The future will be written by committee. In Texas.

Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.
- Edward R. Murrow

It is troublesome to think that anyone would take what is known as historical truth – truth being a slippery word and all that, but still something which is verifiable and non-dynamic in nature as viewed from a historical context – and defy it, defile it, or just sweep it away for the sake of convenience.

Troublesome. Or flagrant imbecility.

To this point, I give you Texas. A maverick kind of place, always making a turn East when everyone else turns West, North, or South; constantly making noises about seceding from the union; a place where people tend to ignore what's written in legal terms and just shoot people who break the law; the North American death penalty theme park; a place where people, from my limited experience due to visits, are sometimes really as nice as rumor has it. That is, unless they get mad at you, and then it's a bullet to the head or lethal injection, but that's a silly digression: I have been in a Texas bar in the company of locals who bought me beer because “You're Californian? Well hell, I always wanted to learn to surf, and the waves here in the gulf ain't shit. Ever had Shiner Bock?”

That's pretty nice.

Do I have to assume, however, that they are all stupid as well? I mean, tarring the entire state with one brush is never a good idea, but I just have to wonder: who the bloody fucking hell thinks it's a good idea to rewrite history?

From the AP: “The partisan board has amended or watered down the teaching of the civil rights movement, slavery, America's relationship with the U.N. and hundreds of other items. ... They dictate how political events and figures will be taught to some 4.8 million schoolchildren in Texas and beyond for the next decade.”

The term “watered down” implied a little over-editorializing and I'll ignore that. The term “amended”, though, is a fighting word. As in amended history. Really.

Now I want to say that I understand that people want to view history in easy to digest black and white tones, or sort it out – especially in textbooks – to hit the high spots and gloss over the trivial, or seemingly trivial, stuff. During my illustrious career as a high school failure I was educated with a history book which mentioned not a single word about the Korean conflict. Nothing. Zip. Zero. WWII to Viet Nam, which was recent enough, I suspected later, to be unavoidably memorable, thus impossible to wash off. Korea was a throwaway war, and we only had 600 pages, so...

This creepy bullshit in Texas, though, isn't an attempt to abridge history: it is an attack on the truth, a rewording of well worn fact, and in the end it is clearly a goddamn Christian-based abomination for the sake of promoting an agenda.

And, moreover, it is an act of flagrant and disgusting cowardice.

I do not like to think about, say, Manzanar. Bleak and embarrassing period in the history of this country, and I like to think a lesson was learned from it, but like most kids educated in the 70's I was told Manzanar, Gila River; all the interment camps were clean, humane, safe, and humanitarian places. Later, history showed (and we were all told) they were filthy, abusive, and bloody awful, but “...not nearly as bad as the Nazi concentration camps,” and if that wasn't good enough we were all told the Japanese interred there were treated “...much better than American POW's were.”

True or false isn't the issue - lets face it: not much can be said in favor of Nazi concentration camps – but Americans need to be told Manzanar was “better” than Dachau? Was it? Was it not? Regardless, the comparison is stupid, irrelevant, and divisive: it happened, it was as bad as it was, and in the end the comparison doesn't matter.

And then, since any idiot (other than Hannity and Beck) knows better than to use the Nazi card, the “we treat our prisoners better than they treat their prisoners” argument is equally specious and stupid: we needn't compare, we should simply do the right thing or have it know, like Abu Graib, right?

Whatever, history was used during my youth as a tool to carry the government's message: America is great, America is kind, America is good, except when we're which case we are.

In hindsight, these examples are redolent of this putrid assholery in Texas to me: cowardice at it's best. Inconvenient truths (I'm not fond of Al Gore, but that phrase works well here) take explanation, and are best avoided altogether. The writings and history which is being putrefied in Texas school books and impede a movement's ability to call America a “Christian” nation (which it isn't) require explanations which the bible evidently does not easily overcome, therefore this pack of dim-witted, cowardly, and vile politico-religious fuckers opted to delete and rewrite those meddlesome snippets of history, rather than face it head on. It is the nature of the human animal, in the end, to cower in fear of that which can defeat us, to cover our eyes when there's a monster in the closet, to whistle past the graveyard.

Me, I want to think Texans in general are made of better stuff than that. Yippie-ki-yay, motherfuckers.


  1. Oh poor 'Cat. Texans in general really ARE made of better stuff than that. Like any state, they have their share of assholes, it's true, but Texans who are FROM Texas and have some history there are pretty much good people.

    Ok. Maybe they have MORE than their fair share of assholes. I've never seen worse racism. Anywhere. It's revolting. I was utterly shocked, for example, when I was at a Clinique counter at a Dillard's one day restocking on face scrub and a woman asked the lady that was waiting on me when someone who "specialized in white skin" would be there.

    Now, the clerk froze. She visibly collected herself and told the obnoxious snot-rag of a thirty-something bleached blond (there is no other kind in Texas) that she was speaking to the manager and perhaps the counter in Nordstrom's would better suit her needs.

    This is only an example. Things like that happen all the time there, and you hear this retrograde bullshit from people who really should know better. Then again, this is also a state where universities are actually proud to be known as places where the bibsy-boopsies can go to get Mrs. degrees.

    The school curriculum battles there are legendary. The present revisionist bullcrap has been going on since before the end of WWII. Sadly, Texas is also the single largest buyer of textbooks in the country. This means that ONE STATE influences the curricula of all the others. That has always scared the bejesus out of me.

    Then again, what the hell do we expect from a state whose Legislature sits for a four to six weeks every two years? You heard right, kids. There is no government in session for 98 weeks out of every 104. And then people wonder why it is that nothing ever changes there. Yeesh.

    No one expects anything out of the Texas "government", so they get ignored for years at a time, giving the "vile politico-religious fuckers" a wide open path to do whatever the hell they want and get away with it.

  2. Loud and clear, Messy dearest - there is a stereotype portrayed for most states (with, in my estimation Californians most accurately depicted) and Texas is, in the end, one of those with a relatively positive spin on it's people.

    That textbook exposure, though, is a dangerous thing, and I suspect this is why I learned the Boston Tea Party (yeah, the real one, not that recent fucktardery Glenn Beck invented) were three or four drunk but brave souls dressed in native attire. Not to worry: my English girlfriend's version included actual tarring and feathering and a total repulsion of the Colonials, with nary a leaf of His Majesty's finest Earl Grey meeting the water.

    They control school books there too, of course.

  3. They actually told you about Japanese Internment Camps in high school? They didn't even tell US about the Cuban Missile Crisis!

  4. Schuyler, I'm so glad you picked up on the Texas school board massacre in your inimitable style!

    Do you know they actually took out Jefferson (because of his commie advocacy of separation of church and state!) and replaced him with Phyllis Schlafly (oh me god! I looked her up for the spelling and found out she's still alive!), the gorgon who fought and apparently still is fighting against equal rights for women and spewing hatred for gays, and the UN etc etc etc!

    You know they do exactly the same sort of thing in all dictatorships. A ready recent example is the Soviet Union. People simply stopped believing anything that sounded like an official line. So they became sceptics, but now they're so gullible they believe anything that contradicts the former official line (did you know that even some of Karl Marx's writings were censored in Communist Russia? Could this be the equivalent of the Texas School Board kicking Jefferson out of US history? --but I digress....)

    I've been giving a lot of thought throughout my life to the issue of US internment camps and Nazi extermination camps and I finally concluded they were inextricably linked. To make a long story short, the question my mother used to ask, and that has been asked by many people, is why didn't the Allied bomb the railroad tracks leading to the extermination camps. There are mountains of evidence that our and all the other Allied governments knew full well what was going on.

    So what I think is that the Japanese internment camps and the Nazi concentration camps were part of a single continuum. Hitler was its most extreme point, US Japanese internment camps were half way down the curve but they still shared the fundamental traits that made them elements of the same ideological category. So I think that's why the Allieds didn't bomb the tracks, because deep down the extermination camps were not alien to their thinking....

    I seem to recall that the most conservative members of that Texas school board have been voted out of office but they are finishing their term and taking advantage of the situation to create this mess. I have the highest respect for many Texans who oppose this and love the people of Austin and its university. I suspect that if Texas were to secede from the Union (please hurry!) there would be mass outmigration or worse "ethnic cleansing" of whoever dared mention Jefferson's name...

  5. Messy, not to worry. Other states are actively taking measures to protect their own textbooks from the Texas history massacre, among them California which is also quite a big consumer of textbooks.

    Ultimately, publishers should be the ones to draw the line, but they have all been bought up by megacorporations....

  6. I don't know if it's true, but according to a high school history teacher friend of mine, Texas isn't as in control of textbooks as they used to be. Of course, I live in Virginia so I'm not sure we're much better off...

    I grew up in the midwest and, like you Mr. Cat, we learned not one word about the Korean war. I didn't even know it had happened until after college (where I stayed away from dreaded history). I made a huge idiot of myself in that instance: "Wait. What? What war between WW2 and Viet Nam? Huh?" I wasn't that great shakes in history but for cryin' out loud, you'd think I'd know there was a whole freakig war!!! Sheesh.

  7. Cool one, wow! they didn't even include the Cuban missile crisis in history in your school! No wonder so many people don't seem to know which century they're living in (you know those surveys showing a substantial number of Americans think the Vietnam war happened in the nineteenth century and the Civil War in the twentieth. And now a number of people are being brainwashed to believe that it's FDR who caused the Great Depression...., not to mention the old canard that slaves enjoyed slavery, etc etc etc). So no wonder people have stopped being afraid of "the bomb"!

    I remember it as if it were yesterday. My boyfriend and I had stopped the car to listen to JFK on the radio. We thought the world was going to end.

    It turned out that the president's US military advisers were advising him to "bomb bomb bomb Cuba". Luckily JFK had learned not to believe them after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.... Probably the same thing went on in Kruschev's mind.... so it came down to two individuals whether the world would keep on existing --- terrifying and tragically absurd! Our species is obviously totally nuts!

  8. Oh dear! I didn't know they'd dropped the Korean war out of US history books. How is that even possible when many of its vets are still among us....

    Is that why Palin was surprised to hear about the reason for it being a North and a South Korea?

  9. Kati - funny you should mention the publishers. I worked for a textbook publisher for about a year, (a bunch of years ago) and you'd be surprised at how they work.

    At that time, Texas was the be-all and end-all goal of ALL school book publishers. They had (and still have) the single biggest trade show in the world ALL related to K-12 books for schools. If Texas bought your book, then you had it made.

    Because of that, every line of every Texas curriculum had to be memorized. Every line and every photo of every book had to be parsed and compared just so nothing could offend Texas. It was bizarre (ok, I thought so because I had to do it) and almost doubled the amount of time it took to get a book to the printer.

    Millions of dollars were at stake ever year - all it took was one guy from Texas or California to give a book a thumbs-up and that was it. The parties that the publishers threw were obscene. Alcohol ran like the Amazon. Anything anyone could do to impress that ONE GUY could be arranged.

    Now, most of what we did was aimed at Canadian curricula. There were a couple of books every once in a while that we had to set up for Texas, though and it was a nightmare. Thankfully I wasn't heavily involved in them.

    I can't believe things have changed that much. The money is too big, for one thing. If you ask any publisher, even the small ones, they'll tell you that there's no profit in books that are only going to be sold to one district or even ten. 50 000 copies would be a bare minimum and that would be too slim a margin to bother with.

  10. ... and don't even talk to me about geography. Americans have become a laughing stock around the world (particularly among our Canadian friends) for not knowing where anything is. My geography professor friend keeps on pulling his hair out of desperation with each new Geography 101 class; "those kids have no idea where they are!"

  11. Messy, you're very right. The K-12 textbook publishing industry does need Texas. At the same time, Texas also needs textbooks. So that might give publishers a bit of leverage, assuming they have an ounce of integrity and gumption left....

  12. So long is history is interpreted by human beings, it will all be considered revisionist one way or another. I was reading survivor interviews from The Titanic a while ago - no matter how cute Leo and Kate were in the movie, each of ten survivors interviewed gave different - and occasionally startlingly different - accounts of events that night. Happens.

    The reduction of Thomas Jefferson and inclusion of Phyllis Schlafly is a goddamn abomination upon humanity, a sickening perversion of this species, and deeply, grossly cowardly in every conceivable way.

  13. Oh Great 'Cat, I agree. Do you have any of that bourbon left?

  14. Nopers. Glugged that down right quick after I got it!

  15. Hmmm. Well, we'll have to do something about that, won't we?

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  17. (Ooops, too many typos! So I'll start again)

    Me too! Well just thinking about this made me eat the rest of the chocolate chips --why bother putting them in cookies! I was off chocolate for 10 days but those Texas twirps pushed me off the wagon!

    I first had my nose rubbed in about how history changes from the present back in time when I did an MA thesis about the Journal of Gabriel Franchere, a fur trader ca 1812 who went down the Columbia river. The guy carefully recorded his longitudes and latitudes every time they made a stop.

    The journal was translated and edited a number of times but finally I got hold of the brand new ultra scholarly genuine true to the original version. NOw what happened is that Franchere described some waterfalls but they didn't match his longitude and latitude. So this eminent scholar added a footnote stating that Franchere wasn't where he thought he was because he was at Klamath Falls, the only place with falls on the lower Columbia.

    I was most impressed even though I wondered how this scholar knew this. Well as I got a copy of the original ms. and I studied all the different versions I found out the following: one of Franchere's nineteenth century translators added a waterfall to a landscape description because it made the text more interesting, or he got carried away, or was nutso. Later on, scholars went to look for that inmaginary waterfall and ended up finding it! Ah history!

    I translated a book by my favorite historian Georges Duby called The Battle of Bouvines. He told the story of a 1212 battle that used to be famous in French history and of its avatars through time.

    First he went back to the orginal sources so we do know it was a battle between the French king and some of his nobles against some other feudal lords. There were 3 casualties and a number of prisoners held for ransom as was the custom of the time.

    But the battle changed through time. It became one between the French and the German, then between the French and the English, and at some point between the people and feudal lords, or between the people and the monarchy... The number of casualties went up and down like a yoyo: hundreds then thousands then down again etc...

    This battle used to be famous in French history. Every year it was celebrated with great pomp and lots and lots of boring speeches in all French towns and cities. And then, after WWII, it suddenly dropped out of sight and out of the textbooks... (is this what's happening to the Korean war?).

    The reasons are complex, or perhaps arbitrary... who knows? The interesting thing is that these transormations are themselves part of history. However, there is a core of information that reamains stable (Duby looked for it). The king Philippe is still the same and so is the locale and other details. In spite of everything, we do have stable landmarks in our history and Jefferson is sure one of them!

    (sorry the chocolate made my brain go in overdrive --I'll better stop while I'm behind or there won't be any room left in cyberspace).

  18. shit more typos! I meant "transformations" of course....

  19. Greetings all! Two quick things. I have always coached my daughter and her friends to answer "Thomas Jefferson" to ANY US history question to which they don't know the answer. I've promised that they'll be correct over 50% of the, and, I swear, they've all reported success in using this strategy! He was so incredibly important to our history, but, his Deist and Separation doctrine ways have bought him out of the books. Sad, sad day.

    Also, though, the point about TX influence. It actually IS quite a bit less than it has been in the past due to computerization of the publication process! Where once a run of books had to be typeset and processed and to change them was rather a lengthy and time-consuming process, the change can now happen mid-run, at any time, with the simple updating of the electrons! Just as easy as cutting and pasting. So, though TX is still a huge customer, their influence over the rest of the country's textbooks is far less powerful than it was. Which is good news! :-)