World

1619, 1776 and all that

23 September 2020

11:35 PM

23 September 2020

11:35 PM

Friday’s news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died after her long battle with cancer has briefly pushed most other topics off the great chyron running along the country’s metaphysical information highway. Still, there are lingering echoes of some ancient happenings.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, President Trump brokered a peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (soon to be joined by Bahrain and other Arab states). This was a world-historical event that not even the silence and distortion of the Washington Post, the New York Times, and other Democratic party mouthpieces could totally obscure.

And then there was the President’s announcement on Thursday that he was establishing a ‘1776 Commission’ to ‘promote patriotic education’. The announcement came in the context of a White House-sponsored conference on American history, how it has been distorted, and how it might be rescued.

I single out these two items because they underscore things that the left and the directionless but power-hungry tergiversations of the left’s NeverTrump enablers have been warning us about since before Trump took office: first, that he is a madman whose blusterings would precipitate numerous wars and, second, he is a crude simpleton who lacks the sophistication demanded by his great office.

How do those charges look now? Every week it seems there is more good news from the Mideast. The last time I checked, Donald Trump had been nominated not once but twice for the Nobel Peace Prize (which led the Atlantic to declare that it’s time to end the 119-year-old award).

As for the crude simpleton wheeze, how about this from the President’s remarks following that conference on American history:

‘Our mission is to defend the legacy of America’s founding, the virtue of America’s heroes, and the nobility of the American character. We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms, and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country. We want our sons and daughters to know that they are the citizens of the most exceptional nation in the history of the world.’

Boilerplate? Maybe, but forthright boilerplate as the bit about the ‘twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms’ shows.


Maybe there is precedent for a president wading into the murky waters of left-wing academic rhetoric, but I cannot think of one as explicit and as accurate as this. Adducing the doctrine of critical race theory and some of its operational offshoots like the New York Times-sponsored ‘1619 Project’, Trump said:

‘This is a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed. Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools, it’s being imposed into workplace trainings, and it’s being deployed to rip apart friends, neighbors, and families.’

The journalist Christopher Rufo has exposed the astonishing inroads this doctrine has made into major institutions of the federal government — including the Department of the Treasury, Homeland Security, the FBI, and even the laboratories manufacturing the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Take a peek: you’ll find a cadre of highly paid consultants running consciousness-raising workshops whose constant theme is the perfidiousness of American society, especially its free-market orientation and, most particularly, the white, male actors who have dominated its history.

The President mentioned another example, one recently published by the Smithsonian Institution. ‘This document,’ he noted, ‘alleged that concepts such as hard work, rational thinking, the nuclear family, and belief in God were not values that unite all Americans, but were instead aspects of “whiteness”.’ Don’t believe it? Take a look.

The President is right that such racialist left-wing agitprop is ‘offensive and outrageous to Americans of every ethnicity, and it is especially harmful to children of minority backgrounds who should be uplifted, not disparaged.’ He is also right that ‘teaching this horrible doctrine to our children is a form of child abuse in the truest sense of those words’, for it seeks to rob them of a just appreciation of who they are and the nature of the country of which they are a part.

The gravamen of the President’s observations came towards the end. ‘For many years now,’ he said, ‘the radicals have mistaken Americans’ silence for weakness.’ The flagrant and malevolent nonsense of anti-American proselytizing in our schools, in the country’s corporate culture, even in major government institutions on the federal as well as the state and local level has been growing for years.

But there are many signs, including the announcement of the 1776 Commission, that the conscience of the country is awakening.

What was the response to the President’s initiative? Well, Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s national security adviser, hated it. She said Trump’s address was ‘one of the most astonishing speeches I’ve heard him give. He talks about patriotic education. I thought I was listening to Mao Zedong running Communist China.’

Did she though? According to Rice, ‘We open students’ minds. [Please stop giggling.] We give them facts. We teach them how to analyze. We teach them civics and the foundations of the Constitution.’ Really? Then she said this, which rather gave away the show: ‘When you study the Constitution, which it appears Donald Trump hasn’t, you understand it is a living document that has evolved.’ Thanks, Woodrow, for that civics lesson.

At least we know where we stand.

Meanwhile, Jonah Goldberg weighed in on Twitter with a prediction: ‘A national debate between 1619’s version of history and Trump’s is going to leave a lot of people on the sidelines.’

Here’s my prediction. The President’s 1776 Commission will represent not Trump’s ‘version of history’ but history’s own transcript. That was evident by the authoritative voices represented at the conference on American history that preceded and set the stage for the President’s remarks. It included such eminent scholars as Wilfred McClay, author of Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story (which Susan Rice would probably regard as Maoist because it is patriotic), Allen Guelzo, the great Civil War historian, Peter Wood, director of the National Association of Scholars, and Larry Arnn, the Churchill scholar and president of Hillsdale College.

Doubtless, though, the debate between the 1619ers and those supporting the President’s call to resuscitate patriotic education rightly understood will leave quite a few people on the sidelines. People who write for such left-wing funded outlets like the Bulwark, for example, or Goldberg’s new puppy, the Dispatch. I can already see Jennifer Rubin on the sidelines, right next to Max Boot. And isn’t that David Frum over yonder? Yes, I think so. Quite a little crowd in fact.

That’s the trouble with condescension. You have first to make certain that the people you wish to condescend to are not in fact towering over you, oblivious to your contempt. I’m afraid that Jonah Goldberg neglected to take this precaution.

This article was originally published on American Greatness.

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