Junk American History Threatens America

History is important. Right now it seems a lot of our national issues stem from forgetting history.

Take Christian Nationalism. Sarah Posner has a piece at TPM on the The Key Ingredients Of Christian Nationalism. A big chunk of the Republican Party, plus a majority of Supreme Court justices, are determined to erase separation of church and state based on a mythical version of U.S. history. Here’s something I wrote elsewhere recently on The Myth of the Christian Nation that explains the actual history.

Easily verifiable fact: The guys who wrote the Constitution deliberately made it non-religious. And they deprived the federal government of the power to recognize a state religion or favor one religion over another deliberately in order to avoid the dangers of religious factionalism. They remembered Europe’s devastating religious wars, in which soldiers and civilians slaughtered each other over whether nations would be Protestant or Catholic.

A book I read recently,  Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding (Oxford University Press, 2015) by Steven K. Green, documents that the “Christian Nation” myth began in the early 19th century. “In short, the idea of America’s religiously inspired founding was a consciously created myth constructed by the second generation of Americans in their quest to forge a national identity, one that would reinforce their ideals and aspirations for the new nation,” Green writes. This coincided with the Second Great Awakening (roughly, 1795 to 1835), which was a period of Protestant revivalism that spread everywhere. Most of American-style evangelicalism was a product of the Second Great Awakening.

At the New York Times today, Rep. Jamie Raskin has a piece explaining that the 2nd Amendment does not protect a right to overthrow the government. No paywall. This is worth reading.

As the historian Garry Wills long ago explained: “A people can overthrow a government it considers unjust. But it is absurd to think that it does so by virtue of that unjust government’s own authority. The appeal to heaven is an appeal away from the earthly authority of the moment, not to that authority.”

Junk science and junk history do real damage. I’m not even going into the whitewashing of slavery and the Civil War here, because I’ve ranted about those enough in the past. I am saying that getting history right needs to be a priority.

12 thoughts on “Junk American History Threatens America

  1. Garry Wills wrote probably the best treatment of the Second Amendment in his article, "To Keep and Bear Arms", which appears in the September 21, 1995 issue of the New York Review of Books. He recapped many of his points in the book A Necessary Evil, which was published by Simon & Schuster in 1999. Having done a fair amount of research, and writing, on the Second Amendment myself, I have relied on Wills' work many, many times.

    Our modern "militias" are legally no different from armed street gangs, and should be accorded no legitimacy whatsoever. The Constitutional militia is today what we call the National Guard, along with a very few state-chartered militias. These forces are government agencies. they are addressed explicitly in the United States Constitution, which defines the purpose of the militia is "to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions". So, clearly not to engage in insurrection, which is literally treason.

    There is a real, lethal threat from the informal, non-government "militias", one which must be recognized and countered vigorously. The states do have anti-paramilitary statutes. It's past time they enforced them. 

  2. MAGA Patriot's POV:

    What, but glorious VICTORY, is there in our history?

    From the Revolution until today, the US was victorious in every war!!

    From the total surrender of the Afghans, back to the North Vietnamese, and before that, the North Koreans, back through World Two and World War One, to our Civil War, is there is nothing but victory!

    Ok, ONE side kinda lost, but let's call it a tie!

    So we're "Undefeated," with one tie 167 years ago.


  3. I'm trying to remember the source…. fiction I think, where the king is explaining that revolution is a violation of the law, the authority of the king himself, and a sin against God. The person conversing with the king points out there is one exception. The king asks what that might be. "If you win." 

    An insurrection that succeeds is called a revolution and is always recorded by the victors as justified. An insurrection that fails is always a crime. Only in the US do insurrectionists who lose pretend they have the protection of the Constitution. Shay's rebellion was quelled on Washington's watch. Doesn't that give you a hint where the founders stood?

    I'm personally convinced that a large number of the J6 insurrectionists told their lawyers that "patriotic" intentions entitled them to the J6 riot. And I suspect the lawyers explained the only way that defense could be offered is if the client was going to represent himself. 

    Last I heard,  DOJ has not lost a single J6 case that went to trial. Over 900 people have been charged and the investigation continues. Hundreds have pleaded guilty to settle and escape the federal grinder. It's hard to evaluate how much of a dent the arrests have made but a few have earned sentences of several years. Trump is teasing pardons for "some" of the J6 rioters – IMO, to prevent ignorant rubes from getting off the Trump train. Trump has not lost much support since J6 but he has not gained ANY more support according to all polls. 

    Trump seems to have turned hard into publicly embracing the "Q" crowd even in one of the recent rallies. Previously it was a wink/nod relationship. Now it's a public hug. This will have the desired effect of consolidating the support of loyal (potentially violent) lunatics but independent conservative-leaning voters are not impressed (if polls are correct. Opposition to Trump is growing.)  What that means is that Trump can not win an election (by votes or even the EC) but Trump may be planning a coup to coincide with the 2024 election. (if he can stay out of jail that long.)

    Trump is looking at the virtual certainty of multiple charges, some criminal, in multiple jurisdictions, some federal but also NY and maybe GA. I think Trump's lawyers are working to offer some defense to a jury that might work, but Trump has decided that criminal cases must not go to a jury. And no lawyer is going to be able to prevent that – so Trump is trying to appeal to the mob. (Opinion.) 

    This is where the collision between junk history and reality will define US history in the next few years. I do not think the insurrectionists have the military power – the question is whether their awareness of that weakness will discourage what Trump wants to incite. If/when Trump fails, he will deliberately try to bring down the GOP – that may be his greatest contribution to history.

    • The insurrection may yet be declared a revolution.

      The Supremes are going to be hearing the North Carolina case that wants to make Legislatures the lone determiners of who gets a state's electoral votes for president.  That the Supremes are even giving the crackpot theory a hearing is deeply concerning. 

      The Supremes already ruled that virtually any amount of republican gerrymandering is constitutional.  They could be poised to rule that voters and state governors and state Constitutions are not relevant to electoral college vote.  Could our country ever recover a democracy from republican gerrymandering controlling the electoral college?

  4. The old classic:

    "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

    Eric Blair, AKA George Orwell.

    That is the template for the single party fascist state, amirite?

    It is critical to remind the manipulated masses to identify the sources and the veracity of the information we receive. 

    That's the other part of the First Amendment.



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