Monday, March 21, 2011

Right and Wrong


Right and Wrong

Back when I was a teenager, I used to get into thunderous arguments with a good friend of mine over song lyrics. He would sing along with the radio and interject the most irritatingly erroneous lyrics imaginable. I would, of course, in true feminine know it all fashion, alert him to the error of his ways. He would then proceed to disagree with my interpretation, and we were off. “No!”, I would say...” Eleanor Rigby did NOT pick up her EYES in a church where a wedding has been! She picked up the RICE! And she LIVES IN A DREAM! Not in a TREE!!” Did it matter? Probably not so much. The culture was in no real danger, I suppose, if one sixteen year old boy thought poor Eleanor lived in a tree. But it wasn’t accurate and somehow that bothered me.

Imagine how I feel these days. I open the morning paper and it seems history is being reshaped like marzipan fruit in every corner of the country. We currently have a newly minted congresswoman who recently spoke at a fundraiser in the state of New Hampshire and lavished praise on her audience by saying “You're the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord!" Really? Wasn’t that Massachusetts? It would have been easy to consider this lapse an anomaly had it not been for a later speech in Iowa where she declared that “our founding fathers worked tirelessly until slavery was no more”. Really? Are these the same founding fathers who owned slaves and who stipulated in our constitution that they be counted as three fifths of a person? She then continued to wax rhapsodic about how welcoming and equalizing America had always been to its early settlers by saying, "It didn't matter the color of their skin. It didn't matter their language. It didn't matter their economic status. It didn't matter whether they descended from known royalty or are of a higher class or a lower class. It made no difference. Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn't that remarkable? It is absolutely remarkable."
Well yeah, I’d say it was remarkable. And I bet if you talked to the Jewish families, or the Japanese families, or .... let’s see.... the African-American families of our history, they’d think it was pretty “remarkable” too. Especially since it’s a pretty long way from accurate.

Now Lord knows, we all misspeak on occasion, saying things off the cuff that make us cringe later on. Consider the poor road-weary rock star who bounds onto center stage to shout a full-throated greeting to the city of New York, only to be vociferously told that he is, instead, on stage in Cincinnati. But this is something different. These were prepared remarks from a woman who was elected to the United States Congress and who apparently harbors White House aspirations. This is a Congresswoman so disenchanted with the American public school system that she has home schooled her five children, as well as a passel of foster children. One can now only wonder if there might just be more than a few breezy spots in the education of those children.

Unfortunately she is not the only example of a rather suspect rewriting of history. Last year, the Board of Education in the state of Texas approved sweeping and questionable changes for the history and social studies textbooks used in their public schools. This newly approved version of history renames the slave trade with the much more innocuous sounding “Atlantic triangular trade” and audaciously removes Thomas Jefferson, the man responsible for crafting much of The Declaration of Independence and the voice who, perhaps coincidentally, coined the phrase “separation of church and state”, from a list of great political thinkers whose words sparked revolution. Hmmmm. So Thomas Jefferson had nothing of importance to do with either the French or the American revolution? Really? It is perhaps interesting to note that the school board is an appointed body and that the vote to pass these changes was made exclusively along party lines.

Of course we are, and have always been, a fairly partisan country. When one party is elected the other seems to immediately launch the next campaign to oust them, so often sadly missing any opportunity to compromise and work together for the good of the electorate. But how far will we go to advance our agendas? We are all entitled to our own opinions and I will stand with anyone to defend that right. But we are not entitled to our own facts. Eleanor Rigby did not live in a tree. And just because we want our country to be the happiest place on earth, founded by men whose beliefs precisely mirror our own, does not always make it so. To alter or deny the facts of history, with all their warts and glories, is a dangerous thing that too often trivializes, or worse, ignores, the experiences of our fellow citizens. Not only does it strip us of the opportunity to build on the good and remedy the bad, it can eventually render our political speech, and perhaps even our textbooks, as nothing more than propaganda.

28 comments:

  1. THANK YOU FOR YOUR OBSERVATIONS, I AGREE WHOLE HEARTEDLY. I WONDER WHERE PEOPLE LIKE HER HAVE BEEN EDUCATED. THE FEELING OF ENTITLEMENT THAT ANYTHING I SAY IS RIGHT. WHAT AMAZES ME IS THAT THE LISTENERS FAIL TO CALL HER ON HER IGNORANCE.

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  2. Politicians and church leaders (americans or not) tend to have an "umbilical" vision of the world and happily change things at their convenience. The question is if the people are going to accept the changes...and my fear is that politicians with the help of the media are wining the battle. As I love painting I was very sad of reading sometime ago that a museum in Texas was covering Renaissance nudes...It is the same type of manipulation.

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  3. Beautifully said, Pamela! I commend you for a very eloquent post! This is a very sad state of affairs!

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  4. I live in that state you mentioned, Texas, where our state board of education is an embarrassment. Unfortunately, they are not elected, but are appointed by the Governor. Hence, we are stuck with this particular board for some time to come. Mr. Jefferson must be turning over in his grave!

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  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It is good to hear that people understand and still believe in "right from wrong".
    Have a wonderful weekend.
    Xo,
    E&J

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  6. I am constantly amazed not only by the way facts are twisted into complete backward knots, but by the idea that most Americans don't seem to KNOW that the facts have been twisted. Well said, Pamela! Wishing you & your clan a lovely weekend....

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  7. Amazing post. Thank goodness some of us listen, some of remember, and some of us speak up.
    xo xo

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  8. Excellent post, Pamela. And on a much lighter note, I love the beauty mark on the woman in your photo.

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  9. The idea of history being rewritten like this makes me shiver, and think of George Orwell's 1984 - specifically the role of the Ministry of Truth. And in the book the majority of people beleived what they were being told... very scary indeed.

    History isn't always pretty, but it's there for people to learn from so they never make the same mistakes again. To wipe out what happened could induce such tragedies to happen again some day.

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  10. Your words resonated deeply with me!
    I am often so annoyed by incorrect or plain false statements. Political or otherwise.
    I am just working with my 11 year old son on a speech he is to give about Abraham Lincoln's assassination. I am in awe how well spoken and gracious he and fellow politicians of his time were.
    Hardly can we find any one of his stature today!
    This is sad!
    The congress woman you are speaking of is perhaps a typical example of an American history education, she is now passing it on to her children. Really sad!
    Especially these basic facts of American history should be ingrained in everybody's mind!
    Thank you for this enlightening post!

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  11. I am still amazed at my former schoolmates -- who barely graduated with a diploma themselves -- insisting on home schooling their children! Polititicians these days are not so concerned as to the content of their speech as they are saying it with conviction.

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  12. Couldn't have said it better myself!!!

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  13. An eloquent post Pamela...another good reason for us all not to listen to or believe politicians!
    My late uncle, upon being taught The Lord's Prayer at school, solemly recited it for my grandparents upon arriving home that day. "Our Father who got shot in Heaven..."

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  14. Whilst this is all rather scary it is even scarier when you realise it is happening all over the world!
    Pamela, Have you ever read James Clavell's 'The Children's Story'?
    Now of to catch up on all your posts that I have missed over the past few weeks. xx

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  15. I cannot thank you enough for writing this, Pamela. Hear, hear! and Amen!

    Interestingly enough, the politician you speak of, and her ilk, are among the same who cried that schools were teaching revisionists history only a few years ago.

    Thank you for speaking out in this thoughtful, well composed post.

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  16. Enjoyed reading your very thoughtful essay. As far as the home schooling goes, however, I don't think the congresswoman's children would have learned much 'truth' about history had they attended a public school. I recently read a very good book that was written in the '90s, Lies My Teacher Told Me, that addresses the ugly reality of American history vs what's actually taught to children.

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  17. I won't meddle in the politics of a country that is not my own, except to say that as a foreigner I could spot the...flaws in this version of history.

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  18. I feel a trembling trepidation in my knees that such a person could become President. I pray no. I actually think all citizens should be required to take a quiz even before voting, on a few constitutional matters. Then, their vote counts the same percentage as the correct answers on their quiz.

    And that is not even getting to the candidates for public office. Really? They don't have to pass an exam or anything? Think about that.

    Excellent write, as always.

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  19. Unfortunately, none of this surprises me. There is among a segment of the population a capacity for NOT wanting to know the facts that is appalling.
    Not only is American history being twisted to serve the ambitions of politicians but it goes hand in hand with a (proud) bottomless ignorance of the world beyond "the greatest country in the world".

    Carry a map of the Middle East free of any writing and ask at random to show where Iraq, Afghanistan,or more currently Egypt, Tunisia or Libya lie. You'll be appalled, I guarantee you! Very scary. . .

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  20. Spot on sister!! It is a scandal of epic proportions that we are rewriting the history books. By the way, one of my favorite little books is misheard lyrics: "Living is easy with nice clothes" is my favorite.
    Best,
    Liz

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  21. Bravo Pamela!
    Standing ovation!!
    It is important to be aware that history is told from many different slants. A lot is incorrect information is out there and people get brainwashed. People with money or power, can to market anything they want, so we must learn to dig down into our hearts to learn the truth and find the deeper meaning of what's really going on! Usually powerful people are trying to keep their money and power. At least that's my take.

    Again, fabulous post!
    xox
    Constance

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  22. Bravo Pamela!
    Standing ovation!!
    It is important to be aware that history is told from many different slants. A lot is incorrect information is out there and people get brainwashed. People with money or power, can to market anything they want, so we must learn to dig down into our hearts to learn the truth and find the deeper meaning of what's really going on! Usually powerful people are trying to keep their money and power. At least that's my take.

    Again, fabulous post!
    xox
    Constance

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  23. Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt

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  24. I don't know what frustrates me more...the idiots in office or the fact we keep electing them!
    Good points, all.

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  25. Thank you Pamela for being brave enough to say these things. We all know of whom you speak. And yes, it is terrifying to think some people are so dumb that they believe her and the rest of them.

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  26. Bravo!
    Just wrote you a long detail letter of praise which vanished into the ether!
    Anyway, I totally agree with you and get very fed up with people spouting gibberish and not being called on it.
    America seems to be rife with it --but I'm sure other places are too.
    Buster sends spring greetings to Edward.

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  27. Welcome to my world! I get so irritated by the casual treatment of history and the frightening lack of knowledge of people in elected positions.

    Here in the UK most of our state schools teach a very limited, selective version of our world history. When I see some of the exam papers set for 15/16 year olds I want to scream. Dumbing down again I guess.

    I am, I know, turning into a Grumpy Old Woman.

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  28. A beautifully crafted piece of writing, I don't know too much about the politicians you mention but I agree that history should not be misrepresented.

    I read a very interesting article about how Russian students are being fed a very diluted and contorted version of Stalinist Russia.

    We have been very irritated by the BBC no less, who have reported that our police officers get paid double time for working weekends which is untrue. A move to turn public opinion against public sector pensions or sloppy reporting? I am becoming a very grumpy old woman and a sceptical one.

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I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!