Monday, September 19, 2011

The Tea Party vs. History

By David Roddy

History, by definition, has already happened. While intelligent revisionism and creative thinking can enlighten our understanding, contemporary forces cannot modify history itself. Those that try, deny the existence of an objective reality, and do so because, in the iconic words of George Orwell: “He who controls the past, controls the future."
In our microcosm of American politics, the Mother Lode Tea Party is systematically controlling the past for an entire generation of students. On September 13, Tom Slivick of TSPN, Amador County's local TV news station, interviewed Austin Ford Jr. of the Mother Lode Tea Party about his involvement in providing materials for the school district’s Constitution Week studies. Ford introduced the materials by stating that the
“Constitution of the United States was really a document that limited the power of the central government.”
Samuel Chase
This is nothing new; right-wing pundits have been peddling this talking point for decades. It’s also wrong. The U.S. Constitution’s purpose was to institutionalize a large government, something stronger and more centralized than what was established by the previous Articles of Confederation.

Samuel Chase, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, criticized the new document as an unwarranted expansion of Government:
“I consider the Constitution as radically defective in this essential; the bulk of the people can have nothing to say to it. The government is not a government of the people. It is not a government of representation.”
John Lamb
The Anti-Federalists, staunch supporters of a decentralized, more democratic form of governance, rallied against the Federalists, whom some modern historians have labeled more “nationalist” than “federalist” for their commitment to a national government. Throughout America, “the people” typically sided with the anti-federalists. John Lamb, a prominent Anti-Federalist, reveals in his Papers that in one instance “the people had a Coffin painted black, which borne in a funeral procession, was solemnly buried, as an emblem of the dissolution and internment of publick Liberty” when notified about the new Constitution.
In an apparent moment of confusion, TSPN’s Tom Slivick stated,
“If they look into the Federalist Papers, they’ll find out that the Federalists were really concerned that the federal government would get way too much power and overrun the States.” 
One might expect Austin Ford Jr., the man supplying the schools with curriculum for Constitution Week, to knowledgeably inform that perhaps Mr. Slivick was mistakenly looking into the Anti-Federalist Papers, No. 7 of which states
“What then may we expect if the new constitution be adopted as it now stands? The great will struggle for power, honor and wealth; the poor become a prey to avarice, insolence and oppression.”

One expected too much, as Ford simply stated: “You’re right on top of it.” Slivick then pointed out that “none of this [the Constitutional Convention] was done very secretively,” and once again, historical records demonstrate that the exact opposite is true. The official announcement of Convention’s purpose was to revise, not rewrite, the Articles of Confederation. Despite this, Ford once again concurred.

These historical details matter, because they give an essential context with which we can better understand our history and laws. The Bill of Rights, for example, was to appease the Anti-Federalists. How can students understand this if we shield them from the Anti-Federalist objections to the Constitution?

Perhaps most disturbingly, Ford criticized the President for stating that the Constitution was imperfect. One would hope that Ford would agree, noting for instance Article IV, Section. 2, which forbade free states from granting fugitive slaves asylum. Of course, he doesn’t, and instead scoffs
“where in the constitution does it say we need a Civil Rights Act?”

Slivick then informs his audience that the material the Mother Lode Tea Party was providing to the local public schools was developed by the National Center for Constitutional Studies. Ford blushingly describes it as not only “wonderful material that word for word reflects what the founders meant,” but also a “package that we think has all the answers.”

A simple Google search of the NCSS reveals an ultraconservative Mormon group founded by conspiracy theorist extraordinaire Cleon Skousen. The NCCS was the center of controversy in 1987 after it released Skousen’s U.S. history textbook “The Making of America,” which described slave owners sympathetically as “the worst victims of slavery.”

We can look at this bizarro history through the eyes of Orwell, who described the use of language reversals by totalitarian movements as “doublethink:”
“To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies…For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.”
George Orwell

Mr. Ford states ominously at the end of the interview that “the kids of Amador County are gonna learn about the Constitution.” I just hope that my fellow young Amadorians have the sense to think through this “education.”

1 comment:

  1. Tea parties across the country were given there marching orders, and ordered there kits to take to schools and our local Koch suckers naturally went right along with the program. Those poor, stupid people......bless their little, tiny hearts.