From a National Holiday to 1984
Memorial Day honors Americans who died while performing their military duties in our armed forces. This year, it is accompanied by attempts to make Americans sleepwalk through history.
The holiday arrives but three days after Senate Republicans blocked the formation of a bipartisan commission that would have investigated the January 6th Capitol insurrection. And it comes just one day after the Texas Legislature tried but temporarily failed to adopt one of the most stringent voter suppression laws in the country.
What we have, then, is a national holiday commemorating our history, following on the heels of a major political party seeking to deny it.
As former Republican George Will put it, “I would like to see January 6th burned into the American mind as firmly as 9/11 because it was that scale of a shock to the system.” Yet in filibustering the commission into oblivion, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and company sought to minimize a day that, like both 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, should live in infamy.
Even worse, the move seeks to prevent our fully finding out what happened that day. What did Donald Trump know and do – or deliberately fail to do – while the Capitol was under attack? Who else failed to act, and why? What kinds of collaboration might have been going on among the rioters and with outside forces?
Then there’s the Texas legislation, temporarily derailed when Democrats walked out and denied the Legislature a quorum, but sure to resurface and most likely pass when Gov. Greg Abott calls a special session later this year. Among other things, the bill “included new restrictions on absentee voting; granted broad new autonomy and authority to partisan poll watchers; escalated punishments for mistakes or offenses by election officials; and banned both drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, which were used for the first time during the 2020 election in Harris County, home to Houston and a growing number of the state’s Democratic voters.”
It’s but the latest and perhaps most ambitious of the like-minded slew of democracy-gutting proposals that Republican-controlled state governments are pushing into law across the country in preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.
It’s also part and parcel of the Republican effort to promote the Big Lie, still bought by 61 percent of Republicans in a national poll just two weeks ago, that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. The circular justification for the voter suppression in Texas and elsewhere is that in the wake of 2020 people have doubts about election integrity – doubts spurred by the Big Lie and its associated prevarications.
It’s all so 1984. But in addition to Ignorance is Strength, we have lies are facts. Instead of a Ministry of Truth, we have Fox News going even more whole hog to promote this hogwash in response to viewer encroachment by Far(ther) Right outlets Newsmax and One America News.
Why Did They Die?
And we have an ongoing attempt to erase recent history and memory.
Which brings us back to today’s holiday. The Americans mourned on Memorial Day gave their lives for many things: their country, their communities, their families, their friends, the folks in their squads. A more cynical take would explain some deaths in terms of their leaders’ sometimes dubious foreign policy goals.
Regardless, one thing many died for – or at least felt they were dying for – is democracy. What an irony that they fell defending it abroad only to have it threatened here at home.
In downplaying and perpetrating the greatest internal attacks on our democracy since the Civil War, congressional Republicans and other Party leaders are desecrating the graves of the fallen.
Let me be clear: I’m not attacking the many, many Republicans who have served and love America. But with shockingly few exceptions, the Party’s leaders have made the GOP into something shockingly destructive.
And for what? No grand principle. No crying need. Just the tawdriest of causes: to fuel and appease some voters’ repugnance against people who supposedly don’t belong; to cling to power and perks at all costs; to sell their souls for 30 pieces of political silver.
History Is What We Make It
But the story does not end there. We’re not helpless in the face of these attempts to flush recent history down the toilet. We can donate, campaign, educate and otherwise act to combat the danger. Texas Democratic legislators scored a victory of sorts by delaying the voter suppression vote and ensuring it will get renewed scrutiny down the line. Congress’s Democratic leaders can go ahead and appoint a select committee to investigate January 6th, pointing out that they gave the Republicans every fair chance to go bipartisan.
We can be active participants in history, not simply observers. To act otherwise is to accept defeat in the middle of the battle.
Benicia resident Stephen Golub offers excellent perspective on his blog, A Promised Land: Politics. Policy. America as a Developing Country.
To access his other posts or subscribe, please go to his blog site, A Promised Land.