Archive | January 26, 2011

Bachmann and the Tea Baggers Rewrite American History

Michele Bachmann, genius in chief and Congresswomen representing a largely white and rural area outside Minneapolis had the following to say about the founding fathers and their attitudes toward slavery:

“the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States….Men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.”

Now, let’s move aware from our preconcieved notions that anyone involved in the Tea Party holds a batshit mish-mash of handpicked historical ideas and interpretations that rival even the most moronic of Biblical “scholars.”

It is well known that John Quincy Adams was vehemently against slavery and supported the abolitionist movement. Bachmann is correct on this. But Adams was also quite aware of the political realities of abolishing slavery and hoped that the Constitution itself would result it’s demise. Rather than “fight tirelessly to end slavery,” he just waited… and died. It would be nearly a full 20 years after his death that slavery was abolished, and another century before African-Americans would obtain legal equality. We’ll just ignore that he was a mere 9 years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

George Washington owned more than 300 slaves at any one time in his lifetime. He inherited his first piece of human property at age 11. However, despite years of guiltlessly holding humans in bondage and working them morning til night, feeding them like pigs and beating them when they attempted to run away, Mr. Washington experienced a mid-life crisis and had a change of heart. He later refused to sell slaves, not wanting to break up slave families and emancipated all his slaves upon his wife’s death. His wife owned half the slaves on Washington’s plantation. We can credit him with his belated good will, but Washington was no soldier in the fight against slavery. Not to belittle a man’s moral transformation, but does it really take that long to realize the horrors of human exploitation? Apparently so. Rather than fight against slavery as a moral and social issue, he just simply felt bad for his own slaves and sheepishly tried to assuage his own personal guilt. Too little, too late, George.

The worst though, has to be Thomas Jefferson . Mr. Jefferson owned as many as 200 slaves at any one time in his lifetime. Although involved in the abolitionist movement, his trademark contradictory rhetoric can’t really be used to pin him as a true abolitionist. Jefferson may have personally been opposed to slavery, but he certainly didn’t put his money where his mouth was, later selling his human property to pay for his vast debt load and using humans as down payments on new pieces of property. To add insult to injury, Jefferson’s debts largely were the result of entertaining white guests and drinking fine wine, while his African property lived in squalid conditions and ate gruel.

Jefferson is credited with treating his slaves well, but upon further inspection, one realizes that his benevolence was motivated by profit. His efforts to reduce infant mortality stemmed from his through that “a woman who brings a child every two years is more profitable than the best man on the farm.” Jefferson was hardy a “tireless fighter against slavery and oppression” but rather an irresponsible and mealy mouthed enabler of human exploitation!

I have great respect for Jefferson mostly due to his relentless pursuits of intellectual understanding on a variety of topics, but his vast flip-flopping and battery of contradictory statements and views make him it difficult for me to say that he represents any aspect of my politics. In fact, I don’t think many people can claim him. Jefferson is like the Bible: if you search his writings long enough, you can find just about anything to support whatever you’re trying to say.

Bachmann’s statements represent a long tradition of rightists attempting to rewrite and whitewash the horrors of slavery. It was telling during a Tea Bagger inspired reading of the Constitution at the beginning of the present Congress, that all references to our countries complicity in human exploitation and the horrors of treating humans as products to be bought and sold, were conveniently avoided. Unless we can have an open and honest discussion of our history and the role that slavery played in making the United States the wealthiest country on earth, we will never move on morally from this stain on humanity’s history. We are all complicit. Let’s never forget that and make sure that the commodification of humans never occurs on this planet again.

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