It was only a matter of time. Once book banning was kindled, it was only a matter of time.
Last week, Pastor Locke of Tennessee ignited a book burning event. Yes, we now have book-burning events in the land of the free, and the home of the brave. Are we parroting Nazi Germany now? FYI, If you live in Tennessee, you might consider getting rid of your Harry Potter books, just in case the brown shirts pay you a little visit, courtesy of an anonymous tip.
The racist seeds planted by Republicans decades ago has taken root, nourished by Trump and his enablers for the past five years. This insidious assault on our democracy is real, well-funded, and violent.
Last weekend the Neo-Nazis demonstrated in Orlando and the Florida Governor couldn’t find it in his heart to denounce the violent, racist, anti-Semitic hate group. I lived under the illusion that the Nazi issue was settled. Nazis are bad, right? They put Jews in ovens, right? That’s a bad thing, right? Is there wiggle room on this issue now? How about the Holocaust? Too many people are promoting the lie that it didn’t happen. Is there now wiggle room on the Holocaust? Alex Jones said Sandy Hook never happened, that it was some government sleight of hand.
I’m starting to see a trend. And the number 1984 always pops up when I go get my lottery ticket…can’t explain it.
Trump has resurrected the technology of the Big Lie as pioneered by Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Trump has been beating the voter fraud drumbeat for two years and it has proved to be an effective fund-raising tool.
History, the life-blood of a Democracy is under assault, evidenced by the vicious attacks on Critical Race Theory. The 1619 Project is simply history, filling in the gaps to America’s timeline, excavating the truth about our country’s past. Republicans are looking to suppress our history, trying to protect white kids from feeling uncomfortable about the past, prompted by Senators like Josh Hawley. And there is a pending bill in the Florida legislature that is truly chilling:
“The Republican bill — called “Individual Freedom” — would prohibit private businesses and public schools from training staff or students about racism in U.S. history in a way that makes them feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.”
Let’s say your kid is in an AP English class and while studying To Kill a Mockingbird, he starts to feel uncomfortable. Does he then turn in his teacher to police to be incarcerated? As the prison industrial complex is being dismantled, (hopefully), with less and less clients to fill the beds, perhaps teachers will be the new bed-fillers, a salve to a struggling industry.
You laugh, but in Virginia the Governor has set up a tip line where parents can call in and report teachers who dare teach Critical Race Theory. Didn’t the Nazis have a tip line to report on Jews who were in hiding?
Josh Hawley weighs in:
“We heard that we are systemically racist. You heard that once or twice? We heard that the real founding of the country wasn’t in 1776, it was in 1619 or whatever. We heard that America is founded in lies and evil. That’s what we’ve been told. All of that is false. All of that is a lie.”
No, Hawley is lying.
In reading the 1619 Project, created by Nikole Hannah-Jones, (I’m a white guy by the way, and I haven’t felt discomfort, guilt, or anguish)—what I did feel was a profound sadness, born out of the knowledge that a human being could exact such cruelty, hatred and violence on another human being. And what makes it doubly heart-rending, is that it was done to children, and families that were separated, kids wailing for their mothers. There’s the story of a five-year-old girl, her mother sold by the plantation owner, who would walk to the gate every morning and wait for her mother to come back. Well, she never returned. I can’t imagine the hole in that child’s heart, made more poignant when I think of my kids and grand kids.
By telling the truth about our past, it helps illuminate and understand the present. It serves to defuse the barriers, the rhetoric erected to divide us. It launches a cleansing, paving the way for a re-fortification of Democracy’s infrastructure, which has been chiseled away by disinformation termites. A true recounting of our past will unleash a resurrection, resulting in an embrace of our shared humanity.
The 1619 Project isn’t a doom and gloom tale. It is a history of triumph, achievement, endurance, incremental victories against impossible odds, courage. They are stories about empowerment, persistence, creativity, survival and glory, counterpointed with acts of cruelty that makes the flesh crawl. These are inspiring American stories and should serve future generations as inspiration in our eternal quest for a more perfect union.
Ken Burns: “Stories liberate us from the tyrannies of the past.”
The legacy of slaveholders’ DNA continues to infect our culture with hate and structural racism. It is the mold that eats away at our democratic foundation, dividing us, offering up scapegoats for our grievances, readily proffered by our former President. Our nation has never shed its financial addiction to structural racism.
This is important.
Russia has never been shy about broadcasting their intention to divide America, specifically along racial lines. There’s nothing Putin would relish more than if America erupted in Civil War. That’s his goal.
Previously, our battlefield with Russia occurred with the construction of nuclear arsenals capable of annihilating each country a hundred times over. Spying was an integral weapon in the war between the super-powers, but Russia has developed and implemented a new strategic weapon—disinformation.
“It probably cost Clinton the election.” Per Frank Figliuzz, former FBI official, “an analysis of the Tweets from the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse came largely from outside the United States. Figliuzzi noted that his is more of the “divide and conquer” approach that Americans saw around the Black Lives movement to pit different races against each other.”
During the 2016 election, multiple Black Lives Matter websites materialized, created by the Russian troll factory in Saint Petersburg. The predominate message of these insidious websites was for Afro-Americans to stay home on election day, that their vote didn’t matter.
And it worked.
The fact that over 70% of The tweets during the Rittenhouse trial came from outside the United States underscores the fact that Russian and foreign disinformation has continued to chisel fissures into our Democracy.
Democracy is a 24/7 battle. It’s a living, breathing entity that must be fought for daily because fascism lies in wait. Letting our guard down invites the tentacles of fascism to squirm its way into the body politic.
The forces of fascism has been empowered by our former President who sought a palace coup on January 6th, now described by Republicans as “legitimate political discourse.” Are you freaking kidding me? “Legitimate political discourse?” The Republican party has now entered the twilight zone by calling the insurrection “legitimate political discourse.” This is Orwellian on steroids. If January 6th was “legitimate political discourse” I wonder what the hell illegitimate political discourse would look like?
People are always telling me these are dark times. I disagree. These are great times because the rot in our society is surfacing, being confronted, a result of the light shining on our buried history of racism, sexism, etc. There are seismic changes occurring in our society: people fighting for voting rights, people confronting the wealth gap, people confronting the pharmaceutical industrial complex, people confronting the prison industrial complex, people confronting misogamy, police brutality, systemic poverty and systemic racism.
These are glorious times.
Bill Gates once said of the busted tech bubble of the late 1990s that it was one of the most innovative times in world history because of the amount of pure research, pure innovation that was percolating. That turbulent time is what spearheaded the tech revolution, forever changing society.
This is a similar time. We have discovered that Democracy is a fragile thing, to be fought for in the trenches daily. We took it for granted before. There is more work to be done to combat the assault of fascism and the demigod on this grand experiment to achieve a more perfect union.
I’m betting on us.
Curt Strickland is one of the principal owners of Great American Art, an art and design company located outside Boston. Founded almost 40 years ago, Great American Art designs, manufactures and installs art throughout the country. Curt is also one of the principle photographers for Great American, specializing in landscape and cityscape images. His philosophy as an artist is embraced in GAPCO’s mission:
“Art should serve to heal, inspire, provoke, challenge and to offer hope – but most of all to connect… to remind us of our common humanity.”