By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE – Welcome, class, to American History Z.
Kind of has a nice ring to it. “X” is already taken by the phenomenal movie starring Edward Norton, and “Y” implies we don’t know, when we do.
Plus, “Z” indicates a bottom line, the isle of last resort.
History, unlike a skew viewed of the truth, cannot be changed.
It is the Hotel California. You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. It’s always there.
Here at Gordonville U., we don’t hang the 10 commandments in public places. But that doesn’t mean we don’t adhere to most. We do, but with some additions and subtractions.
The key subtraction is the Sabbath and keeping it holy. We’ll gladly take that trade in exchange for: Thou Shall Not Pervert History, which is kind of akin to bearing false witness.
The reasoning is simple. You are bound to repeat history, and are committing a gargantuan sin by spreading ignorance to future generations.
We find the most egregious offenders in the wicked world of political views, but it seems that those on the right – the Party of No – seem to have the market cornered.
Twitter and Facebook allows for an instant window into their mind set, and I’m seeing serious lies.
Perhaps they are joking with some of this misinformation, but given that the most on right are of ill humor, it is highly unlikely.
Let’s start simple, with the semi-regular crapola from the right about how Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and that he was a Republican. Again, a sick and twisted perversion, to which I sentence these transgressors to 40 hours of American History Z (no predatory student loans required).
Yes, Honest Abe belonged to a political party called Republican, but it does not resemble today’s Republican Party.
If it did, they would genuflect in front of him instead of Ronald Reagan at each presidential convention.
But quietly, in the dark world that is social media, they use this nonsense to pounce on the gullible like trout on the first day of fishing season.
Lincoln was a liberal, a progressive. Doesn’t exactly sound like someone who would advocate voting to repeal Obamacare 6,551 times instead of getting anything of substance done.
The change in platforms came when the country went to Hell in a hand basket on the Republicans’ watch (Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover) and a new Democrat with a new deal, Franklin Deleno Roosevelt, enacted policies to dig the country out of The Great Depression and to the precipice of victory in World War II.
From that point on, it was Democrats – not Republicans – who picked up the dropped and tarnished baton of Lincoln and carried it toward a hopeful finish line by making Jim Crow an outlaw. It was the post-FDR Democrats who sought to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and give shelter to the homeless.
But the misinformation pipeline does not end there.
I came across another feed about the year 1913, which apparently is becoming a battle cry among the “Don’t Tread On Me” types that misspell the signs they tote at Tea Party gatherings.
That was the year the 16th amendment – i.e. income tax – was ratified (it was actually introduced in 1909).
I know they resent being taxed to share services with their fellow Americans, while remaining blind to the fact that the real issue is that the wealthiest among us – left (Democrat), right (Tea Party, as the GOP is on life support) and indifferent (Independent, Libertarian) don’t pay their fair share.
That’s part of the debate; part of the two versions of the truth and the real truth lying somewhere in the middle, which is theoretically healthy.
The fact vs. fiction, where History goes on trial for its life, is the attempt to say that America was totally awesome up until then — which it probably was for White Anglo-Saxon Protestants of the male gender. For them, as bosses and industrialists, it was all hunky dory.
Not for most women, blacks, steel workers, coal miners and Catholic/Jewish recent immigrants of the time.
The post I saw – from an entity called the Comical Conservative – claiming that we still had schools (check out the literacy rate and how long the average child attended) and colleges (for the rich and famous). They say there were roads (we quickly out-grew what we had then, and they know it), vast railroads (in lieu of airlines, since the Wright Bros. were only 10 years removed from making a plane fly at the speed of a paper airplane), streets (see roads) and subways (see roads, vast railroads).
And, right on cue, 1913 America had a military that boasted an 8-0 record (would have been 0-1 without France’s help in the Revolutionary War, but that’s a buried truth).
OK, you want to play? Let’s play.
Let’s peel away at this potato (which was one of the only forms of sustenance for many Americans then).
In 1913, the year the country was allegedly idyllic:
-In addition to the 16th Amendment, we also had the 17th Amendment, which allowed the actual people of each state – well, the male voters and the white male voters down yonder – to elect their own senators (as opposed to state legislatures playing politics and paying off favors).
-A year after a parade in New York, the women’s suffrage parade – with black women marching at the back, so as not to offend any Southerners considering allowing women the right to vote – took place in Washington, D.C., setting the stage for 1920, when the 19th Amendment was passed, allowing women to vote. We still have not had a woman president, unlike a good number of democracies.
-In Atlanta, a 13-year-old girl named Mary Phagan was raped and strangled to death. Her boss happened to be a perceived interloper from the New York City, a “Yankee Jew” named Leo Frank. Because he was the last one to see her alive, the populist politicians of the time conspired with the prosecutors to suppress evidence that would have created reasonable doubt. He was sentenced to death. While the governor considered commuting the sentence, he conducted his own investigation and was troubled by what he discovered. He lessened the sentence to life in jail, but that wasn’t good enough for a populace consistently whipped into a frenzied state by newspaper editorials. In 1915, several prominent citizens of Marietta, Ga. formed a posse and stormed the prison. Likely with the help of some personnel inside, they removed Frank and lynched him. This event led to the formation of the Anti-Defamation League, but also the revival of the KKK that reached an apex in the 1920s.
-In Michigan, a miner’s strike that began in 1912 was still ongoing on Christmas Eve of 1913 when the union threw a party for the families of the striking miners. Someone at the party – and evidence suggests it was a corporate thug with specific orders – yelled “fire,” causing a stampede that the led to the death of 73 recent immigrants from Finland, Croatia and Italy. Of the 73 killed, 59 were children. In 1941, Woody Guthrie immortalized the incident with the song “1913 Masscare.”
-Seeking similar improvements in the workplace as those in Michigan – humane conditions, better hours and wages – garment workers in New York and Boston went on strike.
-They all should have been happy to be here and not complain? Consider that there were 25,000 deaths due to industrial accidents.
-“Camels” hit the market as the first packaged cigarette (a nation’s lungs were never the same).
-Phi Sigma Sigma became the first nonsectarian sorority. Doesn’t sound like much now to have diversity, but this was a bold move at the time.
With or without taxes, it doesn’t sound like we have come too far in 100 years, other than that most of us are a little bit more polite to each other’s faces.
Except now we have Social Media – Twitter and Facebook – where fact and fiction are so easily confused, and where it’s the grade “F” all around in American History Z.