Learning how to honor the truth by being taught how G. W. never told a lie

First off. Despite the fact I was over at Stone Bridge lamenting the fact I used to love movies and how I hate Hollywood movies and how most have no substance, I got all way too excited when I came upon Arvin Hill’s Carnival of Horrors and his profile giving him as liking “Shakes the Clown”. Sure I was enjoying the posts too and saying “yes, hmmm, yes” but I’m hopeless because Monday night if I was going to get excited about anything it was going to be about “Shakes the Clown”. Which no one I know likes. That had me feeling so good I had to go over to Ratsboy Anvil and confess how a real event had melded with fiction in my mind about a bass guitarist’s confrontation with electrical forces, and so I set that right. I’m a sucker for road stories.

Now I’m feelin’ been-to-the-river righteous and that’s bad because I’m bound to wake up in the morning regretting I got all public and confessional.

Something else I (still) get a kick out of is this. THE STEALTH CURRICULUM! I ranted about it back on 14 April 2004 on my son’s blog which was more-or-less a private blog recording some of his favorite internet sites that we come across doing our loose, eclectic homeschooling.

The Stealth Curriculum, by Sandra Stotsky

Put out by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, listed on their website on 4/13/2004, the PR is/was:

Widely-used instructional materials that teachers rely upon to supplement their textbooks and their own knowledge may be dangerous to children’s educational health. The creators of such materials (and “professional development” programs for teachers) often inject bias and political manipulation into the minds of teachers and, subsequently, their students. The latest Thomas B. Fordham Foundation study, The Stealth Curriculum: Manipulating America’s History Teachers, casts wary light on resources that teachers frequently use but that seldom come under public or expert scrutiny.

The Stealth Curriculum was authored by Sandra Stotsky, veteran education analyst, scholar and former senior associate commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education. It takes a close look at some prominent supplemental materials and workshops in the social-studies field.

Published by all manner of organizations and interest groups, these materials mislead teachers, distort the curriculum, and deflect classroom attention from the content that students should be learning. Worse, such materials are reinforced by a network of teacher workshops that focus more on propagating political and social ideas than imparting actual historical knowledge. At best, these materials offer a one-sided biased view of complex issues. In many cases, they go farther, omitting events that paint an interest group in a negative light or fabricating facts altogether.

“Under the guise of heightening teachers’ and students’ awareness of previously marginalized groups, they manipulate teachers (and, thus, their pupils) to view the history of freedom as the history of oppression and to be more sympathetic to cultures that don’t value individual rights than to those that do,” says Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. in the report’s foreword.

This stealth curriculum tends to fly under the radar of historians and other experts as the sheer amount of materials makes any sort of tracking and reviewing process next to impossible. Little is known about the direct effects of these materials on teachers and their students because of the lack of research on them…

The “Stealth Curriculum” book has been out there a year now, but it’s interesting (to me at least) how I came by it.

Only natural for the Bush admnistration to want to correct a ‘liberal bias’ in American education by giving grants to groups that share its philosophy

It was via an Alfie Kohn article noting that the Bush administration has funneled more than $75 million in taxpayer funds to (educational) pro-voucher groups and miscellaneous for-profit entities. Among them is William Bennett’s latest gamble, known as K12 — a company specializing in on-line education for homeschoolers. (Finn sits on the board of directors). “Standards” plus “freedom” may eventually add up to considerable revenue, then. In the meantime, the Department of Education is happy to ease the transition: A school choice pilot program in Arkansas received $11.5 million to buy a curriculum from Bennett’s outfit, and a virtual charter school in Pennsylvania affiliated with K12 got $2.5 million. Continuing, Lisa Graham Keegan (a former Arizona school superintendent, now Education Leaders Council exec director, on favoritism exhibited in the grants said it was
“only natural for the Bush admnistration to want to correct a ‘liberal bias’ in American education by giving grants to groups that share its philosophy.”

K12 offers homeschooling curriculum and the “Virtual Academy”. Homeschooling through K12 will cost you about $1600 a year. Expensive by some standards and cheap by others. They don’t give a good overview (what publisher really does) of materials so who knows what’s on the plate, and what little they do show as samples still doesn’t give you much of an idea, except I think hmmm that was a lot of hooplah and pages to go through for not much info on a topic and much more complex navigationally than it needs to be (the kind of thing that made me wonder if the complexity was supposed to make you feel you were getting more than you were). But for people who want to homeschool it offers an attractive deal of not homeschooling by doing a virtual school at home through the academy as part of the public school system (if you live in a state where it’s currently offered), curriculum for free, computer for free, free supplemental materials not included in the homeschool package, state assessment tests (some districts require homeschoolers test at different grade levels and it costs money to do the tests), a virtual academy community and access to a certified teacher, plus internet reimbursement program. They offer grade and middle school and will eventually offer high school.

Imagine some of the grant money received has gone into the free K12 “Patriotism lesson” offered. And there’s the K12 “Virtues” program for which you can shell out $79.95 if so inclined. The Virtues program “provides a range of tools to support your family’s moral education. With books, videos, and fun worksheets, the program introduces your student to” our common culture, shared ideals, and cherished values.”

I was very curious of course what those shared ideals and cherished values are, not to mention what they offer as the common culture.

Before taking a look at K12’s Patriotism Program, here’s some more info on William J. Bennett. He is the founder of Americans for Victory over Terrorism (information on AVOT at Disinfopedia); founder of Empower America (America needs more power?); Founding member of Project for the New American Century ( Truthout’s William Rivers Pitt on the PNAC click here); an Advisor for the “Center for Security Policy”. He was G. W. Bush’s speech writer and editor in 1999. The Secretary of Education from 1985 to 1988. Chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities from 1981 to 1985.

Media Transparency gives William J. Bennett, Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, as a prime mover of the new right wing movement. He once said of Rush Limbaugh that he was a symbol of encouragement. “Adventures from the Book of Virtues”, based on William Bennett’s “The Book of Virtues”, airs on PBS. A friend of mine, who would have no idea as to its origin, sent H.o.p. a tape. I have never been able to sit through five minutes of it. If my friend knew it was based on William Bennett’s book she’d be mortified that H.o.p. might have watched a moment of the tape.

Teaching Patriotism the K-12 way

Gaining entrance to the K12 Patriotism Lesson requires you give name and phone number, whereas usually at sites one must give a name and email address.

Once in, the eye is greeted with,

Now, more than ever, we’re focused on America — on what makes this nation great, what unites us all, and why we enjoy the freedoms we have today. In the spirit of patriotism, we invite you to teach your child more about this beautiful land that stretches “from sea to shining sea,” the daring of early explorers and settlers, the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, and our enduring commitment to “let freedom ring.”

Looks like the NDN community is already out of luck. Lesson plans include an ultra basic account of a spotless Christopher Columbus. Included is a song you sing (to the tune of “Clementine”) about Columbus, the last of three verses being “Oh, Columbus, Oh, Columbus, Was so brave and wise and true, He sailed from Spain to the Americas, In fourteen ninety-two.”

Right. Brave, wise and true promoted the West Indies with its super cheap labor (lots of NDNs). Millions were dead in a short few decades. The cruelties were a stunning piece of barbarism. “Lies My Teacher Told me” explores the Columbus myth in depth, reporting,

“…Having as yet found no fields of gold, Columbus had to return some kind of dividend to Spain. In 1495 the Spanish on Haiti initiated the great slave trade…Columbus was excited. “In the name of the Holy Trinity, we can send from here all the slaves and brazil-wood which could be sold,” he wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1496…

In the words of Hans Koning, “There now began a reign of terror in Hispaniola.” Spaniards hunted Indians for sport and murdered them for dog food. Columbus, upset because he could not locate the gold he was certain was on the island, set up a tribute system.

Ferdinand Columbus described how it worked:

[The Indians} all promised to pay tribute to the Catholic Sovereigns every three months, as follows: In the Cibao, where the gold mines were, every person of 14 years of age or upward was to pay a large hawk’s bell of gold dust; all others were each to pay 25 pounds of cotton. Whenever an Indian delivered his tribute, he was to receive a brass or copper token which he must wear about his neck as proof that he had made his payment. Any Indian found without such a token was to be punished.”

With a fresh token, an Indian was safe for three months, much of which time could be devoted to collecting more gold. Columbus’s son neglected to mention how the Spanish punished those whose tokens had expired: they cut off their hands.

Pre-Columbus there were an estimated 8,000,000 Indians in Haiti. By 1496 a census, not counting children under 14 or those who had escaped, came up with 1,100,000. By 1516, “thanks to the sinister Indian slave trade and labor policies initiated by Columbus, only some 12,000 remained.” It was after 1516 that the Black Plague struck the Indians in Haiti. By 1542 there were 200 left. By 1555, they were all gone.

The numbers of Indians on Haiti withered, the slave trade moved on to the Bahamas. The Spanish historian, Peter Martyr, wrote in 1516 that a ship needed no compass from the Bahamas to Hispaniola, as one could follow on the ocean the dead bodies of Indians who had been thrown from ships into which they’d been densely packed.

And still, can you beat this, by Jefferson’s time the Spanish were getting apologetic and outlawing NDN slavery and a number of NDN nations would have taken the Spanish any day over the Americans by then.

They are handsome. They do not have weapons.

K12 only notes, on Columbus’ relationship with the Indians, that he wrote “They are handsome. They do not have weapons.” K12 says these words show Columbus had found people who were gentle and kind. It’s not noted that Columbus wrote about their not having weapons in relationship to their inability to defend themselves against the weaponry of the Spanish. And of course doesn’t note that he enthusiastically wrote about Haiti being a prodigious resource for all the slaves that could be wanted.

Another part of the Patriotism lesson is “The Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving”. They lead one to believe that Squanto visited from a neighboring tribe when in fact Squanto had been stolen as a child and taken to England (for which reason he knew English) and was also sold into slavery. Returning to America, Squanto found his tribe wiped out by the plague and he the sole survivor. Indeed, many of the first settlers moved directly into villages left by NDNs killed by disease and were able to take advantage of their crops, and not having to clear the land. A record from the so-called Pilgrim’s second day gives brief testimony to this:

We marched to the place we called Cornhill, where we had found the corn before. At another place we had seen before, we dug and found some more corn, two or three baskets full, and a bag of beans. ..In all we had about ten bushels, which will be enough for seed. It was with God’s help that we found this corn, for how else could we have done it, without meeting some Indians who might trouble us. …The next morning, we found a place like a grave. We decided to dig it up. We found first a mat, and under that a fine bow…We also found bowls, trays, dishes, and things like that. We took several of the prettiest things to carry away with us, and covered the body up again.

There are some NDNs of course who have a problem with this, with the desecration of burials and the thieving of burial goods.

Anyway good Squanto helped the pilgrims survive (he had no home) and then the pilgrims invite the Wampanoag to a feast, the First Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving didn’t exist until 1863). Oh joy. And you know how the story goes, the Indians and Pilgrims lived happily beside each other ever after. This is attested to by the number of Indians still residing in the East.

Exploring geography of the U.S., you get to clap and chant, “Atlantic to the East, Pacific to the West, U.S.A. is in between, That’s the country I like best!”

Got rhythm, don’t it? And is almost tearily poetic. There’s a folk song wandering around in there somewhere if you nudge around the lyrics a little. Maybe add some majestic purple mountains.

Other short subjects include The American Revolution, Betsy Ross and the First American Flag, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Statue of Liberty, Immigrants to America, and Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Nothing about NDNs.)

The majority of historians regard the Betsy Ross story as a myth but K12 presents it as true, making prominent mention that Betsy was a widow but had no time to think about feeling sorry for herself, she was just going to continue sewing to put food on the table. I reason that was put in there for children of single mothers on welfare, though what they would be doing schooled at home I don’t know as who is there to take care of them when moms are out working minimum-wage jobs in order to earn their welfare check.

George Washington being unable to tell a lie (the cherry tree story) as a lesson in telling the truth

One of the two stories given in the Patriotism lesson about George Washington is that of his chopping down the cherry tree and that when his father inquired who had done this, G.W. said that he couldn’t tell a lie and that he did do it. A myth. A story invented by an early biographer and is even given as myth on the Mount Vernon website. But K12 presents it as truth. And the question and answer session? The child is asked why was George’s father proud of George. And the answer is, “Because George told the truth.”

Ten great patriotic places are given as a must visit. Included on the roster is Mount Rushmore. It’s not mentioned that Mount Rushmore was blasted out of the Black Hills by KKK member Gutzon Borglum who also initially worked on Stone Mountain, and that the Black Hills, sacred land promised by treaty to NDN peoples, was within a short few years after those treaties taken back with the discovery of gold. Not a single treaty made by the NDNs with the U.S. was honored.

Included in the Patriotism lesson is then a prominent link to the Fordham Foundation “September 11: What your children need to know.” What do the children need to know?

In April 2004 at the top of the page was the sinister Stealth cover. Behind falls from the sky a litter of papers that I can only take as meant to recall the papers from the Twin Towers that fell on New York on 9/11.

The Stealth Curriculum begins with a flurry of indignant rage that supplementary resource books, “Holocaust and Human Behavior” and “Race and Membership in American History: The Eugenics Movement” make comparisons between white racism in American and Germany, and suggest a link between the American Eugenics Movement and Hitler’s Final Solution. The argument is the materials obliterate the distinction between bigotry and genocide, seeking to reduce the moral status of the United States to that of Nazi Germany.

Well, sorry, but the U.S. did influence the genocide in Europe. Hitler is known to have studied Andrew Jackson’s removal of the Indians to reservations.

I once read through the entire thing. The below excerpt pretty well covers it (except for the furious dramatics over teaching pre 16th century Islam history and the fury over the delving into American eugenics which some connect with the interest in German eugenics i.e. Hitler).

The traditional history curriculum has been criticized for decades for dwelling on political, military, and constitutional history, highlighting only ‘important men,’ and ignoring the daily lives of ordinary people, women and others who did not loom large in political, military and constitutional affairs. Anthropological approaches in curriculum materials address this criticism. However, in doing so, they expand the curriculum to include topics with which most teachers have no familiarity–and which ususually have little or no relevance to the evolution of democratic institutions and individual freedoms. One example in many elementary and middle school curricula is a comparison of River Valley Civilizations…The daily lives and dates of the many Native American tribes have been perhaps the greatest beneficiary of this socio-cultural approach, which now occupies much instructional time. With it, however, comes a strongly negative view of the Europeans who explored and colonized America. Supplemental resources now guide teachers to downplay or ignore altogether what students should be learning about the origins and development of our civic culture.

The critical sentence is “they expand the curriculum to include topics with which most teachers have no familiarity–and which ususually have little or no relevance to the evolution of democratic institutions and individual freedoms. “ The view imparted is that anyone that was crunched by America’s Democratic Evolution Machine needn’t be a concern.

Stotsky doesn’t like it that the Plymouth Pilgrims are portrayed as weak in their reliance on the Wampanoag for the first “Thanksgiving”.

The Stealth Curriculum says one can’t judge the past by today’s standards. Says all this does is rouse affect (was that the phrase used) but does nothing for building the mind. Oh, yes, the phrase used was “affect-forming but intellectually empty assignments”. That teachers teach these things shows they aren’t schooled in history and need to be appropriately re-educated.

Guess the students need instead to be taught that G.W. chopping down the cherry tree is true, and that he always spoke the truth. If this is what passes for history or social studies in the K12 curriculum you’ve gotta wonder what else is taught if setting forth as true a known myth, expecting children to believe it (and thus believe for the rest of their lives for those who never question) is conceived of as sharpening and building a discerning intellect.

What would a Minoan goddess do–vague thoughts on gratuities and peon empires

Not doing the Hooters jiggle

This is a long post. As long as it is because it’s a subject I didn’t want to occasion any sense of trivialization, which I felt was happening in an initial shorter version.

The Maidenform dream and the election train

Alicublog makes the post Guy Thing in response to Sex, Women and Conservatism by Dallas Claymore at the Citizen Journal.

In the meanwhile, that Internet philosopher, “Free online casino” attempted to comment on this website,

When women forge their own ‘gender identity’, in the way the feminists recommend, they become unattractive to men – or attractive only as sex objects, not as individual persons. And when men cease to be gentlemen, they become unattractive to women. Sexual companionship then goes from the world. by free online casino game

The Free Online Casino philosopher is exceedingly prolific. It’s also got an unnerving bit of oracle bot to it that at the crankiest of times anticipates where the brain is wandering and plunges right through the looking glass dragging along PKD, John Cage and Timothy Leary into electric lands of internet potshot I Ching where Satan as opposer says “J’accuse” pointing at yon mountain which is you of course, all being you, you being god is all, and Satan having a high old time crashing every righteous brain party it predicts in your future. Up conjuring down, left conjuring right, in conjuring out, the bases are covered and what’s frustrating is Anti doesn’t believe a word of it, Anti’s just there for sake of making sure there’s a position to be established. If Anti believes in anything it’s making maps.

I’ve been working on this sorry post several days only to have it twice destroyed by my not saving and my DSL going down and taking my work with it. I thought maybe I should drop the post entirely but I kept going back and looking at the graphic of Ms. Snake Minoan I’d made and thinking what would your typical Hooters customers do if this woman walked in the door, and what would she do if handed a Hooters t-shirt and shorts and told to sing “I wish I was an Oscar Meier Wiener” for her supper. I’ve no idea what her response would be as little is known about the Minoans, but she doesn’t look the cheery and reassuring Malibu Barbie performing a snake goddess dance.

Continue reading What would a Minoan goddess do–vague thoughts on gratuities and peon empires

Two Edward Hopper windows

There was even hail. Then drizzle. H.o.p. went to the toy store with Marty then the studio. The toy store was a ploy to distract and make him not worry about mom visiting at the hospital. H.o.p. said just this once and I explained I may be spending some evenings keeping company there over the next few weeks. H.o.p. didn’t cherish the idea.

I hadn’t wanted to bother with my knap sack in which is my scrawled list of must know numbers. I realized I needed to test my husband’s phone number on him as I reverse numbers and I was going to need to call him when I was done. Stress and being tired can exacerbate so I wanted to write the number down. “Your phone is…?” No, he said I had reversed numbers. He told it to me. I repeated it back, again reversed. He handed me his business card.

Unless you’re pregnant and alternating smiles with grimaces, or wearing a name tag, no one knows what business may have taken you down to the hospital and people are generally friendly in the speak-softly-give-nod friendly ways of buildings where individuals of a variety of races, cultures, ages, politics, fashion preferences, and economic status are brought happenstance together by disparate concerns which are same-boat enough to have you brushing shoulders at the entrance, the information desk, riding the same elevator together. If you ask directions a friendly woman in a flowered hospital smock and crayola cornflower blue pants may tell you three times over in as copious detail as she can because she’s assuming nothing other than significance has brought you here, has you asking, significance is stressful, good or ill, and she wants to make sure your trip through the maze of hallways is smooth.

Continue reading Two Edward Hopper windows

Ongoing confession of a long-standing party-pooper pessimist

Back in the early 80s, there was a lower economic area of Buckhead that began to eat itself in the hopes of attaining glory. We lived in the area right before it began to chow down. The name of the apartment “complex” may have been Oak Hill. My husband thinks it may have been Oak Hill. I don’t have a clue. And he’s not certain because that isn’t how it was known. Its common name was “Viet Cong Villa”. The buildings were dark red brick, each consisting of, if I remember correctly, 4 to 6 townhome type apartments (upstairs and down), either two or three bedrooms, probably built in the 40s. The Emory family-student housing complex was in the same style, the one they tore down and replaced around the time of the Olympics.

The name “Viet Cong Villa” should clue in as to the neighborhood. I don’t know why but a large number of Vietnamese families had settled in the complex. Extended families of cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. There was also a significant-sized “hispanic” community and a number of other nationalities. In our little cul-de-sac we were the only household with English as the primary language. The two apartments on our left were Vietnamese. The one on our right was Hispanic. The next building was all Vietnamese with the exception of one German family. The complex was probably close to 90 percent Vietnamese and Hispanic.

Between 1975 and 1984 about 8000 Vietnamese arrived in Georgia as refugees, poor, bewildered, struggling to cope with new culture. One set of my grandparents lived in southwestern Missouri and a number of Vietnamese had landed there as well, not quite so easy to overlook, seeming like a wayward flock of birds blown off course by a storm, about as inobvious as if if you were watching Shirley Jones and Robert Preston in “Music Man” and suddenly there was this group of Vietnamese extras in the background who you could swear weren’t within two worlds of the parade your last viewing. But there are a lot more buildings in Atlanta where the roads snake around and about instead of squaring off in neat orderly blocks, and those faces disappeared into the fringes in the midst of the city, hidden in the nicks and tucks of those roads, such as at Oak Hill, the entrance to which was deftly hidden in plain view at a stop light at an imposing RR trestle that served as a gate to Piedmont Road’s ascendance into Buckhead. Most people we knew or know never realized the apartment complex even existed.

Continue reading Ongoing confession of a long-standing party-pooper pessimist

A Radiant Botanist’s Primer: Lesson one, on the weeds and the flowers

From the NY Times which I see today has an article on megachurches (a subject I brought up in Friday’s post).

When you ask people how Radiant has changed their lives, they will almost invariably talk about how it helped open their hearts. But there’s a kind of narrowing going on here as well, which became clear a few minutes later, when Tom flipped to another passage from a recent sermon. ” ‘Some seed fell among the thorny weeds, and the weeds grew up with them and choked the good plants,’ ” he read, quoting Luke 8:7. Then he added his exegesis: ”We’ve had friends who were not Christian, and for me they were like the thorny weeds,” he said. ”We’ve had to commit ourselves to friends who could help us grow spiritually.”

Continue reading A Radiant Botanist’s Primer: Lesson one, on the weeds and the flowers

And she stole all the curtains and the dresser

Consider this two posts in one.

Happen (yesterday morning now) across the story at Pandagon. The IMAX movie, “Volcanoes of the Deep Sea”, banned at venues in southern states (GA, SC, NC and TX). Why? Because it mentions the dreaded big E word. Even the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History in Texas has declined to show the film, not wanting to spark controversy.

More here at Edpolitics and then at Panda’s Thumb.

A spokesman for the Science Museum in London described the development as worrying: ‘It is a very tight market in the Imax business and we would be extremely disappointed if this sort of pressure led to a narrowing of the market for popular Imax films.”

So march on the Creationists who are endeavoring to “take back” America from the terrorist nonpuritans who threaten to destroy holy capitalist industry with irreverent speculation on bipedalism.

Continue reading And she stole all the curtains and the dresser

Techniques that profit nothing and fantastic invasions

Billmon’s left sidebar shows he’s reading Robert Gellately’s “Backing Hitler, Consent & Coercion in Nazi Germany”. I would post too in side bars what I read but the things I’m most influenced by I’ve been reading for 20 years, so wouldn’t be “things I’m reading” but “here’s my flesh and bone, looks suspiciously like paper and print, dunnit…”

Rolling along to the next death bus stop, “Natural” death in Afghanistan at Body and Soul brings up again how the FBI criticized “inhumane” interrogation practices at Guantanamo Bay saying they also accomplished nothing and revealed no more than what the FBI got using simple techniques. The Justice Department, reviewing the memo for “national security secrets” before releasing it to “a civil liberties group in December, redacted the part about the intelligence information being “suspect at best” and also blocked out an assertion that the military’s interrogation practices could undermine future military trials for terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay. It did this after the Defense Dept expressed its own opinions on what parts of the letter should be redacted.

The FBI was so concerned about the interrogation practices that they went to William J. Haynes II, the Pentagon’s chief attorney. However, Att. General Alberto R. Gonzales, is skeptical on the reliability of the FBI’s accounts.

Sneeze, kerchoo! (Finally over winter colds and now into the damned Atlanta pollen season and no matter what I do I’m blowing my nose like crazy again but at least I had almost two weeks respite). And now returning to Billmon, he writes here on a revelation he had before the election:


And that’s when it hit me – as if, to quote Col. Kurtz, I’d been shot in the forehead with a diamond – that Kerry was almost certainly going to lose the election, that the American people really were going to ratify torture and murder as instruments of state policy, and that all the facts and all the rational arguments and all the moral outrage in the world weren’t going to persuade them otherwise.

What I finally had to confront was the fact that truth alone is impotent in the face of modern propaganda techniques – as developed, field tested, refined and deployed by Madison Avenue, the Pentagon, the think tanks, the marketing departments of major corporations, the communications departments of major research universities, etc. To paraphrase Hannah Arendt, the peculiar vulnerability of historical truth (which means political truth) is that it isn’t inherently more plausible than outright lies, since the facts could always have been otherwise. And in a world where the airwaves are overloaded 24/7 with the mindless babbling of complete idiots, it isn’t very hard to make inconvenient facts disappear, or create new pseudofacts that reinforce whatever bias or cultural affinity you want to cultivate – particularly if the audience is already disposed to prefer your reassuring lies to discomforting truths told by strangers..

It was depressing but Billmon eventually accepted the futility and resurrected his blog, though approaching it differently.

I read others stopping writing with that sense of overwhelming futility, and some come back and also decide to approach their writing (blogging) differently.

Futility has as way of making one rethink the relationship between action and result, endeavor and reward..

There are differences, but America is waging much the same kind of war in the Middle East that it did here with American Indian Nations and is still ongoing, unsettled. I keep wanting to quote from George Tinker”s “Spirit and Resistance'” on how deeply rooted in the expansion and dominance, the policing and bringing all to conformity (for its own good, though in accordance with western priorities) is a peculiar theological mix so taken for granted that different camps may not recognize how similar is their food and ignorant of the why of the taste for it, a theological mix often at odds but has as its driving force the notion of individual greed being what motivates individuals.

But I’m not going to go there because I’m looking at the cover of the book “Backing Hitler, Consent & Coercion in Nazi Germany”, I’m looking at Billmon’s statement of futility in the face of the knowledge that “the American people really were going to ratify torture and murder as instruments of state policy, and that all the facts and all the rational arguments and all the moral outrage in the world weren’t going to persuade them otherwise…the audience is already disposed to prefer your reassuring lies to discomforting truths told by strangers.” I am considering how many Germans responding to Hitler as Father, how many Americans responded to Reagan as the consoling Father who raised their spirits and made them proud again after what they viewed as a decade of defeat and humiliation.

And I’m reflecting on this account of the trip of some Otoe chiefs to Washington in 1873:

STAND BY: If you have a piece of land and I sell it, you would not like it.
COMMISSIONER: If you are my Agent and sell it, it is all right. You must remember there is a difference. You are the child of Government, and it must take care of you.
STANDY BY: If you have children and they want money, they have it. They do as they want to.
COMMISSIONER: No, they do not. My child does as I want to have her. If any child wants anything and I want her to have it she gets it. But if I don’t want her to have it she don’t get it and she does not turn around and ask me how I would like it if she had my money and would not let me have it.

I am thinking about modern responses to these accounts, the speeches of the politicians of the day toward the American Indians,. There are those who accept the paternalism as they see the American Indians as having been barbaric, child-like and in need of the progress their Anglo-European superiors were supposedly offering them. Then there are those who recognize the paternalism for what it is. How many recognize in this language the coercion and anticipated consent that predisposes people to hearing and accepting reassuring lies?

But of course that language wasn’t dreamt up only for coercing, in this case, the Otoe. It is a way of thinking and dealing with people that the Commissioner expected the Otoe to bow before and respect, to not question, because his general experience of it in his own society was positive and rational argument that purchased desired result. That he refers to his child here as “her” perhaps has nothing to do with his child’s actual sex but is part and parcel of his acknowledging his child as an inferior (just as women were subordinate, inferior) who has been taught not to question how the world responds to her, how authority responds to her. Americans may not like to think of themselves as living in this manner, but then when one grows up always knowing that a square house is the perfect shape for a house then one is predisposed to think of modifying domicile according to one’s needs and desires in the manner that a square teaches it may be modified. Or even subverted.

“Apocalypse Now” is about Anglo-European sensibilities in the same way that “Heart of Darkness” is about Anglo-European sensibilities.

I glance through a few pages of “Heart of Darkness” and come upon the lines where it’s acknowledged “I am not disclosing any trade secrets” that Kurtz’s methods had ruined the district, and there had been nothing profitable in them (I glance back up to the FBI saying there was nothing profitable in the investigative techniques used by the military), they only showed a lack of restraint, marked a deficiency found out early by the wilderness, and “had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion”.

A congregation of harpies

So, I went from Alas, a Blog’s postings on Schiavo to Trish Wilson’s posting on Schiavo, after which she promised it would be a Schiavo-free zone.

I commented and am now back here.

I, too, hadn’t intended to blog on Terri Schiavo. Even last night after reading the latest at the NY Times, the argument that the politicians are going with, that it would be violating Schiavo’s constitutional rights with the withholding of nutrition needed to keep her alive. Enraged after reading this, I wrote on how if they believed at all in what they said they’d be doing something about health care and pharmaceuticals out of reach of those who need them because of the costs, and wouldn’t be penalizing those who go bankrupt due to the high cost of health care. Enraged, I wrote how I can sympathize with the concern of disability rights groups who have banded together in support of the Schiavo bill, but that there’s nothing to do with compassion here, and political intentions are stinking rank. And before I wrote and as I wrote, accompanying me was this image of Harpies, gigantic dark Harpies who, drawn to the Capitol by this audacity, clung by nightmare talons to the gutters, eerie wind rippling feathers, and screamed and shrieked down the politicians with their rage. Unable to explain the why of the Harpies who just would not let go, the largest of which kept her eyes on me as if I should be able to hear and explain, I erased the post, incapable.

Continue reading A congregation of harpies

Spring is when Jesus dies. I remembered this Sunday because the billboards were up

Spring is nearly here. Virtually here. In the south, in Georgia, spring arrives early. One day in March you open your door and stumble over spring into summer. For the next couple of weeks summer and winter play badminton over spring’s head then send her off. Once a decade an ice storm will sweep through forcing the issue of winter a little longer.

Sunday we went hoodified out the apartment building door. A sleeveless woman immediately jogging past, I made an effort at casual as I took off the hoodie and stuffed it between the van’s dashboard and windshield. “Ah, spring.” Down the street, I was reassured to see others as slow as I or reluctant (which I am as well) to concede summer. Fifty percent of the population was sleeveless and in shorts. The other fifty percent was in heavy jackets and knit beanies. Those in jackets looked weary. Exempting the homeless (who have nowhere to stow the heavy coat) they looked destination-driven, either walking home with groceries from the store or looking like they were on their way to the bus stop to go to work. Those who were sleeveless were laughing, jogging, running.

Spring is when Jesus dies. I remembered this Sunday because the billboards were up. There are no billboards advertising his death downtown and midtown. One doesn’t hit them until out closer to the Perimeter, stationed for those who drive-in for work, drive-out to the far-reaching satellite suburbs for living. The Perimeter, a loop of 18-wheeler meth-fueled race track which circles Atlanta, is the snake that bounds the edges of the orderly world, beyond which is chaos, Atlanta having grown 10 percent geographically for every 1 percent growth in population, and I read that in the past 30 years Atlanta has grown faster than any human settlement in history. Seems to me there should be a relativity disclaimer but why bother. The Perimeter distinguishes in-town from “beyond”. The areas we’ve opted to live in have always been within the Perimeter, multicultural and Baxter Bunny Vermont maple candy diverse as in mom-and-mom and pop-and-pop households didn’t mean, while the next door same-sex couple passed from home to car, hiding the kids so life wouldn’t prospect you with explaining whatever until they were old enough to fully inculcate the horrors or leave home . Whenever we neared the Perimeter it was time to turn around and go home. So I’m rather shamed that Son was born outside the Perimeter, courtesy of the not-so-hot group insurance I luckily had at the time, at a hospital a later in-town gynecologist I saw said he didn’t even know existed. Not that the in-town gynecologist scored anything but negative points with me when we were talking about perimenopausality and he qualified menopause as a disease that should be treated with hormones. I said I found it hard to believe that nature’s design was that all post-fertile women should be observed as diseased. He spoke down to me saying disease was the body not operating properly and thus menopause was a disease. I didn’t return.

I believe we were on I-285 when I saw him, Jesus, now ? percent bigger than thou’s god, looking out over the many lanes of traffic. He was bearded, his head turned down. I looked twice because I’m always startled by a two thousand-year-old synthesis of Greco-Roman Dionysian mystery cults, Jewish mysticism and Gnostic pessimism surveying traffic from on high, can’t help it. I looked twice because there was something wrong with this year’s medium close-up of god’s son on the cross. My first thought was geez, the toymakers who do the gory dinosaurs had gotten him.

Last week my son, in the third year of his search for the ultimate dinosaur toy, was showing me desirables from a toysite hosting dinosaurs that were all curiously distinguished with having a chunk of flesh bitten from their breasts, a window on their rib cage. The curious distinguishment was small enough to not be too demanding, but I had to wrestle with it. Other than that hunk of flesh gone exposing red meat and bone, they were like any other toy dinosaur. Reason shooed away my brain’s first-response that these must be dinosaur models, like break-apart modular human mannequin chests, used by high schools and colleges for teaching dinosaur anatomy to prospective dinosaur doctors. I stopped wrestling with the dinosaurs and became distressed over my brain.

Back to I-285 and Jesus on the billboard. Whose midsection was covered in blood. Not his muscled chest or arms. Where his stomach should have been there was instead lots of red paint and my brain’s first response was that the toy dinosaur makers had chomped a hunk out hoping to boost sales. That’s what the electric running billboard that is my mind offered first as it began presenting possibles. “You gonna pick me?” No, pass on the dinosaur. The next choice was Jesus a la Mel Gibson. I became a fly in the mobile phone of a preacher talking PR and dollars. Who do we love? Mel Gibson. Who showed the passion like it really was? Mel Gibson. What had people laid down a lot of dollars for? The Mel Gibson model. Go with it. Only forego the lashes for a flood of blood. That’s what the folk are interested in. Bloody Christ.

I can’t compare Mel Gibson’s Christ to this version as I didn’t see Mel’s movie. The idea of part of god condescending to experience suffering “when He didn’t have to” in the form of that part being a sacrificed son and just how much guts that took doesn’t much impress me.

Because I didn’t see “The Passion of the Christ” and no one I know saw it, I have to depend on reports of the public stir over the film, one camp complaining it was a near pornographic display of violence while the other insisted it had to do with exposing everyone the reality of the torture.

Because I couldn’t closely examine the billboard I’m depending also on an impression of it. I figure that’s OK as that’s what the billboard is designed for, overseeing the interstate where only a quick glimpse is afforded, unless one is stalled in traffic.

As a child I was for a brief time RC and the church I was exposed to during that time had a crucifix that on weekdays I would ride down early morning on my bike (just turned nine and able to bike around town) and visit. On Sundays I studied the Stations of the Cross hung on the walls and the peculiar figure of the infant ruling Christ dressed in that Sunday’s colors like a little doll. Alone, on weekday mornings I would visit the crucifix. I remember this one wasn’t mass-produced and that a craftsman had made it was something I thought a lot about. I’d sit in the pew thinking about the person who had carved the figure, comprehending that each personally carved Christ was going to express its creator, and that is what impressed me more than anything else.

Considering the times, thinking of the emphasis of some churches on the passion of Christ, I was reminded of the pictures of the tortures at Abu Ghraib, torture being torture, humiliation being humiliation, regardless who experiences it. I was reminded of military photographed laughing over dead individuals. Discarding any mystic content to the Christ, approaching the Christ as a historical individual as literalists do, I considered how the tortures of Jesus did not include sexual humiliation, which is convenient as passion plays would have a hard time dealing with that. No dehumanizing, identity-removing hoods. It would be difficult to enter a theater of war carrying the cross of such a Christ as one’s hope and testament of strength. No, instead, the billboard Passion Play Christ is god as contest of wills, a visage of blood contest intended to terrify the enemy, the eternal warrior never subjected to feeble old age. A young man, he is at the peak of his strength when he dies and rises anew to continue battling on. In this aspect he is the god’s son of no conflict between god and state, saying give unto Caesar what is Caesars. This is the prevailing internet interpretation I read of Jesus telling Peter to replace his sword, to let the government do god’s will. That the state’s will is god’s will, there being no state which doesn’t draw it’s rule from god. This is not a pacific Christ teaching non-violence, I read. Instead he is taking the sword from the hands of the individual and putting it in the state’s hands. One is to submit to the authority of the state.

Which is perhaps why Bush reportedly told a group of Amish that God spoke through him, he was sure of that, or else he’d not be able to do his job.

Christianity has been for nearly two thousand years a religion of war, of conquering, of bringing the heathen world within the dominion of the right god, subjugating and destroying other cultures by excuse of spreading the word. The Jesus on the billboard is the War Christ so popular among Xtian Fundamentalists. The mystery of the ancient symbol of the cross isn’t deliberating upon, nor the mystery of an empty tomb. I think one reason the idea of the Rapture is so popular is because of insecurity in the idea of resurrection. My suspicion is though they speak of their god being one who has brought the promise of resurrection, they fear death, they don’t want to lie in the ground where the body decays , flesh falls from the bone. The Rapture is a better alternative because that way you don’t have to risk the uncertainty of resurrection. What accompanies the Rapture but the End Times, so is it any wonder too that many wish those End Times would hurry up and get here before they die. In this way, Fundamentalist Xtianity, which offers no reward in examining actions and consequence into the 7th generataion, is not only ever ready for immediate catastrophe , there are also some who wouldn’t mind helping it along so that their god will return.

Over at Stone Bridge is a rumination on Karl Rove’s rapture:

There is a lot of schadenfreude hidden in the message of the Rapture. Why is that? The message has been around since a preacher named Darby invented it in the 19th century, but it seems to have caught on just as red state residents got more unhappy in general. And why indeed shouldn’t they get more unhappy? The bottom 2 economic quintiles in the country (heavily represented in red state America) have been getting steadily poorer for 30 years, the middle quintile is getting steadily more uncertain that they won’t be next, and thru the genius of Karl Rove the Republican wurlitzer has provided a steady menu of scapegoats for whatever is troubling you. Liberals. Homosexuals. Feminists. Muslims, since 9/11. We are all familiar with this. But why are fundamentalists in particular so susceptible to this stuff?

Having lived on the edges of a Fundamentalist family (my husband’s) for a long while I’ve thought about this a long while, and observed how it plays in the strangling of more moderate churches, such as the tearing apart of the Southern Baptist Convention, which was founded for the purpose of preservation of slavery among its missionaries, was staunchly conservative but permitted individual choice in interpretation of scripture as literal or not, and with the Fundamentalist takeover was finally even abandoned by President Jimmy Carter after 65 years of membership.

My husband’s parents remain members and would be considered liberal by his mother’s side of the family who were/are Assembly of God.

A common thread in Fundamentalism seems a contempt for other, for education, for learning. American Indians of different nations went to D.C. and Europe and returning home many said, “No thanks”. They were exposed to Anglo-European culture with the hope they’d be cowed by its magic. Instead many speak of the slavery of the Anglo-European culture to its desires, its effects, and the harsh treatment of its people. Fundamentalism seems frequently unable to afford investigation into “other”. The rejuvenating, circular, tail-devouring Ouroborous which contains the known and outside of which is terrible, menacing chaos, is threatening, and also as enticing as it was to Eve who tasted of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Duality, the dark side as evil in opposition to light, is essential to Fundamentalism which can’t tolerate incorporation of nature’s ambiguities into the self, has never considered seeking a path of balance rather than elimination, the White hats sentencing the Black hats to death or vice versa.

If Fundamentalism can’t afford investigation of “other”, it’s unlikely to be able to afford much self-scrutiny. Convinced of self-righteousness, their Christ is he who claimed to be bringing, rather than peace, a divisive, discriminating sword. I read somewhere the astute observation that the Passion Christ leaves his Fundamentalist followers in a tense position of waiting the return of god. The wording was particularly adept but I can’t locate it now. That tension lived daily, flavored with a literal interpretation of Revelation and its condemnation of the bulk of humanity, their reality the center of the universe, the devil lurking at the door seeking to trick, to deceive, to wrest salvation away, the vigilance required to be ever ready for transfiguration and to keep their personal devil away from Rapture’s door, must leave very little energy left for anything but sharpening the sword of division. Their concern is global, knowing whole countries are doomed to Judas Iscariot perdition as agents of tyranny used by god to remind his people when they are out of step, which means that war is fought not only to rid the world of evil but to prove a quickly recovered spiritual superiority with every victory. The saying “We are all related” tends toward an all-embracing affinity (when interpreted as not only referring to family), and this understanding is certainly there with Fundamentalism, but the relatedness is threatening, is shaped to point toward Rapture and End Times. All events and people being directly concerned with them, a matter of their concern, it’s impossible to leave others alone. Personal and national sovereignty mean nothing. Though they understand they are ultimately the victors in all, their god describing himself as hated by the world makes them also always victims. Those who do well in the world are aided either by god or the devil depending on their profession of faith. Those who do not do well, if they are not Xtian, are paying the penalty of the heathen. Those who do not do well, if they are Xtian, may be seen as some way deficient and that god’s teaching him with the rod, or they may be hated victims just as their god is both hated victim and victor. That’s a great amount of flexibility and judgment often relies on who claims to serve as a mouthpiece for god. Support is fickle if even in a tight-knit community individuals may be abandoned as suffering hardship for sake of divine instruction. Outside the community? There’s likely to be little compassion for the suffering if one can’t count on their own people for support.

The Passion Play Christ on the billboard will likely be said to be a loving Christ who serves as channel to god. But that love, with Fundamentalism, is severe. A sword of which the prophecy is taken literally that it will divide family according to belief or non-belief, eschews the sacred ancestral beliefs held in many cultures, adopting members of the faith into one tree that is not inclusive, which is nothing but the obliteration of the history of other cultures.

March 19, 2003 is when the U.S. chose to start the war on Iraq. Right before the Spring Equinox.

When my son was six he saw a crucifix for the first time and thought it was an odd totem pole. To me this meant we’d managed to get through his first six years, in the Deep South, relatively unscathed by Xtian imagery. His father’s parents have been respectful of our views and not, to my knowledge, attempted to instruct him, though they have routinely given him Xtian books.

When he was one, I insisted he meet his father’s mother’s mother before she died, though we had for years been told not to visit because of, well, who we were. She still lived in the house the decent wages of her paper mill union husband had purchased decades previous. There were many pictures of Christ. No books. I think she softened toward me for the first time, crying when she saw me breastfeeding, saying no one she knew breastfed anymore. This meant a great deal to her. She repeatedly pled that he be saved so that she would see him in heaven. She was in her 90s. I said she didn’t have to worry. Some may think I was deceiving her, but I didn’t feel I was. For no, I didn’t and don’t think she needed to worry.

Not long ago my son, it having been the first time in his life he was informed, by a peer, he was bad for not going to church on Sunday, I think perhaps in relatonship to this pointed out to me the crucified Christ on a Seven African Powers candle . “What is this?” he asked. I told him it was a person who had been hurt and hung on a cross to die. Puzzled, he demanded, “Who did this? Why would they do that?”

He’d asked the same when he’d glimpsed an image of a hooded man being tortured at Abu Ghraib, clothed as if in sackcoth, standing on a box, arms held out to his side dangling wires.

Spring. “There’s more light now,” my son said a couple of days ago.

Road to Stone Bridge

The below is from Stone Bridge.

So in any case I went to college in 1959–maybe the problem was education–and quickly became a an activist in anti-segregation demonstrations, then soon enough a little bit beyond liberal, and by the end of the 60s a full-tilt revolutionary socialist. Though I have long since mostly reverted to the sanity of mild liberalism, I believe to this day, in my heart, that my utopian values of giving ordinary people a fair deal, including good value for their taxes, do not include letting the elderly forage in dumpsters if their private accounts have worked out badly. Self interest, perhaps, since I am approaching an age that could be called elderly, myself.

The point of this is meandering diatribe is that nowhere in this fairly typical southern liberal trajectory–for a southern liberal of my generation at least– is any habit of condescending to people who have to shop at Walmart. I know, from experience, that most of them (us, actually) would be perfectly happy to buy better stuff, and buy it in stores less renowned for screwing their own hired help than Walmart, if they could afford it. One wonders when was the last time Brooks bought a cheap pair of shoes made in China at a big box store.

When you visit Stone Bridge, be prepared for a longer visit than you anticipated. This is sit-down reading, not a quick news and opinion scan. Though both shorter commentary and longer stories are there. By the time I reached Dante’s parking garage I was following behind in our battered van.

Not true, I was there much earlier on, at the Texas farm, several generations of my family having been farmers in KS on the border of the Osage Nation, in Chautauqua which was Osage up to about 1873 and had mixed-bloods on the census as white but enrolled Osage. I didn’t grow up on a farm but if my house has several back doors onto places of influence, the prairie is toward the top.

A piece on Homeland Security. I was already holding the birdcage with the parakeet that expired with its first whiff of Homeland Security. But reading “Stone Bridge” I am back to thinking again on it and children who grow up hearing, from birth, “Homeland Security.”

I breathe easy reading Stone Bridge.

Why the bass player cried that night

Five or six years ago I tried blogging. We lived across the RR track, right next to the RR track, our too picturesque view of the world being the RR track and beyond it the large warehouse of a large dry cleaning establishment into which I never saw a single customer walk, which let the letters of its neon sign evaporate into the ozone one by one before closing up shop, and as part of an old edition of Bigsofa I made a page called Across the RR tracks then decided to convert it to a blog. I had worked up a nice graphic of a RR track and a decent layout. I set up the blog at Blogger. I got up maybe two or three mundane posts with great difficulty as Blogger didn’t like to work for me, and then couldn’t get it to work again, which a number of people were complaining about at the time, that Blogger had completely broken on them or they could only get it to work occasionally. It was then a fairly unreliable service. I tried again for a little while but was uninspired also by the blogging community. Either I didn’t know my way to certain parts or what I was looking for just wasn’t there yet. If there was a progressive political closet I didn’t find it and six years ago there weren’t many doors to knock on. Saying I was unimpressed sounds judgmental when the situation was that the usual subjects weren’t any I felt moved to link to, or follow or comment upon. I see a couple of the same voices out there doing politically-based blogs now but they weren’t blogging politics back then.

Who were the archibloggers in progressive politics?

Continue reading Why the bass player cried that night