In the hipster world, California’s Coachella Valley is known for strange creatures such as Animal Collective and Deer Tick that appear once a year to gigantic crowds of bearded men, women with bangs, and asymmetrical hair on both. But for the rest of the year, the defining characteristics of the region are widespread poverty, racial inequality, environmental pollution, sickness, and death.
Author Page for Erik Loomis
Historiann has a good post on the problems with teaching the American Revolution: the extreme nationalism of the students on the subject
It’s not just that it’s difficult to teach the quintessentially nationalistic course in American history in an era in which a great deal of the historiography is transnational or at least comparative, although that is a challenge for me considering the way I teach the rest of my courses. It’s really the overwhelmingly nationalistic, solipsistic, chest-beating, flag-waving, screaching bald eagle totality of the historiography. In the United States at least, there is no more nationalistic course, and no course that is taught in such a one-sided, pro-American manner. And the students love it! They demand it, in fact, and they revel in the opportunity to indulge in nationalist agitprop in their essays.
I don’t teach this course except for coverage in the survey. And I have certainly found Historiann’s observations to be the case. I really push a 2-sided tale here, one of a modernizing state demanding tax revenues from colonies who keep costing the British money because they like killing Indians and starting wars, of differing views of what representation means, of how the colonies have become transformed societies not quite like the English, etc. But the students don’t want to hear it–they want to know that America overthrew those British tyrants without any complexity involved.
Moreover, I find that this narrative remains surprisingly resistant to revision, even among liberals. The Revolution seems to be the one place where a consensus narrative of American history still stands. We can call Lincoln a racist and can question whether he really wanted to free the slaves, we can reinterpret the American story into one of genocide against Native Americans, we can talk about Americans abroad as a plundering power, but the Founding Fathers (with all the patriarchy that implies) remain untouchable.
I am reminded of this post I wrote in 2007 wondering if the American Revolution was bad for America. Rereading it, I’ll admit it’s a bit overargued at times, but I stand by most of the points, at least as interesting counterfactual talking points. What amused me was that progressives found it as outrageous as conservatives. Plus, one conservative site was pretty awesome about it, noting that not only were liberals fantastizing about losing the current war, but were now fantasizing about losing past wars. Outstanding.
I am very curious about the tenacity of this narrative, which perhaps means most in today’s obsession with legal originalism. Why do we still buy into traditional stories of the American Revolution?
Dave Zirin’s piece on Tebow’s disastrous performance and his aggressive evangelicalism links to this very disturbing 2008 news story of Tim Tebow going to the Philippines to circumcise young boys
On the recent weeklong trip to the orphanage his father’s ministry runs in Southeast Asia, Tim assisted in the care of more than 250 Filipinos who underwent medical and dental procedures, including circumcision.
Tim’s original task was to preach to the hundreds of people waiting in line before they had their teeth pulled or cysts removed. But as the day progressed, he looked for more active ways to help the three Filipino doctors. By the end of an exhausting day, he was wearing gloves and a mask, wielding surgical scissors, and helping the doctors in the circumcision of boys, finishing off stitches with a snip.:
Um. Whoa. Wow.
I know that some are saying people are going overboard with the Tebow hatred. But he makes it so easy. And really, what are the chances we are seeing the beginning of a very scary political career here? Way too high.
Joshua Frank has a superb story at Alternet (I think it originally appeared in the Seattle Weekly) on the incompetent and dangerous nuclear clean-up procedures at Hanford, in southeastern Washington. In many ways, it’s a story that we’ve heard before in recent years: the government contracts to a major corporation (Bechtel) to conduct major operations, but slashed federal budgets mean a weak regulatory process that allows the corporation to do whatever it wants. In the case of Bechtel and Hanford, this means cutting corners, seeking profit over the long-term safety of nuclear waste, management overrriding employees safety concerns, dismissing inconvenient science that would imperil profits, etc.
While this depressing story is part and parcel of early 21st century America, it’s all the more important here because of the potential for radiation poisoning if this stuff is not dealt with properly.
This is also a object lesson in why outsourcing government operations isn’t a good idea. I worked at Los Alamos for several years, doing historic preservation. But I knew people in various parts of the laboratory structure and the story was more or less the same–you’d have various corporations each seeking a piece of the lucrative environmental monitoring/cleanup/project pie. The incentive for everyone–the companies, employees, laboratory management–was to cut costs wherever possible and that often meant skirting the edge of the law.
One way Obama’s lands policy has frustrated many in the environmental community is that, unlike most other Democratic presidents in memory and many Republicans for that matter, he has been reticent to use the 1906 Antiquities Act to create new protected lands. This is part and parcel of his centrist lands policy, personified in the Ken Salazar-led Department of Interior.
Finally, Obama has moved to use the act to create Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia, a clear and worthy addition to the National Park system that will center on Civil War and African-American history.
One can certainly question whether we should be adding to the parks when we have underfunded them for so long, but at the very least, this move provides permanent protection for a valuable piece of American history.
Now if only Obama would use the Antiquities Act to protect some of our western lands in danger of mineral development. Unlikely.
One of the greatest managers in baseball history. I would say that I care that he is a Teabagger, but almost all professional athletes are right-wing jerks. LaRussa just talks about it.
Michael Tomasky’s excellent piece on the Washington Redskins, a team whose owner, George Marshall, made the team identity his own virulent racism, is well worth a read. The Redskins were the last team in the NFL to integrate, in 1962 when Marshall was also openly supporting southern segregationists against the civil rights movement. Moreover, the person responsible for its integration was, of all people, Stewart Udall, who forced Marshall’s hand when he wanted Department of Interior land to build a new stadium.
As the world’s population reaches 7 billion sometime today, it’s worth remembering that while overpopulation is an important environmental issue that needs addressing, it is a vastly lesser problem that the consumption of the planet’s resources by the wealthy. I don’t know if there’s any kind of conversion mechanism on the internet, but the purchase of an SUV, the heated backyard swimming pool, and the transatlantic flight each cause tremendously more damage to the climate and to resource depletion than that family of 12 in Chad or Bangladesh. Westerners bemoaning population growth are usually shifting blame from their own responsibilities and blaming poor and brown people for our environmental crisis.
The death of Howard Wolpe, the congressman from Michigan who sponsored bills in the 80s to impose sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa should remind us that Ronald Reagan, who vetoed the bill twice, was for all intents and purposes pro-apartheid. As of course was Dick Cheney, who voted against the bill as a congressman from Wyoming.
Too many worthy stories today, too little time to write them up.
If humans playing football suffer concussions, why don’t woodpeckers?
The drought in the Southwest affects all of us because 70% of our winter vegetables come from northern Mexico. Very high food prices will occur this winter. And the poor will eat less.
Will Valles Caldera become the next national park? Would that status ruin this beautiful area? Turns out that trying to run federal land for profit doesn’t work real well. Who could have guessed?