Adkins: Don’t cast those who believe in factual history as unpatriotic


Michael Adkins

America has a rich history of which we can all be profoundly proud. Our economic might is the strongest the world has ever known and we have no equal. Our military might is simply unmatched in the annals of world history. No nation has ever done more to protect other nations or ever given as much aid. Most importantly, we can be exceedingly proud of the Great American Experiment.

President Reagan was correct to call America the shining city of the hill. Our proud history must never be forgotten. Likewise, our darker, shameful history must never be forgotten or whitewashed. No politician should ever hem and haw over the cause of the American Civil War. No, Ms. Haley, that was not a difficult question. The fact is, America, like every other nation, has a darker history as well. It is okay to feel shame for our nation’s misdeeds. It does not make us less patriotic to accept our faults. Therefore, we must never forget that dark history nor ever whitewash it. Without such acceptance we cannot rightly comprehend the complexities of America’s racial issues.

Those who forget history, are ignorant of it, or worse simply ignore history, are bound to repeat it. Knowledge of our darker history can serve to ensure we never repeat such mistakes in the future. There is a polity in America today that is attempting to whitewash our history; even trying to rewrite it. In their justification for their attempts, they are utilizing the four-step method of fascism. First, invent a problem. Second, criminalize discussion. Third, punish transgressors. Lastly, invent new histories. Such techniques are also being utilized in the 21st Century by Putin, as well as some illiberal democracies, including Poland and Turkey. Just as they have done, the American far-right has determined that factual history simply doesn’t jive with their ideology. If it doesn’t jive, then we must “re-arrange” it to fit.

Such actors cast those who believe in factual history as unpatriotic. Their goal is to stoke fear to create enough anger that our citizens will accept state censorship. Theirs is a movement characterized by a childish insistence that our children should be taught a white-washed, false history. They create academic gag orders to prevent the teaching of factual history, turning red states into illiberal democracies. They would have us return to a time when our history texts were outlandishly inane.

Hazen’s Elementary History of the United States, commonly used in early 20th Century schools, taught that slavery was an inevitable matter of labor management. Worse still, A Child’s History of South Carolina stretched the Lost Cause mantra so far that it taught that slaves were happy, that their owners were reluctant masters, and that slaves were free to travel to other plantations as their heart saw fit. It actually proclaimed that slaves “were allowed all the freedom they seemed to want.” Before 2018, state-approved texts in Texas were nearly as ridiculous. Another text taught that Moses was one of our Founding Fathers. I assure you Gov. Abbott and his far-right cronies were not happy when, in 2018, the state School Board declared it was time to stop prioritizing sectionalism and states rights and accept that slavery was a primary cause of the American Civil War.

You won’t find that type of liberal tolerance in Ron DeSantis’ Florida curriculum. Florida removed all references to the murder of George Floyd and BLM from their history books. They removed from one textbook a question mentioning “social justice issues in the Hebrew Bible” and replaced it with “key principles.” Florida has allowed Prager University curriculum into the classrooms. Prager, an unaccredited right-wing advocacy group, provides classes with self proclaimed “edutainment” videos with such titles as “The Inconvenient Truth about the Democratic Party” and “Fossil Fuel-the Greenest Energy.” Way to go Florida. You are certainly owning the libs. Teaching facts, on the other hand, is another matter.

Michael Adkins is a former Chair of the Hancock County Democratic Party.