Thanks to our 45th president’s lies, some Republicans’ explicit endorsement of those lies, and others’ silent complicity, more than half of all Republicans think Donald Trump is the true president.
Taking their cue from Arizona’s audit farce, other Republican-dominated states are planning their own farcical unofficial audits, despite their probable illegality and the near certainty that they’ll irreparably and needlessly undermine Americans’ confidence in our elections and republic.
Mimicking counterfeit democracies like Belarus, Congressional Republicans voted to kill a bipartisan 9/11-style investigation into the insurrection. Mitch McConnell, no stranger to partisan manipulation, accused Democrats of partisan bad faith and asked Republicans to vote against the proposed investigative commission as a personal favor.
This is the same McConnell who declared the attack on Congress a “failed insurrection” that Trump “provoked” and for which Trump was “practically and morally responsible.” Apparently a coup orchestrated by a president isn’t sufficient reason for yet another commission, especially if its findings are likely to hurt Republicans’ chances in the next election.
Now advocates on the left and Republican officials on the right have taken opposite sides in civics classrooms as Texas joins other red states in banning critical race theory from public schools.
Simply put, critical race theory advances the premise that racism exists not only in individual hearts, but also in societal structures — from slavery, Jim Crow laws and police-condoned vigilante terrorism visited on Black communities, to underfunded Black community public schools and banking practices that limited where Black Americans could live.
Growing up as a white baby boomer, I enjoyed advantages that Black children born in the same era didn’t. Setting aside what we should do to remedy those inequities, they’ve undeniably resulted in disparities that persist today.
The issue is complicated by left-leaning activists who apply the critical race theory label to a variety of social justice initiatives. On the right many Americans are offended by what seems to be a charge that they’re personally racists. Then, of course, there are bigots who oppose anything that might promote racial equality.
The Texas law properly prohibits teaching that “one race or gender is inherently superior.” In response to critics’ concerns and objections, it also bars teaching that anyone “by virtue of his or her race or sex is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive,” or “bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.”
It’s clearly wrong to impose on 6 year olds — or 16 year olds — the weight of personal guilt for four centuries of slavery and its oppressive, though improving, aftermath. It’s also wrong, though, to teach U.S. history as if slavery and that oppression didn’t exist or wasn’t horrific.
If President Lincoln could acknowledge that slavery justly warranted the judgment of God upon the nation, history classes should be able to mention, and are obliged to mention, the fact that those horrors were inflicted on Blacks by whites.
The law, in addition, bans requiring teachers to discuss current events or controversial subjects. If a teacher elects to deal with those topics, he must present them “from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”
The problem is all facts aren’t equally true. Some are pure fiction. Others are opinions voiced as if they were facts. And all opinions aren’t equally valid, supportable or worthy of support.
Here is the truth:
The election wasn’t stolen.
Trump incited the insurrection.
The world isn’t run by a secret cabal of pedophiles who drink the blood of children.
I will not dignify lies and baseless conspiracy theories with deference.
I’ve always regarded myself as a trustee and parents as the proper sovereigns in their children’s lives. I’ve also found that my students would too readily adopt my views as their own, so when we discussed matters of opinion, I would withhold mine until they’d articulated theirs.
I never told them who I was voting for, a luxury I enjoyed pre-Trump when I could compare benign Obama to benign Romney. In 2016 I could no longer conceal my preference. As I was still reluctant to voice my views outright, I’d deal with Trump’s immigration policy, for example, by discussing the history of immigration. When he’d glibly propose violating the Constitution, we’d look at what the Constitution says.
I still rely on that tactic when I can. You can’t pronounce a child’s parents dupes of a fascist or fascists themselves. But after Jan. 6, I could no more now keep silent about Trump than I could have about Hitler.
Trump embodies the “love of power” and “real despotism” Washington warned against in his farewell address. Trump isn’t Hitler, but the similarities are striking and worth noting. So is the catastrophe into which Hitler led his nation and the world.
Our republic stands in peril from the species of man and president that our founders feared.
This is no time for silence or ambivalence.
In his consequential age Patrick Henry explained his obligation: “Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven.”
The Nazis burned books to destroy the truth and destroyed themselves.
A worse destruction bears down on us as we let lies become the truth and we make liars our leaders.
Peter Berger has taught English and history in Vermont for 30 years.