies about slavery and racism during her Republican presidential campaign.

Think Florida Gov. Ron Desantis screwing with AP African American History courses so that kids in his state can be as fearlessly dumb as he is.

Think that fountain of educational enrichment, Black Republican Mark Robinson, blabbering about how there is no such thing as systemic racism.

Think NC Republican legislative leaders not wanting white children “emotionally damaged” by being taught the true racial history of North Carolina and the United States. 

Think library books being banned, and librarians being eliminated, as has just happened in Franklin County.

Think the state of Texas, home of the longhorn steers, and longer lies about slavery in their textbooks.

But it’s not just Texas.

National Public Radio reported in 2018 that there were a number of schools across the country which failed to teach that slavery was “the blood-soaked bedrock on which the United States was built.”

Why? Because textbook publishers didn’t want to piss off states like Texas, Alabama and Mississippi by publishing the truth about slavery. After all, states are their primary customers. Better to make a buck, and do as instructed in lying to children who come to school, supposedly to learn the truth.

The result of such educational negligence was out of a survey of 1,000 high school seniors who were asked “what was the reason the South seceded from the Union,” only eight percent of those high schoolers correctly replied “to preserve slavery.”

And you wonder why such truth-telling books like the 1619 Project developed by Nikole Hannah-Jones for the N.Y. Times, or Stamped written by Ibram X. Kendi,  rankle the nerves of so many card-carrying conservatives. You know, the ones who are banning both books from school curriculums and school libraries across the country.

How’s that tune go again…oh yeah: Those who prevent history [from] being taught fully intend to repeat it.

Remember, history is written by the winners.

But today, history is rewritten by those who don’t intend to lose anymore.

Have you looked lately at what’s reportedly coming down the pike if Orange Man is reelected president? In fact, it’s already started.

According to Axios, Stephen Miller, that darling Duke University alumnus, white nationalist and former Trump White House adviser, is heading up an “anti-white racism” effort called America First Legal(AFL), seen as the counter-balance to the liberal American Civil Liberties Union. Miller’s AFL “plans to dramatically change the government’s interpretation of civil rights era laws to focus on anti-white racism, rather than discrimination against people of color” if his old orange boss regains power.

In fact, one of AFL’s current cases is of a white former Red Hat employee who is suing the Raleigh software company for terminating him, alleging it did so as part of its diversity, equity and inclusion program.

I’ll write about the insanity of this “anti-white racism” ruse in a later column. But what Miller and Trump - who plan to link back up if Orange Man wins -  are effectively saying is that the traditional civil rights movement was a scam to rob white people of their “natural superiority” in this country

No? Then what are Miller and Trump saying, and why are they pandering to white resentment about qualified people of color getting a fair opportunity to prove their worth, after history has shown how generations have had to endure social barrier after legal barrier of having their citizenship and basic humanity denied, if not violated?

The lie Trump and Miller are telling just to win the next election is probably the most dangerous rewriting of history of all - making millions of white citizens believe that their fellow citizens of color are taking something from them they really don’t deserve.

It was a lie when first proffered decades ago with the first affirmative action Supreme Court case, and it’s a lie now.

Mind you, none of this is new. 

Historian James W. Loewen, author of the bestselling Lies My Teacher Told Me, says, “…bad history has a lot of power over people, and their destinies.”

Loewen continued, “Trump has basically introduced the idea that there is no such thing as facts, no such thing as truth. He is attacking the very idea of truth and thereby giving his opponents no ground to stand on at all. That’s a very dangerous road to go down, but that’s where we are.”

This isn’t simply historical revisionism, which is the informed, fact-based reinterpretation of historical evidence which happens all the time in books like the 1619 Project and Joy Ann Reid’s Medgar and Myrlie.

This is historical negationism, which is just plain old lying about historical facts in evidence, in order to distort history for a nefarious purpose.

How did that other old saying go?

He who controls the past, controls the future; he who controls the present controls the past.

I’ll never forget how conservative Republicans over a decade ago, counted on enough Black Democrats who had firsthand memories of the 1960’s civil rights movement to begin dying off, so that the GOP would one day have a better shot at targeting the Black vote.

Today, it’s reported that more and more African-American men are lining up behind Trump for reelection, because apparently his corrupt, racist ways don’t bother them. Many of these Black men have no institutional memory of the historic fight for equal and civil rights, nor of Trump or his KKK father’s opposition to them.

Many weren’t even born until afterwards, so he can lie like hell to their faces, and they have no frame of reference to know otherwise.

We’re on dangerous ground here, folks. Indeed, those who prevent the true teaching of history, fully intend on repeating it. No doubt!

Question is, what are we going to do to stop them?