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Letter from the Editor

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The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed ... by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. — H.L. Mencken

The American electorate has within it a large contingent of know-nothings. It has been this way for the whole of our history. These folks cling to fear — of progress, of the new and different, of bogeymen conjured by politicians of every stripe.

For example, many know-nothings see any law limiting their access to guns as an infringement on the Second Amendment. They think that the government wants to take away their weapons so that it can "take over" and rule us as a dictatorship. This is, of course, a patently ridiculous notion. If the government ever really decided to rule the populace by force, a surface-to-air missile would quickly disintegrate Jed's double-wide, no matter how many guns he had stashed in the bedroom. It's a fantasy, a hobgoblin, propped up by the NRA and its political enablers.

Tea Party supporters raised another hobgoblin at a rally in Nashville last week. They want changes in the way American history is taught. The TP-ers say we have been overlooking the immortal greatness of our Founding Fathers in favor of emphasizing unpleasant and minor aspects of our history, like the contributions of minorities and that whole darn slavery business.

Their quotes sound like a Daily Show routine.

TP: "No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership."

Translation: Our forefathers were perfect. That minority experience might have "actually occurred," but so what?

Stalin would have loved these people. Here's a thought: Our current leaders will be historical figures in 50 years. Does the Tea Party want to paint, say, Obama, Pelosi, and Clinton as perfect paragons of virtue? I doubt it.

Of course, the real scary part of this is that the newly Republicanized Tennessee legislature is quite likely to take these people seriously. Which brings to mind another Mencken quote:

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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