Wednesday, July 1, 2015

WaPo Article Blames Confederate Flag for Oklahoma Bombing, Dylann Roof; Also Monuments & Textbooks are All Lies

In an article posted at the Washington Post.  James W. Loewen, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont, is the author of "Lies My Teacher Told Me" and "The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader." posits:

  • With our monuments lying about secession, our textbooks obfuscating what the Confederacy was about, and our army honoring its generals, no wonder so many Americans supported the Confederacy until last week. We can literally see the impact Confederate symbols and thinking had on Dylann Roof, but other examples abound. In his mugshot, Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, wore a neo-Confederate T-shirt showing Abraham Lincoln and the words, “Sic semper tyrannis!” When white students in Appleton, Wis., a recovering sundown town that for decades had been “all white” on purpose, had issues with Mexican American students in 1999, they responded by wearing and waving Confederate flags, which they already had at home, at the ready. Across the country, removing slavery from its central role in prompting the Civil War marginalizes African Americans and makes us all stupid.

 After the break is a response criticizing some of James Loewen's work and suggest that even though Lowen's critiques everything scholarly about history, that his work his not "scholarly" of nature.

I had hoped to avoid the tedious task of dealing with James Loewen, but since HNN considers his arguments worth a look, I will take the opportunity to make some additional comments.

I did not object to Loewen’s text being included in a class in American Studies. I objected to it being the only required historical text for a course in American Studies taught by a professor of English literature. Here is what I actually wrote: “The sole historical text assigned for this course is James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me. This book is not a scholarly work, but -- as the title suggests -- a sectarian polemic against the traditional teaching of American history and against what the author views as the black record of the American past.” My point was that under Penn State’s academic freedom provisions, teachers are obligated to provide students with texts that enable them to “think for themselves.” This agenda was not served by providing them with a single extreme and ill-informed polemic like Lies My Teacher Told Me.
Loewen’s response to my view that his book is not a scholarly work is that it has footnotes. Every book I have ever written is footnoted, but I do not presume to present myself as a professional historian because I have written books on historical subjects. Nor would I call myself a professional sociologist simply because I have written footnoted books on the subject of race. Ann Coulter and Al Franken provide endnotes for their arguments but this does not make Godless: The Church of Liberalism or Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them scholarly works. The point I was making was that a course in American Studies, taught by a professor credentialed in English literature ought to have had a scholarly rather than a polemical account of American history as its sole required text. The issue here is standards, not some slight to Loewen’s amour propre. 

Loewen claims I invented a quote from him describing the contents of his book,  while conceding that it is a fair representation of what he thinks. He calls this an “outrage.” Actually, I didn’t invent the quote. It is verbatim one of the chapter descriptions from his book and can be found on his website here (chapter 8):
Loewen wants to know if I now have different views about the events in Guatemala and Iran than I did when I wrote The Free World Colossus more than forty years ago. The answer is yes. 
Loewen’s contentions about Columbus summarize the problem I have with the use of his book as a college text at all, let alone as the sole historical text for a course in American Studies. He claims that Columbus made two innovations that were revolutionary, robbing and subjugating indigenous peoples to the point of extermination and creating the slave trade. I pointed out that Columbus did neither (and I don’t agree with him about Columbus as he falsely claims).

Loewen tries wriggle out of the first gaffe by ignoring the Aztecs who were racist imperialists indigenous to the hemisphere and then by explaining that Roman imperialism was benign. This is impressive ignorance, even for James Loewen. Consider this well-known passage from Tacitus: “It is difficult not to remember what another rebel leader, in the highlands of Scotland, is to have said about the Romans before he, too, was defeated: ‘They rob, kill and rape, and this they call Roman rule. They make a desert and call it peace.’ This famous quote has become the very definition of the pax romana. So even if we accept Loewen’s view of what Columbus did, he wasn’t the first – even in this hemisphere -- and far from being a revolutionary departure from the past it was more like humanity as usual.
In making these momentous errors, Loewen has been misled by a passionate hatred for his own country unchecked by historical knowledge. The fact that other leftist academics have such low intellectual standards as to consider his work scholarly and assign it in classes or that professional historical associations have become so politicized as to confuse political correctness with accurate scholarship and reward him with honors is regrettable. But that doesn’t change the facts. 

Loewen’s evident pain in publishing this article is something like the pain of a jilted lover. Yes I was once a deluded leftist like him, hypercritical of the world’s greatest democracy, and ready to turn a blind eye towards the crimes of indigenous peoples. But I put off these childish things long ago and learned to appreciate the fact that the world was more complex than “progressives” dreamed. I would be more interested in his complaints, now, if he showed the slightest aptitude for intellectual argument. I have actually written entire books explaining why I am no longer the man who wrote The Free World Colossus. I am waiting for the leftist who is up to taking them on.