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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Teaching History In Florida–’Woke Dies Here’

State Flag - Florida Department of State

Robert Musgrove was a tireless social reformer, and he was particularly passionate about revising the way American history was taught.  No longer, he insisted, should children be subjected to the racist, culturally oppressive, white supremacist view promoted by educational lackeys of the Right Wing.  The true history of America, one of predation, genocide, brutality, and territorial rape must be taught.  No longer should the happy-faced, glossy, fairy tale of American greatness be foisted on young children.

Robert came early to progressivism.  His parents were working class members of the Communist Party, devotees of Samuel Gompers, and activists in the labor movement.  Evenings around the Musgrove dinner table were always angry and demanding affairs.  How long would American imperialism last, asked Ezra Musgrove.  How long would the working class suffer at the hands of the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and Mellons? When would the penury, penitence, and social brutality end?

Beyond subscribing to the Daily Worker and paying union dues, the Musgroves rarely put their necks on the line.  They were not at the plant gates of Carnegie Steel, nor at the barricades before the townhouses of Crane or Westinghouse.  'I have mouths to feed', said Henry Musgrove; and so he had to do with organizing his own family, attending Party meetings, and listening to Radio Moscow.

Front page of the Tuesday, February 14, 1950 edition of the Daily... Foto  di attualità - Getty Images

The rabid progressivism of this father could not help but influence his son, and the boy, tired of the seemingly empty tirades of his father, decided early on to be an activist.  Under the influence of the Reverend Bartley Harrington, the chaplain of his university, Bob became convinced of the divine nature of the struggle for human rights.  The Reverend Harrington was one of the first Northerners on the Freedom Rides to Birmingham and Selma, the first to stand with Martin Luther King in bi-racial solidarity, the first to condemn the ruling elite for racial ignorance, Jim Crow racism, and self-serving liberal hurrahs.

From there, Bob went on his own – to law school, and then to a series of non-profit organizations which supported civil protest in all its forms.  There Bob felt his calling, and a budding orator, he was called upon to preach from the pulpit, the podium, and the street corner for the rights of man.

Later in his career when progressivism finally burst upon the scene as a major political force in the country, he reconfigured his socialist convictions to accommodate the new theology of race, gender, and ethnicity.  Gone were the days of integration and bi-racial harmony, all replaced by a new racial absolutism – the black man, thanks to his tribal African heritage was the New Age man, sensitive to his environment, intensely spiritual, intellectually advanced, and socially superior.  Slavery was not just an oppressive economic system but the calculated emasculation of a superior race.

Pernicious American racism was but one expression of white capitalist monarchy.  Its spawn – misogyny, homophobia, cultural hegemony, and environmental destruction – were just as evil and predictably so.  His parents were as right as rain when they saw capitalism as the root of all evil.  

A new form of capitalism guided by sustainability goals, social justice may  fix its current problems

With his foundational education in socialism, moral training at the hands of the Reverend Harrington, and his passion for justice, there was no end to Bob’s activism.  Every corner of American life, so infested with racism, had to be swept clean and purged.  Statues to the racist, white elitist past had to come down.  The names of streets, schools, and public buildings honoring slave-owning rapists had to change.  Everywhere white Americans had to be reminded of their racist legacy and made to atone for their sins.

When progressive school boards saw that with significant curriculum changes, the new philosophy of enlightened liberalism could be taught to young children, preparing them for the adult struggles to come.  Influenced by The 1619 Project whose revisionist history which marked the beginning of the Republic not in 1776 but on the date when the first slave was imported to the Americas, these administrators began the process of expungement.  

History was to be looked at through the lens of race, gender, and ethnicity and through that lens only.  Slavery was such a horrific, brutal act of inhumanity that left a suppurating wound on the body politic that it had to be the center of all historical expression.  And, since racism was just the avant-garde of American cultural elitism, history teaching had to include the genocide of native Americans, the fascist suppression of gay rights, the continuing hatred and misogyny of women, and the underlying innate corruption of capitalism.

What Is the 4th of July? Meaning, History, and Why We Celebrate It

The progressive juggernaut seemed unstoppable. White students were marginalized, asked to stand apart as oppressors of their black classmates.  They were told that the heterosexuality of their parents was deviant, culturally promoted because of the perversions of religion.  They were taught about the gender choice by former runway transvestites, asked to play the part of Cesar Chavez farm workers under the whip of California grandees, and told that the Founding Fathers were nothing more than racist sexual abusers and promoters of white supremacy.

“Woke dies here”, said the Governor of Florida as he began an aggressive program to confront the hysteria of the Left, challenge school boards to return to traditional curricula, and to insist upon an objective reading of American history.  Obviously and necessarily the progressive howl was deafening.  How could he? they shouted.  Their curricula were based on a higher truth, a moral imperative, and a correct, unvarnished view of the truth about American society.

Wrong, said the Governor, absolutely wrong; and by gubernatorial fiat state curricula were reviewed, analyzed, and revised.  There was to be no proselytizing, no preaching, no subjective assumptions about right and wrong.  Morality was for the churches and the families of Florida, not the schools.

Of course historians are the first to admit that history is written by victors, that courts and kings have determined what is written, that Popes wrote history as they went along, and that PhD students, anxious to present something new and unusual about received history will go overboard and breach the subjective-objective divide.  

The reasons why the Civil War was fought are complex, involved, and debatable.  While the abolition of slavery was certainly important, it was not the only factor in precipitating the wear.  Free labor, trade, cultural regionalism, industrialization, and economic North-South competition were others.  The academic treatise Time on the Cross explored the economic dimensions of ‘the peculiar institution’.  

Was slavery a viable economic system and had there not been a war, would it have continued? Or was the Southern slave-based agricultural economy bound to disappear under the powerful and relentless industrialization of the North?  Because slaves were both labor and capital, wasn’t it in the interest of plantation owners to protect their investment? And weren’t reports of mistreatment exaggerated given economic reality?

Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Slavery: Fogel, Robert  William, Engerman, Stanley L.: 9780393312188: Amazon.com: Books

Similar academic works on Manifest Destiny and westward expansion have shown that within the socio-political context of the early 19th century and the cultural ethos of racial distinction, the ambitious territorial expansion of the new Republic under Thomas Jefferson and his successors was understandable; and that the moral opprobrium of today is revisionist in nature.

These same historians understand the role of human nature in history.  It is not simply the random roll of circumstantial events, but the product of an innate, ineluctable, hardwired self-interest.  Human beings are sentient animals, and no one is exempt from desire, ambition, or thoughts of power.  To judge anyone by one trait, action, or statement is ignorant folly.  Every president of the United States with few exceptions had lovers and paramours.   

Should infidelity disqualify them from office?  Plantation owners as a matter of course had sex with their slaves; so should that experience damn them as historical reprobates? To do so deepens the ignorance and historical myopia of today.

The scourge of progressive revision goes even further.  White supremacy did not begin in 1619 but in the far reaches of ancient history.  White Greeks and Romans had African slaves.  Slavery in fact was known throughout West, South, and East Asia as well as Europe.  Peasants were subjected to serfdom and privilege was granted only to the aristocracy.  

Women were never equal to men, always subservient to them.  Western civilization is ipso facto the source of racism, misogyny, and political, social, cultural, and economic oppression.  The glories of Louis XIV, the splendor of Versailles, the court patrons of the artists of the Italian Renaissance, the intellectual insights of the Greeks, the brilliant administration and management of the Roman Empire mean nothing within this limited, blind approach to history.

Louis XIV - Wikipedia

Florida intends restitution.   America is the heir to Greek, Roman, and European civilization. Its culture, religion, art, science, philosophy, and literature have been derived from them.  We owe a cultural debt to kings, queens, and courtiers.   To give Western civilization its due is not racist.  On the contrary, it is racist to denigrate, dismiss, or ignore it.

So Bob Musgrove has packed his bags and is headed to Florida.  Finally, and at long last he has found the right barricades, the right fight, the right cause.  His stand against Florida will be one against racism, Donald Trump, Wall Street, and right wing radicals everywhere.  “We shall prevail”, said Bob, happy that his protests in Florida were planned for the Northern winter.

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