Category Archives: History

Whenever You’re Ready

re-educationSo Charlottesville happened. Trump is to blame. But he was elected president; all those who voted for him are therefore to blame. Everyone could see this coming from the beginning. It was 100% predictable. The fascist marches in the streets, the gun nuts out in force, everyone who isn’t a red-blooded white American male the target.  And Trump doing nothing to discourage any of it. Those who claim they didn’t see this coming kept themselves willfully ignorant, and that doesn’t make them any less responsible. “Wir haben es nicht gewuβt” is not a valid excuse, and neither is not knowing what that means.

It’s anyone’s guess by now where and when this is going to end. Even this incident didn’t lead to unanimous, unequivocal condemnation of Trump by the Republican party. Sure, a few more Republicans have voiced their disgust, a few more CEO’s have left Trump’s manufacturing council, but still no unanimous call for Trump’s impeachment or for the application of Article 25. Maybe that will happen tomorrow and by next week this piece of slime will be in jail, or it could go on and get worse and we could have a civil war.

But at some point this will be over. Trump will be out of office, along with Bannon and his other thugs, and America will have to pick up the pieces. Americans didn’t learn the lessons Europeans learned from World War Two. They didn’t experience fascism firsthand, they didn’t learn how it creeps up. They didn’t know the meaning of the word fascism and they wouldn’t have been able to recognize a fascist if one walked up and kissed their babies. Clearly.

So America will have to be re-educated. Americans can’t do it themselves, because there never has been any real history education in this country, not in middle and high school. There has never been real geography education either. During the Cold War we in Holland learned that lots of Americans didn’t even know where the Soviet Union was, that lots of folks thought it was in Canada. That was hard to believe. Until a few days ago, when people were asked on the streets of Los Angeles if they could point out North Korea on a world map. Sure enough: Canada. Because of this lack of historical and geographical perspective, most Americans also don’t have a sense of their culture and how it relates to the rest of the world. And white kids in this country certainly don’t learn where African Americans are coming from, or Native Americans. Just look at the massive incomprehension facing the Black Lives Matter movement, or the nazis in Charlottesville chanting “Blood and Soil”.

America is largely Christian, and a lot of American Christians are extremely loud and proud about it, and go on and on about their moral compass, and how others don’t have one. For all the influence they have had on this country, as far as teaching people that racism is bad, that fascism is bad, that hating people in general to the point of wanting to hurt them physically is bad, they have done jack shit. To all those Christian Trump voters: I wouldn’t touch your moral compass with a ten-foot pole. The Christian influence on American public education has mostly been to avoid all talk of “controversial subjects” like slavery, the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, European nationalism, imperialism, etc. We humanists call those subjects teachable moments. Those are the subjects you use to teach kids to think for themselves about what is right and wrong and how to recognize them. If you really have a moral compass. If teaching kids right from wrong is truly your priority.

The school textbooks will have to be rewritten and teachers retrained. The politics around the content of school curriculum and textbooks needs to go. It’s a lot. Where to start? It would all have to be addressed at once. Maybe the leader of the free world could send a few of her best folks to re-educate this country. And for those of you who don’t get the joke, that’s why you need history lessons–irony is so much fun.

 

Collective Stockholm Syndrome: The Reason Facts Don’t Convince?

Trump fansI come across this kind of thing all the time. People practically pull their hair out in frustration because they can’t convince others with facts. I do, too. I just can’t fathom why so many people in this country never fail to vote completely against their own interests. Continue reading

Get Real, America!

sean spicer

Image: cnn.com

This week White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer uttered what may be the most offensive garbage yet, claiming that Bashar al-Assad is worse than Hitler, because even Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons, at least not on his own people and not in their cities and villages. Continue reading

Famine, War and Love: a Novel

famine, war and love

Image: amazon.com

A reader of my blog recently published a novel and he has been kind enough to send me a signed copy!

The story makes the connection between the famines of Ireland in the nineteenth century, the Netherlands during the Hunger Winter of 1944-1945 under German occupation, and Ethiopia in the early 1980s,  thus bringing into view the universality of the effects of hunger, war and displacement. Continue reading

Dinner and books in an Austin Strip Mall

pamuk-xlarge

Image: telegraph.co.uk

R and I looked on Yelp for a place to eat in north Austin this evening, and we ended up in Troy, a Turkish/Mediterranean place in a little strip mall where we had been once before, a couple of years ago. Continue reading

Me, Forging Empires

forge of empiresA while ago I started playing Forge of Empires. It’s the first time I’ve ever gotten involved in any kind of digital game, at least not since getting addicted to Pong when I should have been studying, back in library school. Continue reading

American Crossroads: Reagan, Trump and the Devil Down South

Image: ew.com

Image: ew.com

I posted this awesome article by Ben Fountain on the Resident Alien Facebook page, but that only has fifty readers. So here it is as well, my borrowed submission for yesterday’s writing prompt “Inevitable“. (And it’s never too late to like my page for more stuff that’s relevant to my blog posts.)

How the Republican party slowly but surely got Americans ripe for a …hm…man, person, specimen, angry goldfish like Trump. Also, I now know what “dog whistle politics” is.