Prior to getting to the non-alternative facts, let’s go back to a favorite subject of mine: reading lists! All the rage a few weeks back. Many of us asked, what can we read so we’re not so damned short-sighted?
I posted two recommendations here. I haven’t finished either book yet due to my cookbook project, but so far, both books are excellent: well-written, and wonderfully and accessibly educational on an excruciating subject. (If you go to the link in the first post, there’s a free download of Stamped from the Beginning, which would serve U.S. high school students a lot better than their bland and notoriously dull history books.)
But I’m also turning to an old favorite.
“Fake News” IS the Hoax
James Loewen’s groundbreaking Lies My Teacher Told Me still holds up—to the degree that he didn’t have to change it from the first edition, in 1995, to the third, issued a couple of years ago, other than to include a preface placing the book in context of the Trump Era.
Wow. That guy gets his own era. The mind boggles.
Well, once you can get the boggling to simmer back down, read a good book. This quote just from Loewen’s 2018 preface on the issue of people’s continued insistence that the Civil War was about “states’ rights” and not, simple and plain, slavery, I include just to pique your interest:
There is no shortcut to amassing evidence and assessing it. When confronting a claim about the distant past or a statement about what happened yesterday, students—indeed all Americans—need to develop informed skepticism, not nihilistic cynicism.
My parents, God love ’em, were SO freaking naive. I mean, they seriously believed anything. I was indoctrinated fairly early that it was good to believe, and that to be skeptical was bad. We weren’t supposed to question authority, and if we did, we’d get smacked.
They didn’t question it either. And sadly, over the decades, I watched my parents get schnookered again and again by really, really shady people. A lot of times, it was some pyramid scheme to get rich, but I recall one particularly toxic church that they joined. Finally they left it, thankfully.
And why did they keep ending up in that situation? Because they just wouldn’t employ that healthy raised eyebrow, accompanied by an “Oh. Really? And, um, why? Because if I stop to think about this for, like, 8 seconds, my admittedly rusty bullshit detector should at least send out a teeny peep of protest.“
As I look at it now, I think Mom and Dad and a lot of Very Good People who I know, a few of whom I love, confuse skepticism with cynicism, meaning a cruel rejection of doctrine that they feel saved their lives. It’s broken my heart, and also really pissed me off, to watch evangelicals refuse to see, or maybe simply not be capable of seeing, that their allegiance to Mr. Trump represents adhering to one of the most cynical beings to have ever walked the earth. And the people surrounding him are worse. What kind of a group in a position of national leadership comes up with a phrase like alternative facts?
Only one that figures truth is completely relative. And, I mean, it’s not. The Civil War didn’t start in 1921 in Nevada, to use an example from Loewen. You can document that. As you can inauguration crowds, COVID statistics, and police brutality.
Look, we white liberals are no day at the beach either. We spout all sorts of bullshit; post-racial society, anyone?
So let’s all commit to reading some history. Read some commentary. Read some stuff you’re not comfortable with. I listened to that Trump speech in front of Mt. Rushmore, keeping a bullet to bite on near at hand. So humor me a little. Read Lies My Teacher Told Me or Stamped from the Beginning. You don’t have to atone for your racism. You don’t even have to admit you’re a racist—I dunno, maybe you aren’t— or stop being one if you are one and are ok with it. But it would be a really good idea right about now to just take a look at all the lies you’ve been told, not by the liberal media (I wish that existed), but by your textbooks, by movies like Gone with the Wind and a whole bunch I won’t even count.
Don’t waste your brain. Use it.
Steve and I will be celebrating his mom’s 94th birthday soon.
Polly Hoekman is a delightful lady who loves to laugh, loves her family, and mentions, frequently, her gratitude for her life. Her memory has faded considerably since 2011, when I first met her. I’ve been grateful that she’s recognized me with ease for as long as she has, but I also knew I’d be one of the first people to fall through the cognitive cracks. After all, I’ve only been around for 9 years.
The last few times I’ve seen her, prior to COVID—obviously, we haven’t been able to visit since we returned from Perú—she’s had difficulty placing me if Steve’s not nearby. Last time, she was walking through the hallways of the care home where she lives holding my arm, and she kept repeating, “You are a beautiful woman.” I would say, “Well, thank you. So are you.” Then she would ask if I had children, and eventually say in sweet bewilderment, “Do I know you?”
Sometimes I say, “We’re good friends,” and she’ll say, “Yes, we ARE.” Other times I say I’m married to Steve, her son. Most of the time, that makes sense. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Still, she’s all love with me at this point. I’m always deeply touched to see Steve with her. They resemble each other: the China blue eyes, the fine bones, the easy smile, the wavy silver hair. Steve savors every good moment.
There’s a lot to celebrate.
The Marcus Aurelius Moment* for 8-July, 2020
From Polly Hoekman, who says every time I see her, at least once, “If I never have any more fun, I’ve had enough.” Of course, she’s open to more fun. But man, did she enjoy every minute of it while she had it.
*In the first part of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman ruler details what various people in his life have taught him. To read the full intro to why I care about Marcus Aurelius, click here.