America Without America

Conservatives love to talk history. You can see it in the far right’s conjuring of the Boston Tea Party to idealize their latest movement, or you can draw the conclusion from the word “conservative” itself.  The GOP is the party of nostalgia, always reminiscing of the days when government was small.

Recently conservatives in a Texas school board uncovered something awful. The history books we’ve been giving to our kids contain the contaminant of a “liberal bias.” Oh no! You can tap into a variety of news stories to find out what and where these supposed liberal biases are. I just want to focus on one.

One of the board’s decisions was to remove Thomas Jefferson from a list of thinkers who influenced the intellectual foundations of the country. In doing so they removed the one and only American who was on their list. In his place they appended St. Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin, non-American theologians.

It’s a very comical irony that Texas Republicans can’t trust the “Founding Fathers” to speak for themselves. American history can only be “de-liberalized” by ridding it of Americans. And what a promotion for Thomas Aquinas! That a 13th century Italian priest could trump the author of the Declaration of Independence in historical relevance is quite the correction.

Another justification put forth by the school board is that textbooks have over-emphasized the Enlightenment. Jefferson certainly falls into the category of an Enlightenment thinker, but how much less important is Jefferson compared to Thomas Hobbes or Charles Montesquieu, staunch monarchists yet on the school board’s list of acceptable thinkers?

This attempt to teach American civic history completely from a set of secondary, non-American sources is preposterous. And trading in the deep historic influence of Jefferson for a couple irrelevant theologians is a pathetic attempt by the right to a justify a theocratic society. Their enemy isn’t Deists like Jefferson and Paine, it’s the First Amendment to the Constitution that states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

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