Tim McMullen's Missives and Tomes

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Teddy's Legacy—Taking Back the "L" word—A response

MarieDNC posted a fine piece called "On Sticks and Stones and Mincing Words..." on the Democratic Party Blog. What follows is my comment—

Dear MarieDNC—

You make excellent and important points. When Rush Limbaugh first began gaining traction, my phone machine message recited the definition of the word "liberal" and made the declaration that we need millions more, not less, of them (I don't mean to diminish your sentiment; I really do think that the lowly phone message can be a powerful tool for pithy, philosophical or political statements to friends and strangers).

You also tackle the absurd subversion of language and ideology that has execrated socialism, and you have succeeded in identifying the root cause of its defamation, ignorance.

In many ways, this country was founded on socialist principles, before such an ideology was articulated as an "ism." The idea that community mattered, and that one was not alone in this world, were the underpinnings of many of the various societies that sprang up. And the idea was manifested in community activities from barn raisings and church socials to tithing and civic zeal.

This social conscience and social duty was, of course, mixed with a spirit of rugged individualism, due in part to the nature of the wilderness being faced. However, individualism and independence were not generally equated with personal aggrandizement. In fact, aristocratic wealth and abusive greed were most vilified. America's first great literary artist, Washington Irving, wrote, with vicious glee in "The Devil and Tom Walker," of the greedy and miserly; he made the point that all the wealthy businessmen, religious hypocrites, slave holders, and money lenders were the Devil's people and doing old Scratch's bidding.

It was not really until the mid-1800's with the slaveholding aristocracy, quickly followed by the late 1800's Robber Barons and the rise of "Big Business" that we began to get the mantra of "free market capitalism" being perpetrated on the public (Thoreau's brief foray into "anti-government" sentiment notwithstanding).

Even the conviction that business could do whatever it wanted and that government had no right to interfere was never seriously entertained by the populace, and worker's movements began to emerge almost immediately to counter the abuses of economic power. After relatively few years of unfettered industry, another Teddy, Teddy Roosevelt, ushered in the "square-deal" and its recognition that business must be controlled. His populism was replaced with boosterism and Coolidge's "The business of America is business," followed very quickly by the great depression and our relapse into "socialism," i.e., that the government and business have "social" responsibility, with FDR.

The rabid zeal of the "new" free-marketers was fueled by Ronald Reagan's myopic anti-communism, and therefore, his natural affinity for Milton Friedman's despicable philosophy which claimed that any hint that a corporation has any social responsibility is SOCIALISM. The deregulation wave started under Reagan and perpetuated by both the Democrats and the Republicans has clearly lead us to our current series of economic debacles.

We must reintroduce the principle of "principles" in our public discourse and in our solutions to public problems. The socialism of "social good" must be resurrected. The frustration that offered Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama as alternatives to "business as usual" and the "hope" that propelled Obama into the presidency need to be empowered to take back our language from the double-speak of right-wing think tanks and "death (panel) squads" and demand that our politicians care more for the public, for their true constituents, than for the conscienceless, corporate criminals bankrolling their next run (too harsh? Nope, too true!)

One last point, as much as I enjoyed your posting, I do think one point of clarification needs to be made. When you put down that plastic card, and the pharmacist hands you your prescription, it wasn't free! I know that you know this, but I think in these times, it's important to not allow our thinking to be assailable, even on nit-picking grounds. A social solution is not "free," but a system that recognizes health care, for example, as a right rather than a privilege, is eminently more equitable and, ultimately, more efficient, than the "for-profit," market-driven, "our client is the enemy of our profit" system that we now have in America.

To honor both Teddy's, two of the greatest statesmen America has ever known and two men who exemplified the meaning of the word LIBERAL, we must increase our efforts to accomplish justice in this country and the world.

The greatest threat to democracy is hypocrisy!
Seek Truth! Speak Truth!

Tim McMullen

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rules for the First Day of School and the Rest of Your Life

Thanks, Paula. I actually had a great day. I got to listen to me talk (which if you've read any of my blogs or comments or seen my videos, you can tell I love to do) and played stuff and read stuff that made them laugh...and hopefully think.

I spend one minute on my class rules, which I argue are actually rules for success in school...in sports…in work...in relationships...in life.

There are only six;

Common Sense
Self Control

They are easy to understand, but hard to consistently execute.

And I only have a few Things That They Have to Learn to do better than they do at present:

Think—Read—Think—Listen—Think—Talk—Think—Write—Think! That's it!

Some would find it hard to believe and others would find it appalling, but I truly don’t care what they end up thinking as long as they end up with the tools and the willingness to figure out what it is that they actually think and understand why they think it.

My Class Slogans and Posters
I have a nice 13”x19” Epson printer, so they look pretty cool—
(All the images are mine, as are the slogans, unless otherwise noted):

Why be Normal? (a bumper sticker in the 70’s—
but it was mine before I saw the sticker)

The Trouble with Normal is it Always Gets Worse! (Bruce Cockburn)

Their Brains Were Small So They Died! (from a song by Mark Graham)
Ignorance is Weakness—Knowledge is Power! (Tim McMullen)

Face It—Ignorance is NOT a Marketable Skill! [Fox News not withstanding]
(Tim McMullen)

Envy is Ignorance…Imitation is Suicide (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Trust Thyself! (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Tomorrow is Forever and Forever is Now! (Tim McMullen)

Don’t Be Afraid! (Tim McMullen)

The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth! (Tim McMullen)

As I said, I had fun. I hope the students enjoyed their day as well.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Setting the Standard, Being the Standard Bearer, Rejecting Standardization

This was intended as a response to a comment that Craig Bickhardt made on my previous blog post, but blogger wouldn't take it (maybe it was too long). As I was composing it, I realized that it would be my new blog post, so here it is.

Craig, thanks for commenting.

Speaking of keeping in touch with the past, tomorrow I have a new Junior English class that I have not taught in about fifteen years; i.e., before the "standards" movement. It's supposed to mean that kids meet certain standards, but what it really means is that curriculum is standardized (read, teacher proof). I have spent nearly forty years designing my own curriculum, and since it is American literature, much of it is in the public domain, so about seventy percent of what my American Studies Honors students read and work with is a list of stories, poems, and essays that I have personally organized to help them make sense of American literature, history, art, and philosophy.

I guarantee that my curriculum is far superior and more cogent than the haphazard and piecemeal textbook designed to address "standards" and not the story of American storytelling and thinking.

So, tomorrow, I am reviving an introductory unit that I used to do with my freshman (fifteen years ago). It is comedians on education:
the brilliant Gallagher, with his analysis of the absurdities of the English language and the stifling of imagination and innovation through "education": "We go to school to learn to communicate and they tell you to sit there and shut up!"; George Carlin on being the class clown; an excerpt from a Woody Allen movie in which the model child and other of his ten-year old classmates explain where they are now twenty-years later; and Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci with his "Five-Minute University," everything you will remember from college five years after graduating. Finally, they will read Robert Fulgham's "Everything I needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten."

They will actually take brief notes on the main point of each of these pieces, then they will write a brief reflection about any one or more of the points made in any of these pieces and what they think school and education actually means in their lives.

I know that I promised to use your blog and song, "The Real Game," on the first day, but I am waiting a day or two before I go even further and challenge the carefully honed, corporate constructed, Jerry Springer, Big Brother, American Idol, Faux News fantasy world of "reality-shows" and ask them to examine reality. It's not really in the textbooks either, but I have found it in your blog, and I will be sharing it in the hopes of preventing a "failure of imagination generation."

Oops, now I'm going to be late for work. I said that I would probably be laying off on the blogging and the videos once school started, but it hasn't happened yet. Oh, well, like I said, kids (and reality) don't get here until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Singin' the Blues about the Wayward Wind down in El Paso

Craig Bickhardt, on his blog "Ninety-Mile Wind" http://ninetymilewind.blogspot.com/
wrote that the day he moved to Nashville as a songwriter was the day Marty Robbins died. He then tells a great story about his father's career as a radio station engineer and what that was to a kid growing up. The blog moves to Marty Robbins, Johnny Horton, Johnny Cash, and Jimmy Dean and other great story-song writers. I added this to the discussion:

What a wonderful and nostalgic reminiscence. We have gotten several of these lately, and they are just marvelous.

Of course, you did not mean your list to be exhaustive, but "Running Bear" (which always conjured up a humorous picture for a literate and punny kid), "Wolverton Mountain," and Hank Snow's version of Red Foley's "Old Doc Brown," all jump to mind as great story songs.

As you point out Johnny Horton and Marty Robbins sort of vied for top spot, but Marty's "El Paso," pretty much made him the king of the larger than life melodramatic song. Despite a fine, and more "popular" version of "Singing the Blues" by Guy Mitchell, nobody can touch Marty Robbins on that sultry piece of country suave. Plus, he was the first to record a Gordon Lightfoot song ("Ribbon of Darkness") and boost "Big Gord" (the punny kid always laughed at that nickname on one of Lighfoot's early albums, too) into the spotlight. And "A White Sport Coat...." Marty Robbins was one of the true greats.

The following is a similar reminiscence from my collection, Aged Fifty Years: A Life in Song. It's the intro to the chapter entitled, "Sorry I Haven't Written Lately."

"I have always been a sucker for a song. One of my unfinished pieces observes:
Song after song sings a sorry refrain—
Tears in my eyes from some other fool’s pain.

"I have a very vivid childhood memory of just such an impact. Occasionally, my parents would pack up the three of us boys and haul us to the Sundown Drive-in, just a few blocks from our house. It was a great treat for all of us: the speaker hung on the car window; the colossal screen jutting into the sky; the trip to the snackbar for popcorn and drinks or to the playground nestled under the screen; all three of us in our pajamas, rotating from the front to the backseat; the cartoons and shorts before the feature; and the peculiar familial isolation of cars full of people sharing the movie experience together alone.
"This particular night, I was reclining on the back seat of our Buick; Tucker, Kevin and my parents were all in the front seat when 'The Wayward Wind' by Gogi Grant came on the little speaker. Though I had heard the song before, I had never listened to the words. Lying there alone, looking out at the dusky sky, I suddenly heard every word and felt the mournful, wistful pain the woman felt, and I was choked up, then moved to tears by the story-telling in this simple 'pop' song.
"I still occasionally sing for my students, and I suppose I should be embarrassed by my being so easily moved by a story or a song, but I’m not. When I sing 'Old Shep' by Red Foley; 'Sully’s Pail' by Dick Giddons; 'Chief Joseph' by Danny O’Keefe; 'Deportee' by Woody Guthrie and Martin Hoffman, 'Child’s Song' by Murray McLauchlan; or even my own song, 'Michael,' I am invariably choked up. The sight of tears welling up or streaming down their teacher’s face is probably a very peculiar experience for most students (probably pretty silly way back when I was performing in clubs, too), but I don’t mind. Real feeling, even if vicarious, is what the human experience is about.

Sorry for being so long winded again, but I really love your personal anecdotes, and this one of mine just struck me as hitting on much of what you said here and elsewhere: to paraphrase, as often as possible, music's goal is to touch the soul.

Thanks for doing that with both your music and your prose.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guns, Taxes and Government Failure: A Response

A Facebook "friend" added this brief post to his page: "am I the only one who is seriously considering spearheading a revolution to take this country back to basics? I'm specifically talking about taxation...."

To this, one of his friends, A.S., replied in a light-hearted, spoofing tone,
"if i do will I be reported for legally carrying my pistol concealed to one of these meetings?"

He followed quickly with,
"It's much more than enjoying the right to carry my piece. It's the fact that the state government of Utah understands that it's my right to do so and respects it. They understand that the government does not give any of the rights named in the constitution. They are given by the All Mighty not some fool in the state capitol, and they are like that with taxation and government spending as well. Jason Chaffetz is someone that you should look up. He is our congressmen here, and the dude is awesome. He sleeps on a cot in his office rather than using taxpayer money to get himself an apartment."

I felt compelled to respond thusly:

"Seriously? The God given right to own guns? I don't recall a single gun in the Bible-not in either testament—nor the Book of Mormon. There are plenty of references to weapons, but in nearly all they are specifically identified as "weapons of war," and quite often they are being destroyed (beaten into plowshares).

"Does your congressman give back his salary, so he cannot afford a home? Does he receive less than the other legislators? Do they 'tax more' to get better apartments? Taxes have been around since way before Jesus—'Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's.'

"We have been cutting taxes, for 30 years, while our infrastructures erode. We have created a system, through term limits and supermajorities, through corporate lobbying and deregulation, and through an anti-government propaganda campaign so that the "higher taxes" we really pay are to corporate CEO's and boards (through inflated salaries) while they use our money to buy protection from the workers and the government."

"You are right Mr. McMullen, God did not give me the direct right to own a gun. He has, however, given me the right to defend my home and my family. If the means to do that are a legally concealed handgun or a 12 gauge under my bed, then in a way God has indeed given me a right to own a gun. No one can defend what's mine, as in my home and family, better than me. It is also my responsibility to do so and no one else's. Not even the police, Sir.

"If you read further in the Book of Mormon you would also read that many times weapons were taken up in defense to protect their homes, family and way of life.

"If your home was broken into and your only option was to call 911 and hide, what do you think the police would find after arriving there 10 minutes after the call was made by you? Probably your dead body with the aggressor way long gone. Why not give yourself the opportunity to even the odds and not let someone else decide whether you live or not?

"About taxation, you are right again. I expect to be taxed. But why should I pay taxes into government programs that don't work. Social Security, Medicare, Welfare, the Stimulus, the Post Office, Amtrak. Can you please tell me which one of these great programs full of good intentions has worked. I am paying into the first 2 and those 2 will probably not be available for me to use because they will be broke by the time I reach the age to use them. Now you want the government to run health care. Seriously?! You would give someone with a bad track record more of your money?"

"About corporations, I agree with you to a certain extent. There are corporations that are abusive and have bad people running them. Just like in government. But just like government, these people can be voted out by their shareholders since most of these companies are public companies. If you don't like the way they do business, don't buy their product and tell others to do the same. If you do like what they do than I hope you don't have a problem with them paying their CEO's whatever they feel they have to pay him. Even if it seems absurd to you.
Sir, all I have to do is look to California and see that what you believe in does not work. Unfortunately, that is the direction that this President is taking this country full steam ahead.

Rather than putting any more of this on someone else's Facebook page, I decided to post the rest of my answer to A.S. here.

As for guns in the home, I honestly think that they serve very little purpose, but they can be very dangerous. I have lived sixty years, and I have never had my house broken into. Neither have my parents or either of my brothers. My great aunt (who was a hundred and two when she died two years ago) was burglarized three times before putting bars on her doors and windows (a sad commentary on the area—twice it was someone in the neighborhood). She lived just around the corner from where I lived for thirty years, just off of Norwalk Blvd. in the little strip of county between Whittier and Pico Rivera. She was never home when they broke in. One of her (five) husbands had been a policeman, so she had his guns, and every single time, besides her jewelry, they stole a handgun. The result? Three handguns in the hands of criminals.

Check the statistics; the chances of people breaking into your home and threatening you with violence is almost non-existent, and unless you carry your loaded gun with you around the house while cooking, while watching TV, while going to the bathroom, etc., you will not be able to use your gun if your home is ever assaulted. Most criminals are cowards; they want to sneak around and steal your stuff; they don’t want to confront you. If, in fact, it is a hit or a true home invasion, the likelihood of your being prepared to repel that onslaught is basically nil. They count on the element of surprise. So, the fantasy of “defending your wife and kids with a gun” is extremely thin. Guns, however, do kill many thousands of little kids, spouses, parents or boy/girlfriends for every crook they stop. There are much better ways to protect your family. I think both Jesus and Joseph Smith would agree.

As for your point about taxes and government programs: This litany is particularly frustrating because it shows how successful the right has been in mischaracterizing reality. Since Ronald Reagan said, “It’s not the government’s money, it’s yours,” and “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem,” we have been bent on trying to prove these specious and meaningless non-sequiturs. During his administration, he attempted to distort the purposes of government: he and his supporters in Congress took away the rights of individuals and heaped them onto corporations; he attempted to dismantle basic protections for the environment, to destroy public education, to turn back civil rights, to undermine or destroy unions (the people's way of fighting against corporate abuse), to reduce restrictions on media ownership, to deregulate industry, and to remove all restraints on corporate mergers, while building the biggest deficit in the history of the United States up to that time. Suddenly, corporations were given boondoggle tax-write-offs and government subsidies, grotesquely lowering the tax burden on the wealthiest while putting it directly on the shoulders of the middle- and lower-income working class.

His beliefs were based on two things: rabid anti-communism and a rabid faith in the “free market” as envisioned by Milton Friedman and Arthur Laffer (author of “trickle-down" economics). Friedman actually said that anyone who believed that corporations had any moral or social duty were socialists—which, in his world-view, was tantamount to being a witch, and for which crime burning at the stake was too good. These two ideologues sold an entire generation (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and their advisors as well) on the fantasy of the ultimate efficiency and righteousness of “the market.” Look up Friedman and read him. His attitudes are absolutely appalling, but they explain perfectly the continual failures and fallacies of his illusions as perpetrated on the American public and the world. The Savings and Loan crisis, the Exxon-Valdez, Bhopal, Three-Mile Island, media consolidation, Enron, Bernie Madoff, the banking crisis, the housing crisis, the education crisis, the healthcare crisis, or the turning of a budget surplus under Clinton into the biggest deficit in our history under Bush—these were all the direct result of lowering taxes and deregulating industries (not to mention an ill-advised, unwarranted and unnecessary war—a war that was clearly intended to promote the business interests of certain American industries). These are not isolated incidents or examples of a few rogue CEO's or corrupt politicians. These are simply the application of Friedman's claim that corporations have no moral responsibility except to make a profit for their shareholders. As a result of Bush going far beyond even what Reagan could have imagined, we now have the widest disparity in our history between the tiny 2 to 5% of the wealthiest vs. the entire working class who has seen its salaries, its real-dollar buying power, and its life savings, and even its actual jobs in free-fall, all as a direct result of the flagrant failure of the ironically named “free market.” It was never “free”; it just redistributed the protections. It took them away from the American people and gave them to the market.

Yet, despite the concerted effort of "in-the-pocket" politicians doing the dirty-work for industry by trying to dismantle social-programs and eliminate government regulation (on the grounds that they are too costly for business), many of our social programs have survived. Social Security, Medicare, the US Postal Service, the DMV, unemployment insurance, even welfare: these are not failures; they are absolutely incredible successes. It is truly astonishing that people can hold these systems up as evidence of government failure. Are Medicare and Social Security under-funded? Yes, because corporations and free-market politicians were able to exempt corporations and the wealthy from paying a fair share of their profits into the system. Is there waste and corruption in Medicare? Sure. Most of it is due to deeply under-funding the enforcement of the system because it is the private sector that perpetrates and benefits from the fraud. Nevertheless, it is nothing like the fraud, waste and life-threatening corruption in the private, for-profit sector. Who would you trust to protect the country’s interests, the American Military or the mercenaries of Blackwater Worldwide, Inc.? Safety regulation, police protection, fire protection, education: we constantly cut these services and make them do more with less. Do you really think that an unregulated free market would do a better job than the government? I find no basis in reality for this assumption. None whatsoever. It is simply an illusion—a falsehood.

Again, read Milton Friedman or his friends, Mr. “I do NOT believe in PUBLIC education” Howard Jarvis or Mr. Deregulator, Phil Gramm. Our problems are not the result of a few criminal CEO’s. They are the direct result of a carefully orchestrated snow job. We now have a thoroughly debased media system that actively prevents citizens from easily finding the truth. Do we have the greatest healthcare system in the world as the pundits and the politicians constantly claim? Absolutely not. We do have by far the most expensive, the most inefficient, and the most ruthless private health insurance system of any of the industrialized nations. To claim otherwise is to simply perpetrate and perpetuate a lie. Yet a corps of frightened and misinformed citizens can be whipped into a frenzy about “socialism” and protecting their “freedoms” while being convinced to shout down and disrupt any “free” discussion of an incredibly important national topic.

We have a private, for-profit corporate system that takes billions of our dollars in profits, then spends millions of those dollars to actively deny the care for which we have paid; we have a system that has, in fact, created “death panels.” I am not talking about the simple authorization to pay the fees for patients who seek advice on various end-of-life choices, as the proposed legislation does (a suggestion that originated with a Republican lawmaker but that was scurrilously and falsely distorted by Sarah Palin and others in their "do anything/say anything to prevent meaningful change" mode). I am talking about the real, for-profit insurance company bureaucrats who are currently and actively denying care or medication to millions who have already paid for those services. The pharmaceutical industry spent millions successfully lobbying the Bush administration and congress to prevent the government from negotiating fair prices on pharmaceuticals while the industry pocketed billions. If we look honestly at the government’s ability to tackle really important things, they have a much better record than those motivated only by profit. If we debunked the Supreme Court's patently absurd claim that "money is speech" and moved to end the stranglehold of corporations on the political process, we could restore the government's ability to do things remarkably well in a very short time. And there would still be plenty of profit left over for the market.

Thanks for reading. These are really important topics, and they will affect the lives of Americans for many generations to come. We should be trying to hash the issues out rationally and earnestly, speaking to our families, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, and not with the mindless name-calling, profanity, and gratuitous vitriol that passes for discussion on all of the political blogs and most of the mindless media, but with the most honest, sincere, forthright and informed dialogue of which we are capable.

The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth!
Tim McMullen

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Emoticonversations™ Coming Soon!

I sort of understand MySpace although, semantically, the “friend” thing is a bit imprecise.

Facebook—I'm on it, but I don't really see the point.

Apparently, both of these approaches are much too literate, however, so now we have Twitter: say all that you have to say in 140 characters and have thousands of people hang on your every tweet. Clearly, Twitter is for twits.

Let's face it, though, even that's much too much human contact for today's techknowcrat.

Therefore, I am proud to announce that I will be launching "Emoticonverse™"—A social-networking service in which no words are allowed; your entire "Emoticonversations™" will be limited to ten emoticons or less.

So, here's the classic boy-meets-girl story in ten emoticons:



Big Grin!


Raised eyebrow!






What more is there to say?
Besides, it's about time that we all began looking at the world a little more sideways, don't you think?

Ironically, this is the very first time that I have used one of those dopey little things!

•€ ‡∑ ¢◊

These, of course, mean nothing; I made them up just now. However, when my "Emoticonverse™" has run its course, I will be introducing "Emoticondoms™," a program that will weed out and erase all the little buggers in incoming messages while randomly creating and placing new and meaningless configurations in all outgoing correspondence.

I can't wait. Can you?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Painting the Roses Red—Changing the Texts in Texas

I have been a teacher for nearly forty years, so I am not shocked to discover that “the TX State Board of Education is choosing to allow biased ‘expert’ panelists to use their children's social studies curriculum as a platform for their political agendas” (a quote from a form letter from the UFW).

In all honesty, school textbooks have generally been used to propagate what e.e. cummings called "the shrill collective myth." Inglorious stories of collective cowardice, hypocrisy and deceit have often been "swept under the rug" or barely mentioned, and women and minorities have been woefully underrepresented in the curriculums; then, the curriculums have been used as proof that these "others" don't belong in the social science or literary collections. I am sorry to report that I have heard teachers say, “If they were important, they would be in the books.” Only in the last couple of decades has this overt marginalization of the non-white or non-male figure and movement been hesitantly addressed.

Corporations (including the publishers of text books) and local and national politicians have good reason to want to remove the struggle of workers and their unions from America’s story; therefore, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the incredible battle of the UFW to wrest fundamental human rights from an unscrupulous and entrenched industry and a disinterested government bureaucracy are natural targets for minimizing, then deriding, then expunging from the historical record.

It is not merely workers’ rights that corporations wish to undermine, however; all struggles for equality and basic human rights are fundamental challenges to the ideology that “might makes right” and that greed, selfishness, and personal aggrandizement are the only legitimate pillars upon which to build a society. The “laissez faire” capitalist agenda has been at the heart of our historical myth for many generations; however, with the recent help of Milton Friedman, Arthur Laffer, Ronald Reagan, Howard Jarvis, Phil Gramm, and George W. Bush, it may have reached its most virulent and debased form yet. As a result, “outsiders” or the “unprivileged” (i.e., women, people of color, immigrants, gays and lesbians—all those whose rights have been denied or ignored) are inconvenient to “history,” which is, of course, the “story” told by the “winners.”

These “others” are very problematic to the ironically named “free market” philosophy. If blacks have rights, then slavery is unacceptable. Downplay Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, or Paul Robeson, and you diminish their impact on America and the grotesque truth that the United States was the last “first world” nation to abandon slavery—An abolition, I might add, which took a civil war to accomplish and which many vitriolic bloggers obviously believe never really ended.

If blacks have rights, then lynchings, Jim Crow laws and systematized, supreme court-supported subjugation of these rights were an abomination. Keep in a couple of lines of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech so that we Americans can feel good about ourselves, but erase Thurgood Marshall, a remarkable champion of civil rights and an outstanding Supreme Court Justice, and you diminish the legitimacy of that on-going struggle.

If women and children have rights, then corporations can’t run sweatshops. By all means, purge from our collective memory the stories of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, Ida B. Wells, or Betty Friedan. Ignore the contributions of these women, and suddenly “equal” opportunity, the right to vote, and the right to privacy are all assailable and revocable.

Give us a romanticized Pocahontas or Sacagawea, but not the songs of Buffy Sainte-Marie, the leadership of Wilma Mankiller, or the advocacy of Charlene Teeters; give us sanitized, subservient versions of Squanto and Sequoya, but not the white man’s betrayals of Powhatan, or Tecumseh, or Osceola, or Chief Joseph, or Crazy Horse, or Sitting Bull.

Speaking of Native Americans, their stories, like the stories of Asians in America and the stories of Asian Americans, are, for the most part, simply too embarrassing to America’s self-image to be honestly told in the annals of American history.

Clearly, as Patrick Buchanan said recently on The Rachel Maddow Show, “…[W]hite men were 100% of the people who wrote the constitution…. This has been a country basically built by white people.” So why mention that it was built on the backs of slaves or on the backs of their wage-slave or sharecropping progeny who became fodder for the corporate economic machine? Why mention that the machine was built on the backs of Native Americans who were cheated out of their lands, or who were “recruited” to build missions, or whose surrender was “purchased” with disease-ridden blankets, or who were simply decimated to make way for the “more deserving” white men? Why mention the Asians who built the railroads or worked the mines while being forbidden to own property or to earn citizenship? Why mention the Latinos who planted and harvested our food and made our clothing while having their basic human rights denied?

If humans have a real right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as our founding document claims, then they have a right to clean air, clean water, and safe food. They have a right to gainful employment or an alternative means to provide for themselves and their families (self-sufficient food production, communal systems, bartered services—yes, other forms can be contemplated). They have a right to a safe and healthy work place. They have a right to not be unduly exploited by the privileged and the unscrupulous. Finally, they have a right to an honest education. Unfortunately, none of these things fit the current corporate agenda.

Thoreau said, “It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience….” Free market guru Milton Friedman went much further; he unequivocally espoused the doctrine that corporations should not have a conscience. A conscience is bad for business. The title of his September 13, 1970, article in the New York Times Magazine, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits,” pretty much says it all, but let me clarify with a quote: “What does it mean to say that ‘business’ has responsibilities?” asks Friedman. “Only people can have responsibilities.” For a ruthlessly immoral and chilling account of the intellectual underpinnings of the current mess in which we find ourselves, simply read this article. It is truly horrifying.

These accusations of “socialism” that are currently being hurled at any attempt to improve social conditions in the United States come straight from Friedman and can be found in this and similar articles. He says that anyone who claims that “business” has any social responsibility is “preaching pure and unadulterated socialism.”

One wonders if the people being orchestrated to shout down reasoned dialogue about health care in town hall meetings, or if those being encouraged to spread such hate-filled, racist, sexist, profane and venomous blog comments across the internet really understand the current status quo that they are defending. I defy any rational person to read Friedman’s article and come away with the conclusion that this is the system that they wish to defend. It is indefensible, even as the absurd philosophical exercise that Friedman offers. Yet, for Friedman, his philosophy cannot be immoral because morality has no business in business, nor does the discussion of morality have any place in the discussion of business. Period.

When reading Friedman’s essay, I am reminded of the 1832 essay by Thomas R. Dew in which, in his defense of slavery, he posited the claims that slavery was endorsed by God and Christ, that the system of slavery in the south was the most moral and democratic form of government yet devised by man, and that “a merrier being does not exist on the face of the globe than the Negro slave of the United States.” Though superficially well reasoned, the underlying assumptions, like Friedman’s, reveal themselves to be either corrupt and cynical deceptions or self-induced delusions.

Nevertheless, judging from the last thirty years, it is obvious that most corporate boards, most CEO’s, and most of the politicians on both sides of the aisle who are put in and kept in office to do the bidding of corporations subscribe wholeheartedly to this now thoroughly, because concretely and empirically, discredited philosophy of the “free” market.

So, a couple of political ideologues in Texas have been appointed to try to revise history in order to protect the privileged, corporate, economic and ideological interests of the few and to perpetuate the prejudices of the many. Big whoop—that’s par for the course.

However, under no circumstances should they be allowed to succeed. It is up to the rest of us—the true grass roots—those who still cling to rational thought—those who still have hope for a modicum of decency and morality in our society—it is up to us to see that they don’t succeed in further debasing or erasing our truer history and replacing it with one that better suits their wallets or their politics!

You can go here to help the UFW's campaign against removing Thurgood Marshall and Cesar Chavez from the textbooks of Texas.

I have included a video of my "Talking Herstory" to provide a little historical perspective.

Thanks for reading, for listening, for thinking, for acting,
Tim McMullen