Texans are revising history – Jamestown colonists were socialists; Thomas Jefferson is less important than Phyllis Schlafly; America’s founding fathers were Christians without a commitment to the separation of church and state; no Hispanics fought in the Alamo for independence; the Bush administration never said Iraqi oil would pay for the war; and Ken Starr is the model for churchmanship.
Over the past several weeks, conservative Texans have been recreating reality.
They have replaced the time-honored concept that “the truth will set you free” for the dishonorable practice of fudging facts to fit a fictional fantasy upon which to frame the future.
Review what Texans have said and done:
Former Texas Congressman Dick Armey said on Monday at the National Press Club, “Jamestown colony, when it was first founded as a socialist venture, dang near failed with everybody dead and dying in the snow.”
Of course, the founders of socialism did not start cranking out manifestos for another 200 years in reaction to industrial capitalism. But revisionists are more interested in scoring ideological points than honoring facts.
The factually uninhibited Armey went on to claim that the Federalist Papers inspired the Tea Party patriots. A member of the audience questioned that claim, noting that Alexander Hamilton, the primary contributor, favored a centralized government.
Armey dismissed such a view of Hamilton, asking if it came from “modern ill-informed political science professors.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Karl Rove, a long-time Texas operative, denied that the Bush administration believed that Iraqi oil would pay for the Iraq War.
Rove’s revisionism conveniently ignored the statement by a leading Department of Defense official, who said oil revenues could pay for the war costs.
“The oil revenue of that country could bring between $50 billion and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years. We’re dealing with a country that could really finance its own reconstruction,” said Paul Wolfowitz.
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer made a similar statement a month before the war’s launch, saying that Iraq could “shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction.”
Is it odd that Rove could have forgotten those statements, having just finished writing a 600-page book about his White House years?
Last week, the Texas Board of Education went to great lengths to downplay the significance of Thomas Jefferson, Hispanics and the separation of church and state. The board went to great lengths to play up the importance of Jefferson Davis, Phyllis Schlafly, white conservative Americans and the NRA. Such revisionism fits the fantasy worldview of the majority of board members who want history to say that America is a conservative Christian nation.
“We are adding balance,” said Don McLeroy, a dentist and board member who believes the earth is less than 10,000 years old. “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.”
Within the last month, Baylor University’s regents and presidential advisory committee members presented Ken Starr as the institution’s president, pitching him as an outstanding Christian leader and an active churchman, two counts of fudging the facts. They revised Starr’s record to fit their fictional fantasy.
If one believed in the dark angel of conspiracy, one would think that a conservative Texas cabal had hatched a collective plot to revise everything to the current day.
However, one doesn’t need to connect the dots to know that some folk are engaging in a revisionism – revisionism that is harmful to a public square resting on the pillars of truth.
It would certainly not be the first time that conservative Texans transformed facts into fiction to frame the future.
Texans who mess with truth ought to remember the warning from two poets:
First is William Cullen Bryant, who penned, “Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again.”
Second is James Russell Lowell, who wrote:
“Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide. In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side … Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand…? Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ’tis Truth alone is strong … Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne. Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch over his own.”
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.