Charlottesville: Myths & Questions – Fake History and Deeper Thinking
BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 21 Aug 2017
Gary Steven Corseri – TRANSCEND Media Service
16 Aug 2017 – I think there are many questions that surround the recent deplorable and horrendous incidents in Charlottesville, Virginia, but our media, our “historians,” and too many academicians fix or fixate on one line of questioning or inquiry. Then, they “stick to their guns,” shut off further investigation, further probing.
About the Lee statue, I had to wonder: “Why now?”
I’ve been to Charlottesville a few times in recent years; I have thought it one of the more pleasant small cities in the U.S. I don’t know how long Lee’s statue has graced the park there (frankly, I never looked for it), but I do believe R.E.L. has been dead and gone about 1 & 1/2 centuries! (Side bar: After meeting Lee–was it at Andersonville?–to end the hostilities, U.S. Grant–not known for compliments or blandishments–told his comrades he thought Lee one of the noblest human beings he had ever met–“the first gentleman of the South,” if memory serves me….
Was it really necessary to remove the statue now? Wasn’t that setting up a conflict? Is it too much to expect our elected officials to exercise foresight and good judgment? And, why permit a rightist group to protest the proposed removal of the statue, and then fail to enforce adequate police protection and enforcement when “outsiders” from the Left and the Right show up armed and prepared for battle?
The whole operation sounds like the Keystone Kops! (Even a crashing helicopter gets blamed on “Nazis”!) There is more than a little infantilism in the way our MSM immediately places all blame for all odious actions on the doorsteps of the most despised groups! Didn’t we used to see this kind of reflexive (but not reflective) behavior in the pre-Civil Rights South? Then the despised groups were “the Niggers.” One just had to attach that name to any kind of deplorable act–and it was “case dismissed” and “hang them!” Have we learned so little from Martin Luther King about the need to judge people according to “the content of their character” and “not the color of their skin”? When did we fall back into simplistic mind-traps? Too much television? Too much tweeting? Santayana warned: those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them!
We have not learned well! We skim the surface of a world of facts and there are precious few guides to take us deeper, beneath the waves, to explore the living, coral reefs. As Barbara Tuchman notes in her redoubtable THE MARCH OF FOLLY, we are apt to bluster and assume improbable and insupportable positions, and we dare not “lose face.” We dig in our heels–even into our graves and others’!
The media, and our elite, “Deep State,” etc. encouraged Trump’s campaign to give him primacy above the other 16 Republican contenders–lots of free publicity; “face-time,” etc. They encouraged his candidacy to sucker-punch the Right, never believing Trump could prevail against HRC. (I suspect they sucker-punched Bernie’s supporters, too; again, to give HRC’s very flawed campaign a gloss of legitimacy!)
“Fake news” is not nearly as big a problem as what I call “fake history”! We grow up with it, imbibe it with mama’s milk and sugary cereal. The Civil War is one gross example!
A lot of “privileged,” “victorious” “Yankees” have been harping on “ignorant, racist, redneck” Southerners for generations! (“Two things are infinite,” Einstein remarked: “the Universe, and human stupidity!”) In fact, most Southern whites back in Lee’s time were poor as dirt “share-croppers” scraping by on the boss-man’s land; and if they were “fortunate” enough to have their own parcel of land and one or two slaves working with them, they were all–blacks, as well as whites–better off for that! (And, they were probably better off–or no worse off–than the “indentured servants” flooding northern shores, with women slaving away dawn to dusk in the textile mills of New England, bent over looms, and new men dying in the coal pits of Pennsylvania.) The “plantation system” had been with the American “Republic” from the beginning; it’s a major part of the Constitution–that 6/10 human clause! (Imagine: one rich bastard with a hundred and fifty slaves–about how many Washington and Jefferson had!–gets 1 vote for himself and 90 more for his slaves!) That system made Northerners fat and wealthy, too, helped build the banks and factories, and built the ships that sold cotton products to England, and picked up rum and more slaves on the return voyage! It worked quite well–for the fat cats!–until the North became an industrializing powerhouse–with better railroads, armaments, transports, communications, and 3 times as many people as the South! Then the North decided it didn’t really need the South so much, but it did need to expand into the “Western territories” it had conquered from Mexico and now needed to conquer from the soon-to-be massacred Plains “Indians” (called “savages,” btw by our hero of “democracy,” the principal author of our Declaration of Independence!).
We’d best get our history right! There have been terrible abuses on all sides. All sides were at fault in Charlottesville, including our elected officials. (As far as I can tell, the police there were “just following orders.” Not a great rationale, of course, but it does attribute blame to the dumbfounded officials who should have known better!)
“Whoever controls the information controls the imagination,” Orwell taught us. In the US today, information is controlled by 6 major corporations! From the cartoons that the kids watch on weekends to the spurious “fake news” channels that glut television, radio, newspapers and the Internet–6 major league “guideposts” in a nation of 1/3 billion diverse, questioning, struggling and credulous, and sometimes seeking souls!
No wonder we have so much trouble making peace abroad! How can we have peace abroad when we have no peace within? If we immediately disparage our “enemies” as “lunatics,” how can we trust them, how can we trust ourselves?
We are as divided as we have been at any time I can remember–as divided as we were when I marched against war during the Vietnam War! Some of those who marched with me, ate the National Guard’s teargas with me, took the slurs, lost jobs or friends or family–denounced the departing or returning soldiers! But I spoke out against that, too. What was the point? They were doing the best they knew–just as I was. We needed dialogue, not antipathy. It was the higher-up-liars and dissimulators who needed lambasting–not the foot-soldiers for war or peace! As often as not, foot-soldiers are victims, too: those who were never taught how to think for themselves!
We must begin again! Learn to think clearly again. Brush off the cobwebs that choke our minds! The enemy of my enemy is NOT my enemy! He/she is simply–the enemy of my enemy! In time, he/she may become a friend. We may become allies in some matters, adversarial in others. But, we had better talk things through, we had better learn and re-learn how to communicate with more than 140 characters! Share music; share songs; share books. Honor one’s heritage and respect another’s.
“Oh what a crooked web we weave
when first we practice to deceive.”
–Sir Walter Scott
Dr. Gary Steven Corseri is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He has published and posted articles, fiction and poems at hundreds of venues, including, TMS (Transcend Media Service), The New York Times, Village Voice, Redbook Magazine and Counterpunch. He has published 2 novels and 2 collections of poetry, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. He has performed his poems at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum and has taught in universities in the US and Japan, and in US public schools and prisons. Contact: Gary_Corseri@comcast.net.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Aug 2017.
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