“It’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe in it.” - George Carlin
We have a choice in America. But it’s not the one we think. It is not our task to pick between political parties and their candidates. That process is no longer relevant. Our options now are much simpler. We must choose between sane leaders who want to preserve our republic, or the fanatics determined to ignore our problems as a country and take control by whatever means necessary.
Every vote we cast in the coming months and year, every candidate or cause that we support, is making a choice over whether our country will continue to exist as a representative democracy or if it will become a completely corrupted aggregation of power brokers who ignore constitutional rights and individual liberties to further enrich themselves and their enablers.
And no, this is not hyperbole. Regardless of when you read this, some radically conservative group or individual is working on undermining civil rights and constitutional protections. There are too many tactics being deployed to enumerate but you’ve probably heard many of them mentioned. But let’s pick at the edges of a notion that has been branded Critical Race Theory. (CRT).
The essential absurdity that informs the radical right’s complaint regarding teaching our children about racism is their argument that such a predilection is an individual action and behavior, and that it is not institutionalized, which is, of course, patent nonsense. It ought not be called Critical Race Theory and needs to be rebranded as Critical Race Facts, and they are incontrovertible. The right does not want our children to learn the truth about the founding of this country. They want to sustain a falsehood that we are a Christian nation and have acted in a just manner to develop the United States.
The facts are a bit at odds with what they want taught in public schools. They go something like this: White Europeans, hoping to find faster trade routes in the Far East, or foolishly searching for mythical cities of gold, landed on the North American continent and began to build settlements and colonies. In Mexico, they overran an existing civilization, quickly, and in what was to become the U.S., the Europeans began pressing westward. As they did so, they committed genocide and wiped out indigenous peoples, various tribes that were living full and imaginative lives based on cultures established for centuries. But more settlers kept coming, and America needed space and natural resources. We killed the Indians in our path and argued it was our “manifest destiny.”
Carving out a profit in a crude land was not easy so we relied on slavery. Black Africans were shipped over to do every laborious task needed to make the economy function in the new land. They were beaten, oppressed, tortured, and sold as property, and it took a few centuries just for them to get to the point where they could vote and live freely. Most of the institutions of our government and economy practiced discrimination against Blacks long after they were freed, and the residual impacts of these practices linger in our economy and culture. To suggest otherwise, is simply ignorance or willful deceit.
Everyone with a primary school education knows these facts. But the Trump Republican Party is trying to write a new form of history, and public schools have begun to succumb to pressure to not teach the truth about our democracy. The organizations supporting lies about our elections and candidates are promulgating an entire new history for the U.S. The Heritage Foundation, for one, a conservative “think tank,” sent out a recent email attempting to alarm people that “Critical race theory has taken our nation by storm.”
“For a long time,” the note claims, “It had been mostly isolated to colleges and universities. But in recent years, it has invaded our K-12 schools, workplaces, state and federal governments, and even the military. There’s a good chance that you or your children have encountered it. And there’s an even better chance that you didn’t realize it.
“That’s because critical race theorists are really good at disguising their indoctrination. They use words like ‘diversity’ and ‘equity’ and ‘inclusion’ because those words sound harmless. And it can be easy for busy citizens, especially parents, to overlook such terms. But those words have become key indicators of critical race theory. And they’re not the only ones.
“That’s why I’m sending you this email today. I’m told you are an American who is concerned about the level of indoctrination we are seeing in our nation.”
(Send us money. Buy our stuff! Stop critical race theory!)
We have now reached the point in our country where teaching children the truth about our history is “indoctrination.” There is indoctrination underway, however, but it is on the right side of the bus, not the left. The Leadership Institute, which has been mostly funded by the Koch Brothers, is attempting to take over school boards across the country and is offering online, on-demand training. Morton Blackwell, who heads the organization and is a longtime friend of Ted Cruz (R), Cancun, is trying to motivate conservatives at the local level by convincing them Critical Race Theory will soon destroy the legacy of America if it keeps being taught in public schools.
Ex Trump officials are also involved in an influence group called the Center for Renewing America and are distributing a toolkit that insists the best way to keep our children from learning the truth is to defeat the teaching of CRT. Right Wing Watch has provided extensive reporting on this campaign, which includes low intellects like Trump’s spiritual advisor Paula White, who frequently speaks in “tongues.” One of the aggregations of idjits, Intercessors for America, widely distributes what it calls a “Critical Race Theory Action Bundle.” (I keep waiting to hear an announcer say, “And if you act now, we’ll include this TV bonus, the Cap Snaffler. Snaffles caps off all sizes bottles and jars and it really, really works!)
What does work, though, is spreading bullshit to the gullible and the uninformed. In Ramona, California, the local school board has banned the teaching of ten concepts about race, which include “teaching that a person is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive because of their race or sex, whether intentionally or unintentionally; a person’s worth is determined by their race or sex; a person bears responsibility for past actions of people of the same race or sex; a person should feel guilty or not because of their race or sex; and that the advent of slavery constituted the beginning of the United States.” The language adopted by the Ramona Unified School District is disingenuous and misleading. Board members make it clear in comments they want students to understand “that American exceptionalism is noted, that in all mankind, nobody has brought freedom to the world like America has.”
Sure, but don’t teach that a few centuries of slavery and genocide preceded that abundance of freedom, and if you were a descendant of a white European you had a better chance to be “exceptional” than if you were black or brown or an Asian immigrant.
Organized assaults on school boards are being funded by various right wing groups in an attempt to change curriculum to better fit a conservative narrative, and these protests are beginning to spread across the country. Here’s what happened recently in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, when a school board was scheduled to hold a hearing on a mask mandate and had to cancel because of an overflow crowd, mostly comprised of screaming fools….
The political poison of the right is also seeping into college campuses across the country, or maybe it’s being injected. The Leadership Institute’s efforts to shut down progressive thinking and teaching of factual history include a publication called Campus Reform. According to an investigation by The Intercept, the conservative website has targeted hundreds of college professors for statements made in classrooms or publicly on topics like race and social justice issues. Isaac Kamola, an assistant professor at Trinity College, told The Intercept he had tracked 1570 stories published by Campus Reform since 2020. He said they targeted 338 individuals and surveyed them to learn how they were treated after being written about for being liberals and progressives. Forty percent claimed to have received threats of harm, which came via text, email, social media, phone, and snail mail. Twelve percent of those questioned said they faced disciplinary action after being quoted or a subject of the conservative site, and three people claimed to have lost their jobs.
The goal is clearly to intimidate, and it’s working. If a liberal or progressive ideology is suppressed in a university environment, which is, by definition, supposed to be an open forum for ideas, the conservative perspective and, eventually, curriculum will dominate the educational process. Q-Anon will be a required course for graduation and PhDs will be offered in “The History of Stolen Elections.”
But these people are serious. Unaccounted for millions are being invested in changing political perspectives and editing the past and using respected cultural institutions like universities to accomplish the deception and achieve effective brainwashing. The Texas Tribune obtained documents recently that indicate the University of Texas and the state’s conservative legislature, along with mega-donors to conservative candidates and causes, are attempting to establish a “Liberty Institute” on the forty acres. The effort, being led by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, will be “dedicated to the study and teaching of individual liberty, limited government, private enterprise and free markets.”
There is, to my knowledge, no such “progressive or liberal institute” on UT’s campus or any other college or university in Texas, but the Republicans in the state house managed to find $6 million in the upcoming budget for the project and the university’s board of regents also found $6 million under couch cushions in the student union. The argument for the institute is that it will bring “intellectual diversity,” which implies there is none on one of the largest campuses in the U.S. with a student population that tends to hover in the 55,000 range.
One of the documents obtained by the Tribune, which is a facile explanation for the institute’s rationale for existence, condemns the university for a failure to educate and uses vague language that is damning of UT’s education.
“A growing proportion of our population lacks a basic understanding of the role liberty and private enterprise play in their well-being. Too many Americans, particularly younger students, maintain misconceptions about our political system and lack an even basic understanding of the moral, ethical, philosophical and historical foundations underpinning a free society.”
This, of course, is horseshit and weak beer and justifies nothing; especially not spending taxpayer dollars to build a political machine on a public university, which has as its only purpose to turn free thinking young people into conservative automatons. The proposal also indicates the university and Republican power brokers hope to help other campuses around the country and public schools set up similar institutes.
The above efforts are not about facilitating a discourse that leads to ideas and compromises to create policy and programs. They are, instead, subversive to the idea of democracy and discussion in the public square. It is no different than concerted efforts to challenge election results and is part of an attack on this country to undermine the will and the intent of the people. An elimination of dissent is the demise of any democratic government and stills the voice of the majority, which is precisely the goal of Trump and his supporters.
Which brings me back to my initial assertion about choice. What we face now is not a vote for one party or another. Every election from today forward is a selection of the truth over lies and deception, of candidates and causes trying to do good over forces that are attempting to assert control and obfuscate electoral results. There is no longer an opposition party in the U.S. There are Democrats and the powers that would destroy our democracy to rebuild it as a plutocracy designed to enrich and empower a small minority of its citizens.
I know how alarmist this sounds, but I am a man who lived through Vietnam War protests and Watergate and reported on Iran-Contra’s enduring lies and the untruths about WMDs and claims of stolen presidential elections. We are a nation coming undone, and seem, just now, unable to stitch our loose ends back together. Our tolerance for nakedly political lies to mislead each other has exceeded anything in the course of our history.
If our democracy still works, even inefficiently, we have a single option and that is to destroy the Republican Party at the ballot box, to turn out in numbers so overwhelming in every election that there will be no mistake that we are turning our backs on evil and the people who are enabling Trump and his legions of liars. If, however, they continue to gain purchase, everything we hold dear is in jeopardy.
In fact, it already is.
Truth for Texas
I’ve mentioned a few times my super PAC to help support messaging and communications for progressive causes and organizations that help make our state more inclusive. We are still raising money to launch our first online campaign, which we hope will become a kind of Lincoln Project for Texas. If you are interested, please contribute at Truth for Texas.