I don’t often rant or rave unless it’s something that truly matters.
You know, like getting vaccinated and/or wearing masks to protect yourself and others against a disease that, if it doesn’t kill you, may leave you with lifelong problems. (Get. The. Damn. Vaccine. Many of us who are vaccinated, especially in states like Arkansas that lag on vaccination, will continue to wear masks at least until we get to 70 percent or more vaccinated. There are too many people refusing vaccination for political reasons and/or stupidity, and those who are underage, immunocompromised, or can’t get the vaccine are at the mercy of the unvaccinated, so someone has to protect them. If that’s not enough, the vast majority of new cases are from that unvaccinated pool, which is at more risk of getting and spreading new, deadlier strains like the Delta variant.)
Or maybe the need for better civics and history education to prevent another Jan. 6 attack. (Seriously, even a rudimentary knowledge of the Constitution’s actual contents should point out why those people were wrong, both legally and morally. Everyone needs to know how government works; the insurrectionists pretty obviously lacked that knowledge.)
That reason is reason. I read and research (too much, some might say). I listen to the real experts who have done the work to become experts in their fields, rather than just Googling up whatever proves my point. And I employ Occam’s Razor, which posits that the simplest explanation is usually correct (it’s not always the case, but it is more times than not).
Should I believe that a pedophilic cabal of Satanists (who are always Democrats, of course) is trafficking children and eating babies in the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria? Not if I pay attention to the facts that that pizzeria has no basement (as was proved when Edgar Maddison Welch, who believed the pizzagate conspiracy theory, burst in to the restaurant with a rifle and fired three shots into the building so he could “self-investigate” the theory) and that no one has come forth with actual evidence that Hillary Clinton and a whole raft of other dastardly people are doing any of this. But, you know, it’s Hillary, so it must be true.
If Hillary had done even a fraction of the things she’s been accused of, she’d probably be on death row. Or she’s the smartest criminal who ever lived. Or, using Occam’s Razor, she’s most likely innocent of the bulk of the deeds attributed to her, but she makes a great political boogeyman, especially considering that she’s an intelligent woman with opinions. (And since I’ve ostensibly just defended her, I’m in on the whole thing, I guess, regardless of my opinions about her, which are that she’s very intelligent, capable and qualified for most anything she tries to do, but doesn’t come off as the warmest person in the world, and is more than a little paranoid. Plus, she’s a Yankee, which is nigh inexcusable to some in Arkansas who never warmed to her.)
I’d also posit that theories like pizzagate, which links to the QAnon cult, do real harm by muddying the waters for people investigating actual trafficking cases, with experts saying that child sexual exploitation is an easy entry point to the wildly implausible QAnon ideologies.
“When you lend credence to one element of the QAnon narrative, more people are likely to buy into the more destructive elements of that narrative,” Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor at Syracuse University who teaches media literacy, mis- and disinformation and political communication, told The San Diego Union-Tribune last year. “You aren’t able to separate out an actual datapoint from the speculative stuff that gets all squished together,” she said. (Read the story at the link above. Some of the quotes from march participants are genuinely terrifying from a logic point of view.)
I think Jan. 6 showed just how dangerous QAnon and related groups like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters can be. There’s speculation, and then there’s actual planning of insurrection.
So much of this comes down to fear. It could be fear of becoming a minority (hmmm, if minorities are treated well, why the worry?) or of losing political power (which could explain gerrymandering and the attitude of keeping the “wrong” people from voting because they might actually expect you to work for the people rather than your base).
Some are now so fearful that they are all of a sudden worried about critical race theory, an academic concept that evolved from a framework for legal analysis more than 40 years ago, which focuses on discriminatory patterns and policies like redlining, which meant Black people were less able to get mortgages.
Please make note of that: It’s been around for more than 40 years, but now people are concerned. Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with political propaganda from pundits, could it?
The theory, writes Stephen Sawchuk in Education Week, “says that racism is part of everyday life, so people—white or nonwhite—who don’t intend to be racist can nevertheless make choices that fuel racism.” Sawchuk notes that “much of the current debate appears to spring not from the academic texts, but from fear among critics that students—especially white students—will be exposed to supposedly damaging or self-demoralizing ideas.”
Sure, keep teaching just part of the story. It’ll turn out really well when those kids get out in the real world.
Teaching history should mean teaching all of it, the good and the bad. Even before college, I learned those things from people like my high school history teacher Mike Elsken and my sixth-grade teacher Carol Ferguson, and I just gained a deeper appreciation for the growth of our country. We’ve proved that we’re resilient, can evolve, and can admit and try to rectify the actions of the past, but that we still have much to do. Often it takes too long for the sins of the past to be recognized and atoned for (like the Tulsa and Elaine race massacres in the U.S., plus, among others, the Armenian genocide by the Turks), but we shouldn’t be afraid of it.
Vague legislative bills that intend to scuttle any teaching that might be considered tangentially critical race theory in K-12 are based on fear, and are inspiring fear as well, Sawchuk wrote. “[S]ocial studies educators fear that such laws could have a chilling effect on teachers who might self-censor their own lessons out of concern for parent or administrator complaints.
“As English teacher Mike Stein told Chalkbeat Tennessee about the new law: ‘History teachers cannot adequately teach about the Trail of Tears, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement. English teachers will have to avoid teaching almost any text by an African American author because many of them mention racism to various extents.’”
I remember very little in my K-12 history books that put white America in a bad light, which means that it was only if you were lucky to have history teachers who taught about the effects of Manifest Destiny, the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow, and the race riots in places like Elaine, Ark., and Tulsa, Okla., that you learned anything near a fuller picture of our history. Most of the time, it seems, real history wasn’t taught till college (ooh, that must be some of that indoctrination!).
I say teach history, warts and all, whether it’s American or world history (thank you especially, Mr. Elsken and Dr. Alexander Sydorenko, for your wise counsel). Let the kids decide what that history says about us. They are supposed to think for themselves, aren’t they?
Fear is nothing new. I remember a big hubbub about Looney Tunes’ violence possibly turning children into maniacal murderers bulk-ordering rockets from Acme. (I was even assigned the pro-cartoon violence side in my college oral communication class, and won, partially by pointing to Looney Tunes.) Before that, there were the kerfuffles over long hair and bell-bottoms, Elvis’ pelvis, and countless other inane issues that seem silly now.
However, fear needs to be put in a proper context, which is why more information is what’s needed, not less. Research the issues using sources that back up their statements with facts, not opinion. Talk to experts and eschew pundits, no matter what side they come down on. After that, you can decide if you really need to duck and cover or just calm down.
I’m betting on the latter.