The Power of Context

Accurate history is useful to us all as we try to achieve justice in the present. Truth about the past can become justice in the present. James Loewen

I just watched just the last part of a fascinating talk by James Loewen and he helped to crystalize thoughts bouncing  around in my head.

We are badly lacking an access to context in this country and currently it seems a part of the country is also pretty sketchy about facts.

Also, this morning I watched last night’s episode of Bill Maher and was particularly taken aback by a conversation between a female Muslim  Trump supporter, a very rare being and others at the table. She was arguing that a famous basketball player who has come out as someone who believes that the world is flat just needs to be understood. Instead of shaking her head at the mere idea and wondering at our education system she said that we needed to understand this fellow’s reality, where he is coming from and approach it with understanding. While I don’t think he needs in any way to be cudgeled by the media, someone does need to take him aside and introduce him to science and if he still won’t believe then he needs to be told to stop talking about it in any way that represents him as a national figure. Facts have to matter.

In any case, back to the broader point many civil war monuments were put up far past the civil war. So we must not only look at the monument but also when it was put up and why and what it means to us now and why. There is a very similar example of when and why God was put on our money, in our pledge, and in our lives so very thoroughly. I suspect that the founding fathers did complete cartwheels in their graves when that happened.

We need to drop into history and see when things happened and why things happened. We need to dig into the context around a moment, a phrase, a vote, an event. God hasn’t been on our money for very long, for example, and I think we need to rush it right back off again, but that is my opinion.

My opinion is also that we need to have a national conversation around the civil war. We need to ask why people are so melded to those monuments that support the side that fought against our government. In very few places I can imagine are the  losers of a war given full license to use their old flag, flying in almost equality with the nation’s flag, where there are more monuments to the losing “heroes” than those that won. With that and civil rights fights that continue to this day, with implicit bias, with a continuing animus that has been barely hidden during the Obama administration and perhaps more so as Trump brings hate into our national consciousness more openly than it has been for a very long while.

A friend asked me to try to imagine and give words to what a Clinton Presidency would look like. I’m still figuring out how to do that but I will say this in that imagined other world. I would see us still with a lot of discontent but with the addition of a President who was willing to have the conversation. Someone who would role up her sleeves and get right down to business. Not in fighting the media, having photo ops or signing proclamations, or reliving victories of the past. She would have given national speeches that spoke to all America. She wouldn’t need a new listening tour, though I bet she’d take one.  She already did that, talking to them rather than holding huge rallies. She would be in coal country even where they didn’t vote for her. She’s be working with Congress to get coal miners retraining and get them back lighting up the country with renewables rather than coal which would be better for them, for the country, and the world. She wouldn’t have rolled back rules about coal mines polluting streams.

There would have been no need to repair relationships with Mexico?, Australia??, Sweden???. There would be no crazy tweets, no new arms race(s), no being on the brink of war with Iran, or wondering if ground troops were going into Syria and if we will know before we are in a major ground war. There would be no Russia investigations, emoluments clause violations, no blurring of the ethical lines between business and the Presidency. If Chelsea was in the WH, we’d know what her role was – but I kind of doubt the Republicans would have allowed anything other than a ceremonial role for Chelsea. Oh, I have no doubt that Jason Chaffetz would be investigating anything and everything. I also know that Hillary would come out as she always does a little battered but stronger than every.

Ah but that decent into a bit of imagination might hurt my cause of context – and facts and reality. We have to reclaim reality and remind ourselves the difference between propaganda and news. And most importantly keep remembering that this is normal. I don’t know, but highly doubt that any President, even Nixon ever called the Press the Enemy of the American People and I don’t care what qualifiers they use or try to rewrite what they said. I have eyes, ears, and a brain.

The Resistance

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