The Poison We Live With

Published: January 28, 2022

By Jim Lichtman
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“He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind . . .” —Proverbs 11:29

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Denial is a superb film about a lawsuit brought by author David Irving against American Holocaust scholar, Deborah Lipstadt for libel. Irving writes and speaks on Nazi Germany and much his work centers on his fervent belief that the Holocaust never happened. The basis of the suit is that in calling out Irving’s lies Lipstadt was violating his free speech rights affecting his reputation and ability to earn a living.

While the case was settled in favor of Lipstadt, Holocaust deniers continue to spread their “Big Lie.”

In 1925 Tennessee schoolteacher Thomas Scopes was accused of violating the anti-evolution law by teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. At one point during the fictionalized film of the trial, actor Spencer Tracy—an obvious stand-in for Clarence Darrow—makes a forceful argument about the dangers of any law where extremism seeks to suppress new thoughts of science.

“Can’t you understand? That if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools? And tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it. And soon you may ban books and newspapers. And then you may turn Catholic against Protestant, and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the mind of man. If you can do one, you can do the other. Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding.”

Shockingly, that fanaticism and ignorance is very much alive and well fed.

“A Tennessee school district,” the AP reports, “has voted to ban a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust due to ‘inappropriate language’ and an illustration of a nude woman, according to minutes from a board meeting . . . The nude woman is drawn as a mouse. In the graphic novel, Jews are drawn as mice and the Nazis are drawn as cats.

“The McMinn County School Board decided Jan. 10 to remove Maus from its curriculum.

“Art Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for the work that tells the story of his Jewish parents living in 1940s Poland and depicts him interviewing his father about his experiences as a Holocaust survivor.

“Spiegelman called the action ‘Orwellian.’”

But the action taken in Tennessee is just the beginning of a systematic sanitizing of consequential historic events that took place in the U.S.

“The decision comes as conservative officials across the country have increasingly tried to limit the type of books that children are exposed to,” the AP adds, “including books that address structural racism and LGBTQ issues. The Republican governors in South Carolina and Texas have called on superintendents to perform a systemic review of ‘inappropriate’ materials in their states’ schools.

“The U.S. Holocaust Museum tweeted that “Maus has played a vital role in educating about the Holocaust through sharing detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors.

“Teaching about the Holocaust using books like Maus can inspire students to think critically about the past and their own roles and responsibilities today.”

In yet another attack on education, CNN reports “A bill backed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that would prohibit Florida’s public schools and private businesses from making people feel ‘discomfort’ or ‘guilt’ based on their race, sex or national origin received first approval Tuesday by the state’s Senate Education Committee.

“Although the bill, named ‘Individual Freedom,’ does not mention Critical Race Theory, the term is used in the attached bill analysis that was given to senators.”

(It’s interesting to note that their interpretation of individual freedom does not include a woman’s right to choose.)

“DeSantis also referred to CRT when he announced the proposed legislation at a media event in December, saying the proposed law would help keep CRT out of the schools and out of the workplace, calling it ‘state-sanctioned racism’ that creates a ‘hostile work environment.’

Critical Race Theory,” CNN notes, “is a concept that seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the US. The term also has become politicized and been attacked by its critics as a Marxist ideology that’s a threat to the American way of life.

“The legislation would prohibit individuals from making people ‘feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.’”

Extremism is slowly extending its tentacles into school boards, and state legislatures around the country.

Our kids should not suffer the “discomfort” of critical race theory because we don’t want students to learn that Native Americans were subjected to genocide; or that 600,000 died in a war over the abolition of slavery; or that more and more hospitals are overwhelmed with unvaccinated Covid patients, because—despite the deaths of more than 800,000—15 percent of Americans (49 million out of a total population of 330 million) don’t trust vaccinations.

Near the end of Denial, Lipstadt speaks directly to some of the issues we face.

“You can’t do is lie and expect not to be held accountable for it. Not all opinions are equal. And some things happened, just like we say they do. Slavery happened. The Black Death happened. The Earth is round, the ice caps are melting, and Elvis is not alive.”

Extremism is the poison we live with, and unless we stand up against it, the truth will become extinct.

Next week: The Way Forward

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