I love Dorothy Parker’s famous quote, “What fresh hell is this?” It comes to mind so often in the wake of one of the worst presidential tenures this country has ever suffered–that of, well, his name doesn’t deserve the time it would take me to type it. He’s banned on FaceBook, Twitter, and my computer isn’t allowed to mention him either.
Today the New York Times printed an article about a California judge, judge (I’m not capitalizing it on purpose) Roger T. Benitez. This judge overturned a thirty two year old ban on assault weapons, saying “Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.”
Does this guy still have his job? I mean, how often should the average home owner plan on breaking out the AR-15’s “just in case?” How often is President Biden planning to call upon AR-15 owners to march to this country’s defense? I mean if crazy people are going to carry, then shouldn’t everyone else stock up too? Oh, wait, that’s the Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss, isn’t it?! Benitez sounds like he’s marketing a fresh Whirlpool washer back in the 1950’s–it’s popular, and provides the perfect combination of clean and affordability. What fresh hell is this?
A trio of writers just came out with a book entitled Forget the Alamo. I have yet to read it, but here’s part of its review on Amazon:
“Forget the Alamo provocatively explains the true story of the battle against the backdrop of Texas’s struggle for independence, then shows how the sausage of myth got made in the Jim Crow South of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As uncomfortable as it may be to hear, celebrating the Alamo has long had an echo of celebrating whiteness.”
What? To all the descendants of the brave people who lost their lives in 1836 during the Battle of the Alamo, I can only say I’m very sorry some folks are marketing their story as the truth. I wonder how many other historical events will be put under the focused ion beam of a microscope until such harmful bacteria containing echos of racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, or classism emerge? These elements of life, ugly as they are, still remain with us today. Some of us are concerned about that and working hard to identify and extinguish them.
I could say, let’s forget the Revolutionary War, people. Shades of ethnocentrism were found to be rampant, so let’s not dwell on fictions that suggest anything other than white supremacy was behind this revolution. “The American Revolution—also called the U.S. War of Independence—was the insurrection fought between 1775 and 1783 through which 13 of Great Britain’s North American colonies threw off British rule to establish the sovereign United States of America, founded with the Declaration of Independence in 1776.” https://www.britannica.com/event/American-Revolution
For about ten years the citizens of San Antonio and surrounding areas were subject to taxation, land seizures, beatings, and unjust treatment by Mexican President Santa Anna. Their revolutionary stand at the Alamo resulted in the deaths of all defenders. Slavery entered the equation to the extent that southern land owners growing cotton would employ the labor of slaves. Land and ranch owners included Hispanic Texans as well as the recently arrived Americans and Europeans. Santa Anna didn’t believe in slaves; he employed servants. He controlled like a dictator; people feared him. The defenders of the Alamo were folks willing to die fighting for freedom from his yoke of oppression in all of its many forms. Slavery may have been an undercurrent, but it was never at the forefront of what these people were trying to achieve.
If fighting for independence from a dictator can be so simply slapped with a label suggesting that the defenders came to Texas to “celebrate” their whiteness, then most historical accounts must be completely wrong! This implication is a slap in the face to Texans because of the sacrifices made by heroic people fighting at the Alamo. These defenders came from Europe, the United States, Mexico, and Africa all for one cause: the freeing of Texas from Mexican rule under the despot General Antonio Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna. Was the fight about slavery? Was the fight about wanting to celebrate whiteness in brown territory? Or was the fight about defending territory in which hundreds of Whites, Browns, and Blacks had already been slaughtered at the hands of Santa Anna’s military, a military that would tally nearly two hundred more on March 6th, 1836? Most likely the real truth is somewhere in the middle.
Texas has a complicated history, to be sure. But to suggest that Texans “Forget the Alamo” is blasphemy.
This morning I read that a North Carolina senior was denied his diploma for wearing a Mexican flag over his graduation gown. Can somebody explain why he wasn’t told in advance that he could carry, but not wear that flag in order to spare him the embarrassment during one of his life’s greatest achievements? Wearing of anything over the standard gown for graduation is prohibited, and for good reason. We don’t need a ceremony looking like a mangled overcoat version of America’s Top Model, but why couldn’t just one education official have thwarted this? It’d be pretty hard to miss someone standing there with a flag on. Well, this young scholar will get his diploma– only after he’s apologized. To whom, I’m not sure. It’s not to me. I’d like an apology from the school principal for not having staff alert and ready to intervene on this most memorable day for all those graduating. These young men and women are graduating, but they are still young people!
I suppose if judge Benitez would have had anything to say about it, he’d have encouraged the graduate to carry his AR-15 up there with him. He’d probably tell the rest of us to just forget about it–North Carolina graduations are simply occasions for celebrating whiteness, so brown people should never call attention to their achievements, yet always stand prepared. Just in case.