Welcome to the Party Where Science and History Are Dangerous

So now the far right is upset over remarks President Obama made the other day at a prayer breakfast. Well is there anything the President could say that would not get the loonies upset? At this point I doubt it. And what inappropriate and scandalous remarks have prompted such outrage this time, nothing less than a recitation of facts and history. Why, the gall of this President to confuse these poor hapless souls with intellectual discourse that would require critical evaluation.

Before too long I may have to reassess my position with respect to voter suppression efforts. I mean I believe everyone ought to have the right to participate in our democratic process to determine representation from the lowest to the highest levels of government, but maybe if we required a brain scan at the voting booth could and should we disqualify those who did not register a requisite level of brain matter to entertain a moderately intelligent discussion? Imagine the potential consequences for our republic.

Of course I offer this in jest, I think, but at what point did a substantial portion of the Republican Party decide that both science and history were dangerous? So we now have one of the major political parties, a fact that carries no qualitative judgment but is reflective of the evolution of our representative democratic experiment in this country, that refuses to accept the science of climate change AND the fact that either Christianity or America is capable of or has committed atrocities of barbarous proportions. Ah, Crusades, Inquisition, Slavery, Racial discrimination (both de facto and de jure).

And we need not reach back into the middle Ages to validate this point. In my lifetime government sanctioned racial discrimination existed throughout the South, church bombings in Birmingham, the assassination of MLK, Jr. in Memphis, racially-motivated killings in Mississippi during Freedom Summer 1964, all serve as a vivid reminder of the sordid history within our own country of inhumanity towards others.

The vestiges of an economic and social system predicated on slavery, a civil war that cost the nation over 600,000 American lives, the terror that accompanied lynching's throughout the first half of the 20th century, and the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan which at one point had over 3 million members throughout the country all testify to the history of racial violence that is an integral part of this country's development and history. It must be remembered that the KKK was a white Protestant organization that not only rejected blacks but also Catholics and Jews. This happened folks, it is documented, and it is not a liberal conspiracy or a hoax but rather history that can serve as a conduit for self-reflection and critical assessment to help us become a better society. It cannot and should not be hushed up and swept under the rug. The beauty of a functioning society is that we learn from our mistakes, not that we hide them.

I was a teenager before Congress enacted Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Fair Housing legislation. When attending college in Georgia in the early 1970's I can still recall the billboards along Highway 301 through Virginia and the Carolinas touting the benefits of membership in the Klan and the White Citizens Councils. When I arrived in Statesboro, Georgia in 1971 there was a rusting sign down an alley uptown pointing the way to a Colored Motel and the package stores located in the nearest counties (given that my county of residence was dry) were dutifully separated into two halves, one for blacks and one for whites, with a set of prison-like bars dividing the store.

In 1972 I helped put together an athletic and education program at the local county correctional institute which housed members of the local work crews known as chain gangs where dorms were separated by color. This was America not long ago. So for those who are either too blind to notice or too ignorant to accept it this is our history. And lest we not forget religious wars and acts of unspeakable barbarity are not unique to modern day events. An understanding and appreciation of history are essential to comprehending and formulating responses to today's crises.

By accepting faults and flaws within ourselves we will be better equipped to face the complexities of current events. Assessment, evaluation, reflection, and acknowledgment of our own shortcomings lend credibility to our efforts to resolve current conflicts. Politicization of history and/or science further cements cynicism, polarization and dysfunction and distracts us from our goal of solving problems.

I was a resident of Virginia when Jim Gilmore was Governor and a resident of Pennsylvania when Rick Santorum was a United States Senator. Neither is particularly known for a high level of intellectual acuity, both are ideologues bent on restoring the type of fundamentalism that reflects upon our past not our future, and neither should be given but the most cursory attention afforded to has-been political hacks. They are interesting in the way that a barker at the midway tries to lure unsuspecting patrons into the tent to see the two-headed bearded lady, nothing more, nothing less. So the fact that they are front and center at the altar of indignation on this issue speaks volumes to the seriousness of the effrontery.

The President is exercising his new-found freedom to speak truth to power and it should be welcomed and discussed. To those who wish to take us backwards this will ring hollow. Jeb Bush, welcome to your new reality. With what passes for serious political dialogue in the Republican Party today navigating between Palin babble, Huckabee piety, Paul and Christie pandering, Romney flip-flopping, and an assortment of what are bound to be flavors of the month (Jindal, Walker, Santorum), predicating a campaign on the strategy of losing the primaries and winning the nomination actually makes sense.