Why is Political History Illiteracy Killing Us?
Part One – Why is Political History Illiteracy Killing Us?
Perhaps my chief concern about politics today is that too many of our citizens have fallen into choosing the reality they want and shaping the narrative that suits them without any concerns about whether or not it is true.
I began to question my own awareness in 2001. When our country made the decision to go to war with Iraq, the outcry was immediate and loud. But, I couldn’t find anyone coming forth with facts to support the reason we were going after Saddam Hussein outside of ending a grudge match with the Bush family.
I made a decision not to offer any opinions at all until I had a better grasp of the history that led to the toxic and awful relationships between the United States, its allies and big portions of the world.
Two of the many books that I read shaped a new outlook. All the Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer was the most impactful. In it, the author outlines that the first half of the 20th century, Great Britain and by extension, its partner, the United States, maintained an iron grip on Iran to ensure we maintained the continuous flow of oil. Rather than publicly dirty our hands, we propped up the Shah dictators who terrorized the citizens into living with the status quo. Oil workers lived in slave-like conditions and Iran’s primary resource was controlled by us.
In the early 50s, Iran’s citizens formed the first democratic election. and the new Prime Minister was Mohammad Mossadegh. Due to the violence they had exacted on citizens, the Shah and members of his family fled to Britain and the United States. When Mossadegh announced the cancellation of oil contracts with the UK, the CIA, and British Secret Intelligence launched a campaign of disinformation, paving the way to arrest this man and return the oil to western control.
For quite some time, I would ask people if they knew why Iran and much of the middle east was actually enraged with us. Usually, I was greeted with a somewhat irritated and blank stare.
Consider the possibilities of manipulation when most citizens don’t really care if what they are being told is the truth or not! We are not alone, a recent documentary showed Japanese teenagers shopping in Nagasaki. When questioned, none of them were aware they were shopping over a mass grave. 90-140,000 people were vaporized in an instant. Perhaps it would be a good idea to forget that, after all, we have to move Gucci leather out the door.
The most macabre moment that year when we started another war, took place on a ship.
We were on a transatlantic cruise from New York to Portugal. On the first night, every seat at our table was randomly selected by the maitre d’. We had the ship’s drunk doctor. There was one tightly-wrapped couple who had met while working at the defense contractor, Northrup Grumman. They retired in great wealth because they realized stock in the defense industry would continue to grow for years. Finally, there were two grandmothers from the south. Helen was a retired piano teacher and Betty owned a bakery. She had a huge pin, a circular broach, with a photo of her son grinning from ear-to-ear in a US Marines uniform.
Everyone made their introductions. When we reached Betty, she announced, “My son is in Iraq doing God’s work.” Helen, who was the first person to become aware of my views rolled her eyes towards mine. The weapons wife caught our look, turned to me and asked, “Why are you making such a face at each other?”
“Because you two are the only ones at this table who are benefitting from a war that was launched on lies. You will actually make money off of the thousands of people getting killed and Betty is the sacrificial mother who sends her son over there to do God’s work.
Which God is that?”
They immediately got assigned to a different table and left. That departure made it safe for all of us to talk about the truth of what was taking place. But, it stuck in my mind since the experience. They continued to be the only people who benefitted from a war that had been created for turf protection.
Part Two – When Will We Learn?
In 1950, one of the American film industry’s royal couples was Melvin and Helen Gahagan Douglas. Both of them orchestrated a variety of plays and films that were intellectual masterpieces. They were also deeply respected actors.
Both of them were connected to many of the country’s leaders in art, film, politics, and business. In 1950, Helen ran for office with the United States Senate and won.
Richard Nixon wanted Helen’s seat. Working with Joe McCarthy, the founder of the country’s communist scare, and Roy Cohn, the man that would go on to become Donald Trump’s political mentor, they devised the first major political smear campaign that took her down. First, they gave her a title that was easy to remember and strikingly evil. They christened her, “The Pink Lady.”
For the next year, the Republicans characterized Helen Gahagan Douglas and her husband as elitists that were organizing California’s communists into a force that could bring down our democracy.
The biggest problem is that it worked. For 66 years, the formula for launching political smear campaigns to destroy the competition hasn’t ended democracy yet. But it sure has corrupted it.
In the early 70s as Watergate exploded. I was a kid and could remember asking people about a bumper sticker:
“Don’t blame me, I voted for Helen Gahagan Douglas.”
“Lock her up.” “Lock her up.” “Lock her up.”
Where did stuff like this begin?
Greg Mitchell’s amazing book, Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady gives us a graphically and scrupulously documented view of how smear campaigns are used again and again, simply because the voters they speak to won’t take the time to learn the truth or prefer to be ruthless in getting whatever they want.
Today, we have access to the truth without moving from our desks. And yet, after a couple of generations where education was focused on passing tests, millions of us continue to pass on shocking statements that have no grounding in truth. We post outlandish stuff without checking out if what we are being told is from an Internet troll or deep and scholarly research, fact or fiction.
I believe it happens because it can feel better to be righteous rather than informed.
When we accept dishonesty without exploring the truth, we have become the biggest part of the problem.
Every single day, I receive posts or see comments from people spewing out theories and rather shocking statements that have no basis from historical fact, it doesn’t just lower the credibility of the post, it lowers my confidence about our future.
I write this with one intention in mind:
To save us.
I don’t have enough information to make a pronouncement here, but I have studied historical politics to feel more confident in the possibilities.
By studying history and watching the progress, we can better ask and answer the questions:
Who wins while we idly stand by?
What happens to democracy when we remove relevancy from one potential voter?
The probability is high that much of this indignity we heap on each other is all about oil.
The United States has a much more diverse economy than Russia. Russia’s economic health is based on petroleum.
I am not making accusations towards anyone. But, isn’t it time that all of us study history, find as much truth as possible before declaring our selves experts?
We continue to have people tell us, with a straight-face, that Hillary Clinton ran a child-trafficking ring out of a pizza parlor or an articulate and kind candidate wants to kill babies.
Meanwhile, some of the very individuals that are studying history and speaking out, get chopped up and run out of an embassy sewer. We rage on about the 1% taking away our future rather than retooling ourselves for the next best way to make meaningful livings. By dismissing them, there is no reason to take on the discomfort of retooling our lives. The world’s most successful role models are often the last people we study because we are not willing to ebrace the discomfort of truth.
When technology is finally giving us the freedom to do whatever we want with our lives, and when technology is about to unleash high-quality, cost-free education, why do we continue to push victimhood and outrage?
What does that imply about today’s voters?
Study the truth everyone.
I’m sending this one out in the spirit that someone will become inspired to study the truth before calling me an idiot or part of a conspiracy.
It was once said, “the truth will set us free, but first, it will piss us off.”
In our quest towards real freedom:
Read something true.
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