Monday Reads: To War or Not to War, That is the QuestionPosted: February 21, 2022
Good Day Sky Dancers!
Today is President’s Day which is basically the day we celebrate the myths of the men holding the position. While I intend to focus on the Ukraine situation, I did trip across this article in Politico that made me wonder if we should just call the entire holiday off. It’s like Colombus day which basically celebrates the invasion of a mass murderer, enslaver, and rapist so evil that his royal funders refused to pay him on his return. I shudder at the thought of celebrating a holiday that includes that orange monster that we can’t seem to get rid of and then the other racists and mass murderers that need a good bit of daylight to show who they were and what they did. Andrew Jackson–the mass murderer and originator of the Trail of Tears–comes to mind. Then, there the huge number of slave owners we have white washed and basically say it was okay for them to own people including their own children.
“It’s Time To Cancel Presidents Day. By elevating myth over reality, the holiday does a disservice to history.” The article is printed in Politico and penned by John F Harris.
Long-forgotten lives, like the dozens of people killed in the Tulsa race massacre, are being vaulted into public consciousness. More controversially, people who long enjoyed revered status in the national story are being dethroned as national heroes.
Historical reappraisal has been especially vigorous in a particular arena: the U.S. presidency. Woodrow Wilson, a president whose reputation among many historians placed him in the ranks of “near-great” leaders, has in recent years become toxic because of new attention to his deeply prejudiced racial views.
On the other hand, it is still treacherous to take on presidents of Rushmore-sized stature. Liberal San Francisco voters recently evicted school board members whom they judged too preoccupied with left-wing advocacy, including efforts to rename public schools honoring George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.
The presidency itself, like so many aspects of American culture, is now in the middle of ideological crossfire between left and right. Is there a way that the center can find its voice in arguments about the presidency?
Yes, there is. A good way to start would be to cancel the day we mark today: “Presidents Day.”
One hastens to add: The aim is not to “cancel,” in the contemporary sense of the word, any particular president. Lincoln and Washington — the two presidents most closely linked with Presidents Day — face stiff challenges when judged by contemporary standards, but they aren’t the targets here. Instead, it is the notion of Presidents Day — an inane name for a dubious concept that is less a show of genuine respect for American history than an insult to it.
The problems with Presidents Day are intertwined with a basic challenge of how Americans think about their history — or, really, how the people of any country think about their national story. There are two conceptions of what it means to learn history — always in tension with each other, and sometimes in flat contradiction.
The other conception of history is something quite different — a disciplined effort to reconstruct the past as it actually happened. This enterprise relies on evidence that is always fragmentary and on interpretive arguments that are never settled with finality. This brand of history aims to liberate its audience from national mythologies, and its characters are not marble heroes. They can suffer from bad tempers, diarrhea, self-doubt — the last entirely justified, given that, unlike people who will later study their histories, they have no idea what’s about to happen next, or how their decisions will look in hindsight.
So while one style of history studies the past in search of moral clarity, the other is attuned to moral ambiguity. One kind of history aims to create national heroes. The other kind — even when it is not expressly aimed at demolishing heroes — can’t help but dismantle the reputations of presidents and other outsize figures, revealing all manner of unheroic traits.
A brand of history that embraces reality over myth, and ambiguity over sharp moral judgments over heroes and villains, ultimately offers far more useful lessons for a democracy.
The author goes on to deconstruct the relevancy of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches in the modern world. It seems that a large number of people prefer propaganda and myth to history. The current kerfuffle over Critical Race theory is just one of the attempts by people that lack critical thinking skills to cover up the sins of their fathers. Here’s a brief introduction to the topic from last May’s EducationWeek. Laws banning this in Louisiana are currently being hyped in our Lege.
Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.
The basic tenets of critical race theory, or CRT, emerged out of a framework for legal analysis in the late 1970s and early 1980s created by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado, among others.
A good example is when, in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas.
I have no idea what’s threatening about this. I have said this many times, that I am really fortunate to have a mother who was a history buff and put us in the station wagon to discover the reality of American History. This included the Trail of Tears and where I was born in Oklahoma on the Cherokee strip and the mass murder and theft of Native lands that all ensued. When she was doing our family genealogy in the 1970s she made it clear that there were slave owners in the family and would bring the copies of the original documents to show me. She was always clear that our family’s Civil war Soldiers stood firmly with the Union but one after another shocking relative was not whitewashed including the one that signed the Constitution and wrote the Fugitive slave act. My Harvard-educated uncle helped write and defend the policy of Japanese-American internment and as a kid, I witnessed my Public school-educated father ask him how on earth he could do that. My dinner table and vacations were always deep dives into American history and I never suffered any complex at all from knowing the truths even at a very tender age. It just made me aware of the reality to choose good actions over evil. Then–if you can–work to unroot all the evil from the system.
So, now the choice is yet another war in Europe and the role NATO will play in restraining or punishing Putin of Russia. BBC News newly reports that “Ukraine-Russia: Putin mulls recognising independence of breakaway regions.”
Russia will decide today whether to recognise the independence of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has said.The Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been contested by Ukraine and Russia-backed rebels for years, with regular violence despite a ceasefire agreement.
Leaders of both regions asked Russia to recognise their independence on Monday.
But Western powers fear such a move could be used as a pretext for Russia to invade its neighbour
Since 2019, Russia has issued large numbers of passports to people living in the two regions.
Analysts say that if the two regions were recognised as independent, Russia might send troops into Ukraine’s east under the guise of protecting its citizens.
Russia has built up more than 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, a move which has widely been seen by Western nations as preparation for an imminent invasion. Russia denies any such plans.
“The objective of our meeting today is to listen to colleagues and decide on our next steps in this area,” Mr Putin said.
“I mean both the appeal to Russia made by the heads of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic for the recognition of their sovereignty,” he added.
Several officials at the council meeting spoke up in favour of the move, and the Russian parliament has already asked Mr Putin to recognise their independence.
But the Russian President did not indicate his final decision, saying it would be made later Monday.
This quote is from the Harwood tweet above from CNN.
“Ultimately Putin wants some kind of deal,” Hill said. “They think Biden is the kind of president who could actually make a deal. Trump never could.”
So far, Biden has held NATO allies together in rejecting Russia’s core demands, bolstering their forces in Europe and threatening punishing sanctions even though they guarantee domestic economic blowback. Steeped in decades of bipartisan foreign policy consensus, the Democratic President has also drawn support from top Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who have shunned Trump’s embrace of Putin.
That demonstration of resolve has at minimum made Putin stop and think. Biden has warned for weeks that Russia could launch a new invasion of Ukraine at any time. It hasn’t yet.
“They might have thought we were going to crumble, and we didn’t,” said Hill, who became an American citizen twenty years ago. “It might have deterred a full-scale invasion. Now (Putin) is basically recalibrating, recalculating.”
But durable success for Biden and European allies will depend on staying power. Even if Russian tanks don’t roll across the border, Hill envisions an extended “boa constrictor” siege in which Putin applies escalating pressure in hopes of bending Ukraine to Russia’s will.
“The real challenge is keeping everyone together for a considerable period,” Hill concluded. “It’s going to go on a long time.”
The Guardian reports a different view from the Defense Secretary of the UK.
The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, has warned of continued provocation operations orchestrated by the Kremlin, describing them as a ‘strong cause for concern that President Putin is still committed to an invasion’. Speaking to MPs in the House of Commons, Wallace said Russia continues to be ready to attack Ukraine and has increased troop numbers in the region
The next few days of news on the subject should further clarify our risk for a ground war in Europe.
Hope your week goes well!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?