Bill Clinton had a number of cowardly moments, but one that really stuck in my craw was the whole “didn’t inhale” garbage. The first POTUS to admit he was going to let the powerless rot in jail for ages because of a harmless “crime” he had committed himself. That’s a new level of hypocrisy and indifference to the weak.
I fell short when I forgot that there was a confessed tyrannical agenda behind these irrational “wars.” And I see how it worked. Operating in total ignorance, my parents thought maryjuana was Satan incarnated in a plant.
“America has horrid sclotches of bigotry and oppression in its history — King Donald is more American than you want to admit.” This is of course another “normalizer” notion, but even as a critique of this country it’s lazy and outright evil. “We never live up to our ideals so let’s just wallow in the dark side.” Not unlike claiming that because Germany gave in to Nazis they are Nazis today.
This Michael Eric Dyson essay is essential reading. I remember coming across the LBJ quote when it was recent and thinking “So THAT explains it.” Why in the hell was I not hearing that in my classroom rather than “Mumble, mumble, slavery was wrong and evil but it was a long time ago and if we aren’t having race riots in town here you don’t have to worry about it.” Unfortunate traces of that “lesson” explains why I was so shocked at the blatant bigotry I encountered in Boston: the metropolitans were supposed to be more sophisticated, not more bestial.
Sometimes you know full well the topics of history you were not taught properly. Even as a young teen I knew I’d gotten miserable explanations of race and Commie hysteria in America. But other items loom large only later — much later, maybe.
I understood that Warren Harding was the worst POTUS of the 20th century. A genuine diddling doofus. However, the overall thrust of the lesson was: “Boy, was that ever an embarrassment. But don’t worry, it will never happen again.” Only reservation I had back then was that I had an unsatisfactory sense of how he got in the office. If it could never happen again, though, that wasn’t so important.
One aspect I did grasp (I have not done any additional research other than my grade-school history-class memories) suggests some parallels with Bush Jr.: the Roaring 20s were never going to end and times were so good who cared who was Prez? But the side of things I wish had been filled in more was that Republican corruption was out of control and Harding was selected as the tool least likely to do anything about it. And (like Unca Ronnie) he looked real Presidential. That’s exactly why the multiple corruption investigations seem so on-target and so many GOPers are tolerating outrageous nonsense: they know today’s Teapot is about to boil.
I have to quote this sentiment which articulates a tormented feeling I’ve had for ages and ages:
There are a lot of dangers to self-government, and one of those dangers that’s done a lot of damage in my lifetime has been the feeling that the American people are such fragile ornaments that we don’t dare risk telling them the truth of something lest they fall to the floor and shatter to pieces.