Why Texas social studies standards matter: Tea Party misuse of history

May 27, 2010

Something to think about from “The Tea Party Challenge,” by Erik Christiansen and Jeremy Sullivan, at Inside Higher Ed:

When considering the political scene of the moment, it is difficult not to see how historical allegory plays an important role in the public spectacle known as the Tea Party movement. From the name itself, an acronym (Taxed Enough Already) that fuses current concerns to a patriotic historical moment, to the oral and written references by some of its members to Stalin and Hitler, the Tea Party appears to be steeped (sorry) in history. However, one has only to listen to a minute of ranting to know that what we really are talking about is either a deliberate misuse or a sad misunderstanding of history.

Misuse implies two things: first, that the Partiers themselves know that they are attempting to mislead, and second, that the rest of us share an understanding of what accurate history looks like. Would that this were true. Unfortunately, there is little indication that the new revolutionaries possess more than a rudimentary knowledge of American or world history, and there is even less reason to think that the wider public is any different. Such ignorance allows terms like communism, socialism, and fascism to be used interchangeably by riled-up protesters while much of the public, and, not incidentally, the media, nods with a fuzzy understanding of the negative connotations those words are supposed to convey (of course some on the left are just as guilty of too-liberally applying the “fascist” label to any policy of which they do not approve). It also allows the Tea Partiers to believe that their situation – being taxed with representation – somehow warrants use of “Don’t Tread On Me” flags and links their dissatisfaction with a popularly elected president to that of colonists chafing under monarchical rule.

While the specifics of the moment (particularly, it seems, the fact of the Obama presidency) account for some of the radical resentment, the intensity of feeling among the opposition these days seems built upon a total lack of historical perspective.

It’s worth a read at Inside Higher Ed.

Tip of the old scrub brush to the May History Carnival at the Vapour Trail.

Dan Valentine – From the files

May 27, 2010

By Dan Valentine

I had to toss most of my writing when I become homeless again, box after box, file after file, each filled to capacity with hand-scribbled note upon note on menus, cocktail napkins, matchbook covers, etc.

I was hoping I had transcribed much of it onto my laptop. Not to be. Tho’ I did find file upon file with other notes. Files tagged D.C., Dad, Driving, Mom, Vietnam, 1950s, Hatch, NYC, so on and so on.

(My friend swims. I take notes.)

From the Friendswood, TX. file: “Goodbye, Motel 6! It’s been real!! My bestest friend to the dogs: ‘Girls, we’re moving.’ Excited. “Yes, we’re moving.”

From the Friendswood file: “3 bed, 2 bath, heated in ground pool, ceramic tile throughout, granite counter tops, 2 car detached garage, covered porch, 14,4050 sq. ft. treed lot, formal living room, formal dining room; refrigerator, washer, and dryer, 2,111 sq. ft, built in 1969, in the Wedgewood neighborhood.”

From the file: “Woke up to hear a woodpecker pecking in the backyard, the sound leaf-blowers in front …”

From the file: “Watched (my friend) swim: one arm floating out of the water, the other following. The dogs barking and chasing after her on the side of the pool. A Rockwell painting.

From the file: “Vote for Delay signs are popping up all over our neighborhood. Delay!! He’s our representative.

From the file: “Not a place where you take a stroll. Had a beer can thrown at my head from a passing car. Couple of weeks ago, a firecracker.”

I had forgotten about that. That’s why I take notes.

From the file: “I-Hop. Dinner. Gay waiter took our order. Black, with two earrings. Name tag: Peaches. Wife to her husband in next booth: ‘And they let him have his name on his name tag? I mean, this is a family restaurant, for f**k sake!’ Idea for sit-com: Peaches in Pearland. Black Will and Grace, Texas-style.”

From the file: Texan complaining in the supermarket check-out line about how much it had cost him to fill up his SUV. Gas was getting so expensive that he’d given up driving his truck at night and was using his motorcycle instead.”

From the file: “Line for future song: Clearing brush gives Texans a rush”

From the file:

“Sign: Moving boxes. (I picture people inside chasing after them.)

“Sign on back of school bus: Watch for Children. (As if they may harm you.)

“Sign in window: Office space available. Welcome to month-to-month! Says it all about the present times. You know it! We know it! Let’s not play games! Your business is going to fail!)”

From the file: “Mosquitoes out in force.”

From the file: “For sure, Texans are friendly. I’m standing at the urinal in the Men’s room at the Olive Garden when a jovial Texan bursts through the door. ‘Howdy!–as if he were greeting a buddy at a rodeo.’”

From the file: “Idea for the perfect Texas business: Bar-B-Que Motors.”

From the file: “Mosquitoes everywhere.”

From the file: “Just returned from Veterans Hospital. Took me 40 buses. Houston. No decent transit system. And proud of it!”

From the file: “Bumper sticker seen on back of car: Vote against Metro-rail! Stop the homeless before they get to our neighborhoods.”

And so on and so on …

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