A Reminder to The People’s Party…

Democracy-Crossroads-coverIf you’ve read any of my most recent posts, you will know that I take a very bleak view upon our current political and social circumstances. Our country is more fractious, more partisan and divided than at any point in its history since 1865. This has transcended mere arguments over policies and ventured into differences in how we perceive reality and determine what is true and false. I was somewhat ironic in my last post where I spoke about dystopian societies in literature and pointed out similarities with our current situation, but the topic is nowhere approaching funny. I do not feel like I’m being hyperbolic when I say: this is how democracies die. When a nation is split so completely that we can’t even agree on what is real or not, we are only one step away from social and philosophical pogroms. We are a hair’s breadth from revolution. And historically, revolutions in democracies tend to lead to autocracies of some sort.

So, ‘Mr. Aspiring Grimdark Novelist’, is there no hope? Or do you see our nation as inevitably doomed?

No, I do not, but if we want to stem this trend of divisiveness and tribalism, we need to start having serious discussions within our own social and political communities. I think there’s a lot of things we can do, but we need to recognize that there’s no easy way through this, for anyone.

First, Republicans and Conservatives of all stripes: Donald Trump and nearly all of the current sitting Senators and Representatives are not your saviors. They’re not even really your advocates and representatives.  They only ensure that your point of view will eventually be lost amidst the tumult of political upheaval. Putting ideologies aside, every step they’ve taken in the last five months is harming you. Trump and his Congress promised prosperity for his followers and the middle class in general; instead they are striping away protections that ensure your prosperity and well-being and is funneling money to his allies in business and politics.

You will never see the benefits of his largess towards the rich and the already prosperous elite he truly represents. He promised to drain the swamp in Washington only to turn it into a lake of corruption and misinformation. He is not the man he said he would be. He has lied and continues to lie to you every day. He is a dangerous, undisciplined and wholly ignorant man who does not feel humility and therefore is unwilling and incapable of learning and growing as a leader. The man is a fool and fools lead followers into massacres.

Your one and only job right now Conservatives is to listen and learn to the world and country around you. Broaden your spectrum of information and experience. Forget party rhetoric and watch what is occurring. Think about what is actually happening in the world. Ignore partisan commentary and focus on events and statements. What happened? What did they say would happen? If you are told one thing and another thing purposefully occurs, then you have been mislead and misrepresented. Act on that; make your voice heard and if it continues to be ignored, find someone who will not ignore you. The Justice Democrats have emerged on the left in response to conflicts and inadequacies in the Democratic Party (which I’m about to address) but the Republicans need the same new blood, new voices and (especially) new ears to listen and to represent.

Finally, Conservatives, ask yourself: does stripping away health care for the elderly, the poor, and the disabled and forwarding that money to the richest Americans make for a better country? Does purposefully alienating our allies in the world, while simultaneously spurring our opponents in the Middle East and Asia make us a safer country? Does vilifying and ostracizing the free press, a guaranteed part of our democracy ensure that you are a more or less educated citizen?

We do not live in a kleptocracy or corporatocracy. Governments that purposefully take prosperity from the people and subjugate them historically meet sticky ends. Our military protects more than our business interests, it protects the people of the United States; so should the rest of the government. Equally, while we should always be concerned with what is best for America, we cannot ignore our responsibility as a leader in the global community. We don’t need to police everyone, but we should be willing to defend those who are in need and who ask and we must be willing to sacrifice to ensure our continued well-being; by that, I’m referring to climate change. It exists and we have an impact on it. There is no debating that. Debate how to protect the environment and not wreck our economy if you’d like (that should be the current debate), but the science is correct and definitive; ignoring it is foolish and short-sighted. Finally, our forefathers recognized that the greatest weapon against – and protection from – tyranny is information. The press is an integral part of that and decrying the press because the information does not favor you is tyranny by definition.

The Founding Fathers, having experienced tyranny that could lead one to be imprisoned for speaking one’s mind, wanted to ensure freedom for an array of voices in the marketplace of ideas.

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins,” Benjamin Franklin wrote.

George Washington added: “If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter … reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.”

The Trump Administration has told you to listen only to itself and its approved media outlets, like Breitbart and Fox News and to distrust all other sources of news. I will not ask you to believe all of the other news; indeed, I say distrust all news on its face. Be a self-motivated and enthusiastic investigator of information. Adsorb multiple resources and then think critically about what you are presented. Does it match what you can actually see and hear? Is it the opposite of what you believe it is? Question everything.

That is your duty as a citizen and as an American and for a political party that touts how patriotic it is and how much they love the Constitution, it is time to start practicing the patriotic ideals our Forefathers laid bare in that Constitution.

Now Democrats

It would be comforting to think that the only people to blame for Trump were his supporters. However, these people voted for him for a very good reason, albeit one that time has proven to be a total fabrication on his part: he listened to what they said they need and not what he thought they needed. Of course, his every promise was a lie but the fact that they were so desperate to believe it speaks to a greater truth about the current state of America and to the failings of the Democratic Party.

We have ceased to be a party of the people. We’ve become their guardians or benefactors but are reluctant to truly listen anymore and more importantly, to represent. This is what we have failed to do over the last eight years, the reason we’ve gradually lost seat after seat in the House and the Senate, the reason we were so thoroughly abandoned in 2016. Most of our representatives in Congress act unilaterally in what they see as being in the citizenry’s best interests, but don’t stop to actually make sure that’s what they want.  Or need.  If we really want to regain control (and I would not advocate for complete control; its bad for a party to control everything; they lose perspective and that can doom them), we need to take the lessons from 2016 and learn from them.

First off, people are still reeling from the lender depredations from 2008. Jobs and homes were lost and lives ruined.  That takes longer than eight years to correct if the damage was severe enough. So, telling everyone that life is grand and the country is doing well just as it is is a flawed message even if it was well-intentioned and patriotic. They are suffering, so being told that ‘as-it-is’ is good enough is not a palatable message.

Neither is it a good message when the people you trust to protect you are so boldly compensated by the very organizations that authored their hardship. We won’t debate the banking bailout; arguably is saved the economy but looked very much like the Democrats were letting the banks get away with a heinous crime. The lack of prosecutions certainly did not help. Therefore, we must get the corrupting influence of corporate finance and donations out of our party and prove that Democrats are not beholden to corporate interests at all, unlike the Republicans. We must do this, even if it puts us at a disadvantage to Republicans in elections. Bernie Sander ran a largely successful primary on $27 donations. Other Democrats can as well and this gives us the ability to show our dedication to representing the people, not lobbyists and companies.

Next, we need to stop being so damned elitist. Yes, the concept of voting for Trump is repellent and seems categorically against one’s own interests. But calling them ‘idiots’ or ‘fools’ or ‘deplorables’ is not going to convince them of anything. It just instantly alienates them and PROVES to them that Democrats really are not trying to help them. We must combat hate and lies with simple truths and actions. We start with commonalities and work out from there. We will not get America’s right-leaning citizens to agree with us on everything, but they have to know that we are concerned for them anyways and are willing to listen and try to reach a compromise.

We have to take the long view here and think more about improving who we are as a political movement and less about the most expeditious way to win. Let the Republicans lie, cheat and steal. Eventually people will feel the sting of their elitism and think about what we’ve been saying for so long and how we ALWAYS want to help them and then change will occur.

Speaking of change, we must not be afraid of it in our own party, even if it redefines what being a Democrat is. Regardless of your post-election feelings, Bernie Sanders was a strong advocate for Hillary after she won the primary. She lost for a number of reasons, but Bernie supporters were not a primary part of that; low voter turn out amongst minorities and disenfranchisement with an establishment candidate played larger roles. So, when the Berniecrats ask for a seat at the table and a voice, they should be embraced because Bernie and his message still resonate even now. Especially now during the Reign of Trump. We are asking America to radically change. Democrats should be the first to make those changes.

In the end, we are all Americans first, Democrats and Republicans last. We need to look past our divisions and our hot button issues and try to again find common ground and rebuke the authoritarian decisions being made by Trump and his cadre of sycophants and minions. We can discuss abortion and immigration and security far more efficiently if we can agree to all look at the facts equally and openly and discuss how best to navigate the morass we are in. But this must start now and we must be willing to go against our friends and families, if need be.

I do not think it alarmist to say that the America envisioned and enshrined by our Founders is in danger of being irrevocably revised and diminished. Trump has displayed an alarming comfort with advocating revoking First Amendment rights and taking unilateral actions  using executive orders. With a Congress more concerned with being partisans than with being patriots, we may soon crown our very first King. Kings are rarely replaced with anything short of revolutions. Our Forefathers learned that well enough; too bad we seem to have forgotten it.  Let us not let it get to that point again.

Rise Up. Wise Up.  Eyes Up,
Sean

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We’re so VERY sorry, Carl Sagan…

As a writer, I see my ‘job’ as telling stories, sharing fanciful tales about fictional peoples in made-up places doing imaginary things. Nothing is real per se. Yet, the way I make that compelling is to root it in the tenets of reality, to infuse my specific voice into the story and to give it weight and meaning; I’m not here just to amuse or entertain but to evoke and inspire. These require a foundation, ample soil to root themselves in so they can grow into something real and affecting. So, my tales might be of swashbuckling airship captains or alien infections in the frigid antarctic or of demigods or the walking (and talking) dead but everything has to have some connection to this world, the real world.

Wise writers generally avoid risky topics, especially ones like politics and religion. Being overstated about your own personal feelings on these topics can have the tendency to alienate groups of potential fans. When one is trying to establish a reader base, avoiding be strident or overbearing is paramount. However, events in the country are reaching a point where I feel that not speaking, not expressing my confusion or outrage is even worse of an option. Damn the consequences.

With the election of Trump, we’ve seen a lot of commentary concerning the role of the press as well as its integrity or veracity. Pundits on the far right disclaim that the majority of news media sources are actively ‘lying’ to the American public, a statement repeatedly made as well by the current President. Additionally, we’ve seen aspects of life, like science and medicine, which should be apolitical becoming immensely politicized and their proof or effects called into question.

I’m no mewling babe, seeing this world anew. I know both science and medicine can be highly political. But they shouldn’t be. Science and medicine are methodical and disciplined. They have a set process to prove or disprove their veracity. While human error or intent can influence the results, science innately polices this: you can’t ‘prove’ something in science without peer review. That requires a rigid and documented process that can be tracked, examined, questioned and tested. You could claim that Pomeranians are actually a higher-intelligent alien race sent to conquer us, but to call it Science, you have to prove it with experiments and verifiable data. Once that is accomplished, once you can prove the substance of your hypothesis and peers can duplicte your results, then you hypothesis becomes scientifically true. It is Fact not Opinion. You might interpret what that means moving forward, but the numbers, statistics and calculations are not in question. They are true, no matter what political party you caucus with.

That’s why when I hear average people saying that science is opinion, I am both outraged and deeply concerned. Science can only be science if it is proven, as well as consistently and repeatedly probable. If 99% of the scientific populace says that the world is warming dangerously, that our ecology is in peril, that mankind is (at least partially) responsible for it, then the debate concerning what steps to take to remedy can definitely rage on, but not the very truth of where we stand, where we are at. The fact that the environment is in trouble is not debatable. You cannot decry that fact. Not without PROVING IT. If you’re going to wage a ‘science fight’, bring your charts and your figures, your thesis and your experiments; don’t bring faith or hunches or politics. They have no place in science.

The same is true for health and healthcare. You can argue that the government might have no place providing healthcare. But it currently does, imperfect though it might be. If you support people who want to take that away from your fellow Americans, people will needlessly get sick and suffer.  Some will die.  Limited to no access to health care can and does increase your chance of serious harm, even death.

I have been in a place many times when good healthcare was not available to me; I simply could not afford for it. Nearly a decade go, I had a fibrous cyst resting on my spine between my shoulder blades. It was not cancerous, but it was growing because it was infected and was pressing on my nerves. This began causing chronic pain as well as limited mobility. If it continued, the results could have been much worse.

I could not afford surgery, so all I was left with was visiting the much touted (by conservative voices) emergency room. All that they could do was to lay me on a gurney face down and have an attending ER doctor cut open my back and try to cut the cyst away from the muscle and tissue. And – of course – my SPINE. Beause it was an ER procedure, they could not give me general anesthetic and the local anesthetic that they could and did use simply mingled in my infected cyst.  So great was the pressure due to the infection that when the doctor nicked the cyst, it literally exploded onto the room and everything in it.  That included the anesthetic; I was treated to a 45 minute exploratory back surgery where I felt every slice, ever tug.

After all of that, I could not even pay for the ER, so all of my debt fell upon my fellow (at the time) New Yorkers. After the excision, I had a open wound on my back for nearly two months. Because I held a job that made at least a minimum wage (yet offered me no health care plans), I was not eligible for basic health care benefits from the state. I could not afford EITHER a pain reliever or ANTIBIOTICS. I had an open wound and was not able to ensure that I was preventing an infection or have any relief from pain.  I worked a 40-50 hour work week and could not afford nor was eligible for the more basic remedies for my health condition.

So, let’s recap: I was working a full time job, but my employer was too cheap to provide even basic health insurance and assistance (for those who would say ‘get a different job’: Walmart was the only major employer in a thoroughly rural upstate New York township). I had an existing condition that was potentially deadly and verifiably debilitating and painful. My only recourse was the emergency room and while – YES CONSERVATIVES! – they did have to provide medical aid, they were only obligated to do so for the bare minimum of expense. The resulting aid was painful and dangerous and created a danger of (for me) secondary infection and was a bio-hazard for the emergency room and for the nurses and doctor who were present. After the visit, I had to treat an open wound site for a several weeks but could not afford either pain management or preventative measures to ensure optimal healing.

That is the definition of a broken system. ObamaCare would have provided me some means for proper treatment, but this was too long ago. I will not say that the Affordable Care Act is perfect nor is it universally affordable to some. But it was better than nothing. After the House of Representative voted to repeal the ACA, that is precisely what it will soon become: nothing. No (or limited) aid for those in need.

At the very least, your representatives should be willing to meet you and hear your very real concerns. Most are simply avoiding their constituents, an act as cowardly as it is brazenly and unequivocally disrespectful. If they are willing to deny healthcare to the young, the old and the disadvantaged and disabled while simultaneously shuffling that money into tax breaks for those who have no issues obtaining healthcare due to their wealth, then they should do more than enjoy a barbecue and beers in celebration with their president. They should stand by their decisions and their goals and not brand the medical professionals, the financial professionals and the reporters who decry their actions as liars.

Worse than our representatives are their supporters. Not because they are fundamentally bad people, but because they simply do not question the explanation and excuses they are given. I have a frequent (and largely unproductive) argument with a family member who responds to every accusation or point I make against conservative goals and actions by pointing back at the Democrats and at the past election. While in many ways, his comments about the Democrats are not completely wrong, simply deflecting my comments with a mirror is not answering my comments; its ignoring them. Willfully ignoring them. This lack of critical questioning and moderate skepticism is dangerous and destabilizing. Neither point is 100% correct in this debate, but dismissing facts as ficiton or lies, choosing to not turn around and look at what is happening around you is perilous at best. It is letting go of the controls of freedom and democracy and hoping that someone else will maintain control and not wreck the entire thing.

With Trump as president … that’s a dangerous gamble, at best.

…tbc

RUWUEU,
Sean

Speechless

I very much want to write something about the Connecticut tragedy, but the sheer horror of it is rendering me incapable of anything more than an enraged diatribe about the skewed culture and political excrement that has made this possible.  There are plenty of people who will have what they think are informed opinions about what has occurred or will dust off their tired, insignificant talking points to defend soome indefensible thing.  I counter with twenty-six faces that never had the opportunity to see the morning sun or wonder at the presents under their Christmas trees or even smile again.  I advised everyone take a page from the President’s book and give these souls their deserved moment of silence and introspection.  I plan to discuss this, but I want to give the police more time to truly investigate this monstrous, inhuman act before I say anything.  Instead, I’m going to opt for a more optimistic topic: The Hobbit.

 

Pot Luck Post

So, it’s been about a week since my last post and for that I apologize.  I’ve been focusing my mind on preparing for NaNoWriMo and have been making exceptional progress on actually sketching out what I’m going to be writing; I’m actually quite excited.  I’ve been very enthusiastic and I didn’t want to redirect my creative focus elsewhere when I’m making such great headway. That being said, I wanted to get back to my blog and give it some love as well.  However, I have several things on my mind, so this post will come off as somewhat scatterbrained and random in many ways. Consider it a potluck dinner where there’s a variety, but some of the dishes might not appeal to you.

POLITICS
First off, I’m very tired of this election cycle. I look over my previous posts and feel that I’ve had a very strident, raging voice. But I feel very strongly about this topic and to be silent or meek would be a disservice to the importance I feel this election has. It’ll come as no surprise if I say I’m frustrated with the popular media outlets and their treatment of the truth. It’s just so much spin, so much smoke and mirrors these days. The problem is that as consumers we are not requiring more of our media or of our politicians. We accept less and so therefore they give us less. That’s sad and tragic and ultimately we are reaping exactly as little as we are sowing.

The election is in a few days and I’m going to be in line to cast my vote. I’m voting for Obama. I don’t believe he has fulfilled his promises as he said he would, but I believe in his potential. No politician is perfect, but I agree with his views.

Romney on the other hand is definitely not right for this country. He believes that the same failed policies that created the Great Recession will somehow magically fix our country. Everything he has said has been a manipulation of perception or a pure distortion of fact.  The conservatives cannot argue based upon evidence, so they base their arguments on mistruths. I cannot countenance a liar as a leader so I would never consider Romney as a real leader. Sorry, he destroy things, he doesn’t rebuild them.

But whomever you chose to vote for, EDUCATE YOURSELF. Learn before you vote. Be intelligent and informed. Know the issues and what not only the candidates are saying about those issues, but what the people the candidates speak for are saying. Romney changes his tune more often than Pandora Music, but his backers and RNC masters are always singing the same tune. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t have sex with the first person you meet in a bar, so why would you be willing to be screwed by a politician without first knowing what he stands for. Don’t be an lazy idiot; expend the effort and time to know why you are voting for who you are voting for.

The end. I’ll not be posting anything more about the election prior to Election Day. If you’re reading this, you’ve either already decided who you’ll vote for or you don’t care. I won’t waste any more time preaching to the choir or lecturing the uninformed. Make your choice but know why you’re making it and who you’re making it for. That is all.

 

DISHONORED
I recently finished playing a borrowed copy of this game.  As a huge fan of games like Thief 2, System Shock 2, BioShock, and Deus Ex, I was amazed at how well they’ve maintained the emphasis on problem-solving over violence.  For those not familiar with this game, it’s a sneak-or-kill first person game where you play Corvo Atano, a royal bodyguard turned assassin in a steampunk-esque dystopian re-imagining of England (or a very similar nation).  The game focuses on missions that you are sent on by Loyalists to the assassinated Queen wherein you wreck vengeance upon the people who framed you for murder and sentenced you to die.  Along the way, you befriend a capricious deity that grants you mystical powers you can use to accomplish your goals.

There are multiple ways to accomplish these goals and your choices affect not only how the game ends for you, but also the environment that you interact with.  Seek bloody vengeance at the end of your dagger?  Then the world becomes darker, more dangerous and suffering and misery increase.  Seek justice and maintain your honor and integrity?  Things slowly improve and you inspire your cohorts to behave more honorably.  In game, this is referred to as ‘chaos’ and is measured after each adventure.  It is said that the game can be played without causing a single death.  Although I did not possess that level of restraint, I can see how it could be possible.

While there are three epilogues to the game -based upon the level of chaos you cause- I still felt that my decisions were born not from a desire for a good or bad ending, but as an expression of who I envisioned myself  -and Corvo Atano- being.  Perhaps it is because I am currently in a character-building mindset with my writing, or perhaps I am still feeling the influence of Spec Ops and its stark evaluation of violent escapist fantasies, but I played like I felt I would behave were it me.

Above all, the game was exquisitely well-written.  I was truly enthralled with the story and applaud the developers for focusing on a gripping tale over superficial and flashy mechanics.  This was a tale with teeth and heart and there were points where the story being told deeply moved me and made me think.  I think that in this case, the writers wanted to give the player a chance to be a true hero -or a true monster- and did not try to disguise that fact.  In many ways it is like Spec Ops, which also ripped aside the facade gamers love to hide behind, except for instead of feeling dirty and horrified, I felt jubilant and cleansed.  Simply put, this was an amazing game and well worth your time to play it.  Except: be better than me and buy it instead of borrowing it from a friend.

 

NANOWRIMO
NaNoWriMo starts in just a few days, so I’m soon to be diving headlong into that.  Work, Sleep, Eat, Time With Wife, Write.  Not in that particular order (wife -of course- always comes first). So, my blog is going to transition into a different mode during November.  Obviously, my primary literary focus will be on writing my novel.  I don’t want to neglect my blog or my handful of readers though. So for this month, my blog is going to feature smaller posts on the process of writing the first draft of my first novel. I’ll discuss what I feel and am experiencing at various points, to give readers an insight to what NaNoWriMo is like for the participant.

I’ll also include posts written by another blogger and successful writer, Cristian Mihai. I’ve been following his blog for some time and have found his posts insightful. He has self-published, an option I am currently investigating myself, as well as having been accepted by a publishing house. So, I’ll be re-posting some of his work to supplement my own posts.

Anyways, I’m looking forward to the next month with mixed dread and excitement   A lot is occurring and not all of it may be positive (Romney might win), but I’m not going to shy away from dramatic changes. Life is about adapting to new realities and I’ll be embracing that philosophy wholeheartedly. I look forward to seeing how I feel on December 1st: whether I’ve succeeded, what I’ve learned, where I am as a person and a writer at that time. Until then…

Two by Two by Triceratops

sci•ence

  •  the state of knowing
  •  knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding
  •  knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method

scientific method

  • principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.

‘And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. “Reality control,” they called it: in Newspeak, “doublethink.”‘ – George Owell, 1984

In the early months of 2010, the Texas Board of Education mandated an unprecedented series of changes to history books that were soon to be used in Texas public schools. While the changes sparked a short-lived media controversy, the issue was largely forgotten during the opening months of the Republican Primary race announcements. Largely out of public notice, the Texas State Board of Educators approved the amendments, 10-to-5, making over 100 amendments to the 120-page curriculum standards which affect history, sociology and economics courses from elementary to high school. Those standards had originally been created by a panel of esteemed educators and scholars in the social sciences.

The changes generally involved changes to the language used, but did involve cases where historical references were changed or additional ‘facts’ were added. While this might seem somewhat innocuous, it was the nature of the changes that cause exceptional worry in historians. In my opinion, it should cause worry in us all.

Some of the most noteworthy changes were the replacement of the terms ‘capitalism’ with ‘free market’ and ‘imperialism’ with ‘expansionism’. The problem is that these terms are not truly interchangeable. The American economic system is Capitalism. Our conquest of Hawaii and the seizure of lands previously owned by Native Americans can only be described as Imperialism. Redefining how we describe our history dilutes the lessons it has to teach. Even more disturbing is the redefinition of our entire system of government as being a ‘constitutional republic’ and not a ‘democracy’. While both are technically correct, why change things? Because the the term ‘democratic’ sounds too much like Democrat, whereas ‘republic’ sounds more like Republican.

Ten of the fifteen board members are avowed Republicans. The apparent intent of these changes are to cast the Republican party and its specific interests in a better light. One of the changes was to downplay the importance of Thomas Jefferson as a Founding father because he was not a practicing Christian. They also struck down a requirement to ensure that “students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others.”  The board decided to strike down the inclusion of hip hop music in favor of country music as a uniquely American invention, even though country music is generally derived from a combination of European, Old English and Irish music. Music like Jazz and Hip Hop originated purely is America, but… well, draw your own conclusions why they weren’t picked. This might sound like a ‘race card’ being dropped, but they also reduced the attention given to Lincoln’s inauguration and emancipation speeches and gave equal accounting to Andrew Jackson’s inauguration and subsequent speeches. While I can see Jackson’s role in our history as deserving attention, it seems suspicious to me that they’d also reduce attention given to the Great Emancipator unless the abolition of slavery was less important to them than the historical tenets of the successionist states.

The problem with this is that the Texas Board of Educators were making decisions based upon political and philosophical reasons, not scholarly or educational ones. David Bradley, a board member, even admitted to this politicization of the process, saying “We took our licks, we got outvoted [in a vote 10 years ago] … Now it’s 10-5 in the other direction … we’re an elected body, this is a political process. Outside that, go find yourself a benevolent dictator.”  They favored terms and events that inferred a more ‘conservative’ outlook and removed terms and facts of a more liberal nature. Ultimately, this will reduce the objectivity of the education that the children will be receiving; it limits the full scope of the history of the United States and diminishes the contributions of minorities. When history is viewed retroactively through a politically-tinted lens  we often change the meaning and implications of what has shaped our nation.

I question both the credentials and the agenda of the members of the Board. The vast majority are lawyers and businessmen, not educators or scholars. Don McLeroy, the chairman of the Texas State Board at that time, has even gone on record indicating he believes that dinosaurs existed concurrently with homo sapiens and were present on Noah’s Ark during the Biblical Flood. While I will not challenge his beliefs, I will question his capacity to make objective decisions. The belief that tigers and triceratops co-mingled in Noah’s Ark indicates a very specific worldview and belief system. If he believes that textbooks should teach this as scientific fact, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, then how can he objectively make decisions about American history without letting his own personal beliefs color those decisions?

So, why is this important now, two years later? Or to you specifically, who may not even live in Texas? First of all, Texas is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks in the country, so large in fact that their orders often can influence the price of certain books in the market thereby lowering them. When this occurs, other school districts across the country will also purchase the same books, since they are priced lower due to Texas’s orders. In this way, what Texas chooses as textbooks is often what a large portion of America’s school districts will be using to teach their students. By now, your children might be studying history with a decidedly partisan outlook. Luckily, teachers still have some sway in exactly what lessons children take from their studies, but clearly the foundations of educational objectivity are being challenged.

However, more worrying is that this is just another example of the previously inviolable nature of factual evidence and scientific methodology being gradually eroded and suborned by political agendas. There’s an old maxim that ‘history is written by the victor’ but that’s a fallacious statement. History is actually written by a quorum of observers. What we know as true is based upon centuries of documentation that corroborates specific facts. And while it can be said that scientific truth is always evolving, always changing, the methodology to obtain that ‘truth’ is even more structured and less subjective than that employed by historians. It is determined by experimentation that is replicated by peers scientists who have all reached the same conclusions. In short, scientific fact is proven by observation and repeated testing and history is written because evidence indicates that an event occurred a specific way or because of a specific reason.

What we are seeing is the trumping of truth and fact by conservative ideology and expediency, a process that has been ongoing for the last two decades. Science and learning are ridiculed and spurned by the conservative right. In September, Rick Santorum admitted that “[Conservatives] will never have the elite, smart people on our side”, which he accepts as the status quo. It’s not unsurprising that conservatives eschew any type of cooperation with scientific experts; those people could readily discount the entire foundation for the narrative the conservatives are supporting, especially about issues like global warming and the economy. For Republicans, ignorance is bliss.

As Americans, we truly need to examine what we’re being told, what our representatives are doing. I’m sure the vast majority of Texas did not expect the Texas Board of Education to make the sweeping changes it made, under the helm of a dentist who believes dinosaurs took a cruise with Noah. This has to start before we tick a box on a ballot. This means looking into what your representatives believe and say, even when not in front of a camera (especially when not in front of a camera!). This is not just about whose fiscal policy will chart the course of the country; it’s about whose philosophical values will dictate what our children are taught and understand, about moral values that tell us who we can marry or who is a worthwhile citizen and how they can become one.

In short, it’s about revising who we were as a country, who we currently are, and who we will become. Make sure that America is representative of a melting pot of ideas, not just the worldview of a select few.