Or, ‘The Truth Hurts & The Search for Real History.’
I’m a big fan of history.
Since around 1976 when a wonderful giant of a mind began to percolate inside me a jones for civics. The late, great Mr. Thomas E. Antus – celebrated over the years in this space – was my Eighth Grade History & Social Studies teacher at Dwight D. Eisenhower during the nation’s bicentennial, just two years after the president of the United States quit in shame and a year after the war that waged throughout my childhood ended in ignominious defeat for the U.S.A. It was then I became acutely aware that the bullshit in my history books was a dangerous lie and the education system had failed me and my generation and would continue unabated when I had a daughter thirty-two years later and had to eventually send her to swallow the same nonsense.
This is why I support Cancel Culture. It brings to light our failures to understand the basic tenets of American History. I seek the truth. You should too. This is part of the revolution that must be adhered to in order to save us from new monsters like Donald Trump.
And, by the way, failure is underrated. As a writer, I need to embrace this concept. Everyone should – corporate executives, starving artists, parents, politicians. There is failure in the pursuit of forming a “more perfect union”, which in itself is a sad grammatical error. Penned by New York Statesman and later Senator, Gouverneur Morris, a mad scribe for his times, when he was cobbling together the Preamble to the Constitution in a furious dash to put lofty aspirations into concrete. He knew his way around the written word. He above all should have known that there is nothing that is “more than perfect”, no matter how much flowery rhetoric you brush on it. It is our failure to achieve even a sniff of this that should be taught, not propaganda. That is different than history.
Of course, taking down statues or challenging their import is not the same as wiping out or rewriting history. This is also true of revisionist historians who try, for instance, to clear the stench from cretins like Andrew Jackson or Joseph McCarthy. That history exists. All of it: The massacre of Native Americans. The slavery. The ostracization of immigrants from the Irish to the Italians to the Jews to now those of Latino heritage. Hostile work conditions. Civil Rights battles. Unlawful, immoral wars. Denying women the vote for over a century. That history is there if you are exposed to it, instead of wishing it didn’t happen or putting a veil on it to assuage the fragile ego of exceptionalism. Replacing it with truth is is the correct action.
Take for instance Theodore Roosevelt’s appearance on Mount Rushmore – a more abjectly silly impression cannot be conjured. First off, sitting beside the father of the nation, the author of the Declaration of Independence and also a man who expanded the nation by a third during his presidency, and the greatest of all presidents who preserved the union and ended our greatest moral stain, is an abomination in itself, but when considering he wrote several published works dissecting the subhuman aspects of Asians and African-Americans, and his lies about heroic exploits in the Spanish-American War, among other blustery fuck-ups, it kind of pains the conscience. Can we cancel that mistake?
But Roosevelt is small potatoes. My daughter is still being taught Christopher Columbus “discovered” America. He did not. It was “discovered” – if one ignores the fact that people already lived here, like someone coming to your house to “discover’ you live there and then planting their fat asses on your couch is “discovering” – by the Vikings five-hundred years before any such voyage, which, incidentally ended up in the Bahamas. Christopher Columbus never set foot on this continent. It is a fucking sick joke that it is 2020 and this is still in history books. It is a lie, not history. Do we want our children to be lied to? Do we need them fed the kind of falderal that leads to voting into office completely unqualified buffoons who promise a wild list of shit they have no constitutional authority to propagate?
This whole Cancel Culture thing started with the weird celebratory nature of the South’s fascination of the Confederacy as some kind of cultural right. This is completely ignoring, forgetting or failing to care that these men were treasonous enemies of the state; the equal of say Nazis or Evangelicals. Wiping it out in 1860 was as fine to me as it is in 2020. That one is a slam dunk. What I would like to know is why is it so terrible that we come to grips with the truthful legacy of our founding fathers; mostly slave-owning revolutionaries who stole this land from indigenous peoples, practiced rampant genocide, then stole more land from Mexicans, still more genocide, and then used free labor to build a powerful apparatus that would someday kick out our British landlords, warrant six-hundred thousand deaths to free slaves, and finally become the most powerful nation on the planet?
Take Thomas Jefferson. How come he gets a pass? He owned humans. He raped a child slave that produced children. We rightfully had a fit when Bill Clinton got a hummer in the Oval Office from an intern. How many people would be okay with a statue of William Jefferson Clinton in their town square? Oh, and recently I heard Bill Maher making jokes about how “that’s the way things were in those days, so maybe we should get over the horrors of the past.” All right. But not every founding father held slaves. Three of our finest patriots, the man who first challenged the Stamp Act and coordinated the Boston Tea Party, a writer who single-handedly convinced illiterate farmers to take up arms against their king and the mightiest army in the world, and one other who in my estimation was the most important member of the Continental Congress, our first vice president, and our second president.
Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine, and John Adams never owned slaves. Never. Ever. In fact, all three vehemently opposed it and John Adams even tried to have it expunged before the Revolutionary War. These men were arguably three of the most important figures in the birthing of this nation. You know how many statues of these men there are in Washington D.C.? None. Not one fucking statue. And since I was thirteen and became aware of this I have openly discussed this obscenity with those who make those choices and have proposed replacing the Jefferson Monument with one of John Adams.
I would like a little cancelling on this, please.
Oh, and in case your history books failed to teach you about Paine and his brilliant and seminal Common Sense, the most important document in the history of this republic – because without it, no revolution, no victory, no constitution – Paine was deported as a pariah because of his open refute of Christianity. He died a despised man. No statues. You, me and Thomas Paine, have the same amount of statues. The guys who seceded from the union to keep humans as property get a lot.
I say tear it all down, and let’s set the record straight. And while I know my arguments here are mainly built on semantics and mostly historic in nature – bypassing the horrors enacted on the African-American community that had to endure the lies and deceit of the European culture for centuries – I only mean to celebrate truth. For it is beauty, and, as the man said, it will set you free.
Set us all free. One truth.
Because, you know, out of many… one.