Tag Archives: Republican Party

The Gag Order Party

If you have not read the Penn America Center report on “Educational Gag-Orders,” you really ought to. Although the focus of state legislation described in the report rests on teaching about gender, sexuality, and Critical Race Theory, the language in the bills could have an impact on teaching and learning about Native America. Because so much of this legislation originates in Red States with rich Native American histories, the Penn America Center report is a sobering read.

            Each of the bills examined in the report “represents an effort to impose content- and viewpoint-based censorship.” They send the signal, the report argues, “that specific ideas, arguments, theories, and opinions may not be tolerated by the government.” Twenty-six of the bills “explicitly apply to colleges and universities.” Six of the bills failed, three have become law, and the remainder are making their way through the legislative process. Many of them prevent teaching that includes “CRT” and information presented in work like the 1619 Project. Some bills propose to eliminate tenure to ensure that instructors do not teach their students ideas and content that legislators find subversive or dangerous.

            A South Carolina bill, HB 3827, offers an alarming example. The legislation outlaws promoting or endorsing narratives that “the United States was founded for the purpose of oppression, that the American Revolution was fought for the purpose of protecting oppression, or that United States history is a story defined by oppression; or (ii) with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality”

            This is pretty rich from the state that fired the shots that began the Civil War.

            Think about this for a second.  How might an instructor in South Carolina tell her students about the “3/5 Compromise,” which counted each enslaved person as 60% of a human being, and gave slave states more representation in Congress, more electoral votes, and thus control of the national government? How might one teach the history of the Nullification Crisis without doing an entire injustice to American History? Or Secession, and the arguments that slavers made in favor of leaving the Union.  When I taught the America survey, my students read Charles Dew’s brief but incredible book, Apostles of Disunion. Secessionists are condemned by their own racist speech, their own frequently-voiced arguments that the Founders created a republic with white men in charge, and that white supremacy was worth fighting and dying for. But under this proposed legislation? A dutiful teacher might assert that South Carolinians were standing up for their state’s rights. But their right to do what?  Imagine, if you will, that you see your next-door neighbor packing up the car.  He is leaving his wife.  You are stunned. They seemed like such a wonderful couple. They had been together for ever, it seemed, close to four score and five years. Stunned, you ask what happened.  Your neighbor tells you he is leaving because he has the right to do so.  Nobody will find that a satisfactory answer. But that is what South Carolina’s legislators are contemplating.  Steer clear of controversial subjects.  Do not indoctrinate students.  Deny the racism of the past. Pretend it did not exist. Indeed, teach nothing that could make a student, somehow, feel ashamed of their race. Don’t talk about the gibbets in Charlestown, the trade in Cherokee scalps, and enslavement, which cuts to the marrow of South Carolina’s history.  Don’t talk about Nullification and John C. Calhoun and his views of the Constitution.  Don’t talk about Fort Sumter, and the Palmetto State’s embrace of lynching.  Lie to your students.  Tell them nothing that will upset their frightened parents.  Lie to them, and lie some more.  It is all good.  It is all progress. Conservative White South Carolinians are good people who need to hear that, over and over, it seems.  It is a message they will drill into the skulls of their children.  These lawmakers are so fragile and frightened that those who refuse to toe the line can expect termination.   Or worse.

I Am So Angry

Several years ago my daughter texted me to tell me there was an active shooter on her college campus. I wrote about the experience on this blog.

I immediately texted her back.  And called, but realized that was probably a mistake.  What if she were hiding and her phone vibrated or rang and that gave her away. She was in a safe location, and let me know that, but still, I told her to stay there until she saw someone with a badge telling her it was safe to exit. 

No shooter menaced the Loyola Marymount University Campus.  It was a false alarm. But the experience left me rattled. I was terrified. And angry. I was so angry that evening that I could not speak.

I have listened to politicians speak in the aftermath of the slaughter at a Buffalo supermarket and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and that anger has resurfaced again. Republicans, and a few feckless Democrats, have suggested that tougher gun laws are not the answer.  You may want your representatives to enact legislation to regulate the use of weapons in the United States, they say. You may want your representatives to enact a law “attacking the 2nd Amendment.”  But you won’t win. From Ted Cruz to Lauren Boebert, our leaders say that your laws will not do any good.  You are powerless to stop this, they said.  Evil people do evil things. You would be better off agitating for better mental health care, because the guys who slaughtered the kids in Texas and the elderly in Buffalo were bullied and picked on.  The problem is not us, Cruz said, and it is not the guns. He spoke cynically of “American Exceptionalism,” of how great this country is.  The guns are not the problem. You are better off buying a gun of your own, to protect you from, you know, the criminals, and the Mexicans and the Terrorists and Antifa.  The NRA, we must remember, is a trade group.

Your fear is good for their bottom line.

In the days after the massacre in Uvalde, I have heard pro-death, conservative lawmakers and religious leaders suggest that the shooting might not have happened if there were prayer in schools, even though Texas has a moment of silence at the beginning of the day and prayers at school functions like sporting events.   Others have trotted out equally spurious, but predictable explanations for the carnage:  violent movies, violent video games, homosexuality and the presence of transgendered people, broken families, and Critical Race Theory (somehow). 

I do not think any of these explanations are funny.  They are either dishonest or dangerously and obscenely stupid.  They are blood-drenched and dangerous.  I do not care why you want to kill. It does not matter to me in the slightest.   A white nationalist and a racist? An “Incel”? A Nazi, or a revolutionary or an End-of-Timer or a sullen kid or a sociopath? I could not care less.  Because no matter who you are, and no matter who you hate, I do not believe you should have a weapon of war at your disposal.  You have no right to kill, and no matter your irrational fears, your macho fantasies, your martial cosplay, or your fevered dreams, there is nothing you can say to convince me that there is a place for killing machines in a civil society.  Some of you will trot out the 2nd Amendment, but bearing arms does not mean what you think it does. It never has. Some of you will invoke your Christianity.  Show me if you can one line, from the first verse of the first chapter of Matthew to the last line of Revelation, that in any way justifies violence.

Look around the world. There are violent video games and violent movies all over the place.  There are many countries where almost nobody prays, where far more people identify as Atheists than in the United States.  They do not have mass killings.  40,000 people die from gunshot wounds in the United States each year, whether from suicide, accident, or homicide.  Many thousands more have their bodies torn, lacerated, chewed up and spit out by these weapons that have one purpose and one purpose only: to kill. How many more crimes are committed with these weapons, or people threatened and frightened? It boggles the mind. To those who say nothing needs to be done, that your rights are sacred, and that guns are not the problem, I ask you how many more deaths will it take before you concede that this is wrong.  50,000? 100,000? A million? When and where will it end? If murdered children will not get you to act, maybe there is no hope.

Guns end conversation. They end debate.  The create a climate of fear.  Guns are inconsistent with freedom, whatever the death-dealers at the National Rifle Association tell you, because they force us to live in fear.  They menace. They threaten, they frighten, and they kill.  They were invented only to kill. Ours is a country steeped in racism, built on stolen land with labor from stolen and enslaved black bodies.  The better angels of our nature have appeared from time to time, but they have never banished the fundamental evil at the heart of our history.   We cannot make claims about this country’s greatness when every fourteen minutes another American dies from a gunshot wound.  We need to choose to live our lives free from fear.  And we need to rid our communities of the killing machines that are too readily available to too many people, even in states with the toughest of gun regulations.

So many political leaders have offered their thoughts and prayers.  They tell us that they hold in their hearts the victims of Buffalo, Uvalde, and on and on and on. Thoughts and prayers.  The words of Isaiah come to me, as he confronted the hypocrites whose empty prayers, he said, meant nothing to an angry God. 

When you spread forth your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you;

even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen;

your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

remove the evil of your doings

from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,

learn to do good;

seek justice,

correct oppression;

defend the fatherless,

plead for the widow.

Ours is a broken, amoral, and violent society.  Our leaders have chosen this, either through their actions or their complicit cowardice. I have no faith in their ability to fix us.

Putting America’s First Peoples First, in America, First!

Just a couple of days after President Trump used his Columbus Day Proclamation to stir up the dingbats and those who find mention of Columbus’s slaving voyages an assault upon their white privilege, his campaign issued its “Putting America’s First Peoples First” platform for a Native American policy for his second term. “Forgotten No More!” the policy proposal screamed. The President has been trying in the campaigns closing days to win the support of Native American voters.

Native Americans, who have long listened to American government plans to put them places, whether first or elsewhere, can be forgiven for their skepticism.

The “First Peoples” plan rests upon five “Core Principles.” First, “Recognizing Tribal Sovereignty and Self-Determination.” Next, the President pledges to promote “safe communities” by “increasing public safety in Indian Country–particularly by continuing to find solutions to long-standing challenges like missing and murdered Native Americans and the opioid and meth crises.” The President committed his administration to “building a thriving economy with improving infrastructure” for native peoples. Despite his refusal to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ Day or the suffering that followed the Columbian encounter, the President wanted to honor “Native American heritage” and improve education, including “access to high-quality education options that are consistent with Tribal traditions, languages, and culture.” Finally, the President’s plan includes a pledge to improve health care for Native American communities. The language in each of these proposals was circular, written in a slapdash manner. We will make education better by improving education; we will make Indian communities safer by eliminating conditions that make them unsafe, and so on. Each of these headings included a number of specific policy suggestions, none of which were original or showed much imagination.

It is all a sham. You should know this by now. There is no reason to believe a word that anyone affiliated with this administration says.

The successes that President Trump has claimed–signing Savanna’s Act, for instance, or the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017–were measures with widespread bipartisan support. No matter who was president, these bills would have become law. The items listed in the President’s “Putting America’s First Peoples First” plan were entirely non-controversial. They are items with broad support, and they have been pursued for years.

And none of this can erase the fact that the President has been a disaster for Indian Country. Despite his Johnny-Come-Lately approach to recognizing the Lumbees, there is no denying that Trump’s bungling of the Coronavirus pandemic brought devastation to Native American communities. His administration failed to quickly and equitably deliver CARES Act funding to beleaguered Native communities, causing further suffering. To satisfy his corporate allies, he has opened sites sacred to Indigenous peoples to corporate exploitation. He has shown no respect for Native lands, and respects Indian tribal sovereignty only so long as tribes give him what he wants. While his plan calls for “growing the pipeline for Tribal entrepreneurship through opportunities for Federal contracting,” the only pipelines the President seems interested in are those his corporate enablers bore through Native American lands.

Who cares what this administration says? Why does anyone listen any longer?

We have had four years of lying, graft, self-dealing, deceit. There is no reason for any one to believe a single word they say. The only people who claim to believe what this President says are fools or accomplices. In every way possible, he and his administration have coarsened this country’s already jagged edges. Their cruelty and vindictiveness, their dishonesty and their violence, their racism and their avarice, have shown to the world that this country is not anything close to what it claims to be. In every way possible, this President and his supporters have made everything worse. They are craven, cruel liars, who have left a stain on the ragged fabric of the Republic that may never wash out. The President’s late arrival on Native American issues is purely transactional. Support me, and I will see what I can do for you. But he has absolutely nothing new to say, and nothing to say on these issues worth our time and attention.