Sunday, April 16, 2017
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana
I play a game on line with people who are, for the most part, of the generations of my children and grandchildren. I am constantly surprised and appalled that my fellow gamers have no sense of the world before they reached the age of 8 to10-years old. Most of them know only what they have been told, not what they have read, especially not what they have read in an actual book as opposed to some on-line site. How much more appalling was the quintessence, the total lack of historical knowledge that White House spokesman Sean Spicer demonstrated when he claimed that Adolph Hitler never used poison gas and then compounded the ahistorical idiocy by insisting that Hitler never used gas against "his own people".
In the Orson Welles movie The Stranger (1946), Edward G. Robinson's Mr. Wilson, tracking a Martin Boorman-like Nazi war criminal is cued in to the fact that Welles' Professor Charles Rankin is the Nazi he's seeking when Rankin denies that Karl Marx was a German because he was a Jew. Spicer's statement that Hitler never used gas on "his own people" smacks of a statement that a significant part of the millions killed in the death camps weren't Germans because they were Jews. And, of course, Spicer had the exquisite timing to assert this right-wing nonsense on the day that Passover began.
However, Spicer's comsumate and and congenital ignorance is simply a function of the consumate and congenital ignorance of the entire administration from our Prevaricator-in-Chief through his whole family and closest advisors down to the lowliest White House gofer. And, moreover to the entire Republiscum Party.
One of the most important bits of context for Sean Spicer's idiot remarks comes from the neo-Fascists' attempts to distance themselves from their progenitors, the Nazis. There is a trope in right-wing circles that the Nazis, the National Socialist Party, was a left-wing party because it had the word "Socialist" in its name. That's like saying that Republiscum are patriots because they wear flag lapel pins. A party can call itself anything it wants. The actions of that party determine whether it is of the left or of the right better than any name created for public relations purposes especially when the creator is Roger Ailes hero, Josef Goebbles. When Hitler came to absolute power following the death of President Hindenberg and the Nazi orchestrated Reichstag fire the first people who were shuttled off to concentration camps were the actual socialists, communists, labor leaders and other leaders of left-wing parties. Our Republiscum would have us forget that so that they can artificially create a sliver of light between themselves and the Nazis. In that context Hitler never used poison gas against "his own people".
The Republiscum have long engaged in a project to rewrite history to their own satisfaction. That has accounted for morons like Ben Carson equating slaves with immigrants. It has led to text books that misrepresent slavery, the wars against the Native American population and completely fictional narratives of the founding of the United States and its fundamental laws. This fictionalizing of history tends to make history conform to John Wayne and other Hollywood movies or television shows as if they were history texts rather than fictional entertainments. The fictionalizing of history is an essential view of the farrago that claims that certain ultra-fundamentalist religious groups have a direct descent from the first Christain disciples without connection to the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches. Also, a denial of history informs the nonsense that the King James translation of the Bible is the one inerrant and authoritative translation despite all the huge fund of Biblical research that has happened in the last seventy-five years. Yet that fictionalizing of history comes easy because it is part and parcel of the efforts to deny science. Denying the plethora evidence for human evolution, the scientific evidence for human caused climate change, and any other facts that do not support their narrow, fictional, wishful view of the world.
On short one cannot deny historical facts with one hand without getting all historical facts wrong on the other. When the Texas Board of Education, the largest single purchaser of textbooks in the nation, demands history texts that assert the primacy of Jesus and Ronald Reagan, the whole of history is upset and turned into a relgio-political, neo-Fascist tract. The students who learn from such claptrap are doomed to a complete misunderstanding of history and, consequently, of their nation and its laws.
Let's take as another example one of the main lies spread by the fundamentalist neo-Fascists: that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. I think that a good topic for this Easter Sunday.
They point to the Jamestown Charter and the Mayflower Compact as evidence that the United States is a Christian nation forgetting that there was a little bit of time between 1606 and 1620 and the drafting of the U. S. Constitution in 1787. It may come as a surprise to those who prefer to torture history into knotty contortions but sometimes things change in 180 years. Just for the moment note that both the Jamestown Charter and the Mayflower Compact open with the invocation of "James, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith...." In the 180 years intervening there was some nastiness between James successor, George, third of that name, and his subjects in the American colonies. That nastiness removed the acknowledgment of a British sovereign from the new nation of the United States of America. Is it not possible that there might have been some rethinking of religious affiliations as well?
Consider, please that the people aboard the good ship Mayflower, one of whom was an ancestor of mine, came to the shores of what is now Massachusetts not so much to seek religious freedom as to flee from religious freedom. They were dissenters from the established Church of England who fled to Holland where they were guaranteed freedom of worship. The Pilgrims problem with Holland was that everyone else had religious freedom too. They knew for and absolute fact that they had the one true Christian faith and were sorely affronted by other who thought that they had the one true Christian faith too. To escape religious freedom they fled Holland for the wild coasts of America there to establish a colony in which they could persecute anyone who espoused a faith and creed dissimilar to their own. That's why Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were exiled from the Bay Colony some years later and why Quakers were hung as heretics on Boston Common.
The Puritans of England initiated the Civil Wars of the 1640s, beheaded King Charles I, exiled his son, held bloody campaigns against Roman Catholics in Ireland and then, following the death of Oliver Cromwell when their coalition fell apart, reverted to the rule of that son, Charles II. That reign also ended in a series of civil wars over the religious affiliation of British monarchs that resulted in bestowing the British crown on the Dutch Prince William of Orange and his wife, Queen Mary jointly. When their daughter, Queen Anne died without an heir the throne went to the German George of Hanover. Yet throughout the first half of the 18th Century wars between England and France continued in which one of the main objects was restoring the Stuart line of James and Charles to the throne of England. The British Parliament imposed much of the taxation to which American colonists so strongly objected to pay for those wars.
In the more than a century since the founding of Jamestown and Plymouth the intellectuals of the American colonies had seen their nation of origin torn asunder by religious wars both civil and foreign. They had also seen their colonies become a refuge for religious dissenters of many variations not all of them Christian.
By 1775 the American colonists had had enough of religious wars. The men who lead our Revolution read Descartes and Spinoza, Rousseau and Voltaire. For them the worship of god in any form was less important than the rights of man, than being human and humane. It is that context that the diverse men who met in Philadelphia in 1787 drafted a Constitution for the United States of America, not in the context of the first quarter of the 17th Century. Yet the religious wrong would have you believe that their selective view of our nation is correct if you conveniently know a little history as Sean Spicer. For the neo-Fascists who currently run our nation selective, "alternative facts" tortured into conformity to their ideology are all that matter. They just hope that no one notices or. that when someone does notice that their "alternative facts" are really lies, the populace is too stupid or distracted to notice