As the USA heads into election season, I am trying mightily to avoid writing about politics. That’s because (1) readers don’t care who I vote for — they check this blog for writing tips, weird crime stories, and updates on my war against the rabid lemur that hisses at me from the attic. And (2) talking politics leads to argument, and resentment, and food fights, and I save all that for the family dinner table where it belongs.
The same goes for talking about religion. Aside from jotting the odd post poking fun at teen exorcists hustling for a reality TV show, or writing a novel about an extremist sect, I hardly mention religion at all.
But some days a combination of proud ignorance and grinning, arrogant stupidity just gets to be Too. Much. For. Me. To. Take.
Speaking at the Republican National Convention, Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma, last night said this about her state:
It was built and settled by pioneers moving west to seek better lives. During the Great Land Run of 1889, thousands of families rushed to put a stake down on empty plots of land. They built tent cities overnight. They farmed the land and they worked hard… and today Oklahoma is one of the nation’s key energy producers and job creators. President Obama wants us to believe that Oklahomans owe that success to the federal government… Mr. President, we know better. As we say in Oklahoma, that dog won’t hunt.
That sound you hear? It’s me, chewing holes in the plaster.
As Charles Pierce says: “Handed in as a seventh-grade history essay, this would get no better than a D. Delivered to the convention of one of our only two political parties, it was perhaps the most singularly dishonest speech I have ever seen a politician give.”
My god, Oklahomans wouldn’t even have Oklahoma without the federal government, without the Homestead Act of 1889 or the Railroad Act — both, by the way, achievements of Republican presidents named Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Harrison. And the land wasn’t exactly “empty,” Governor. It got emptied by a big-government program called the United States Army.
Empty freakin’ land? During the land rush, the place was called Indian Territory. I know all about that. One side of my family arrived in Oklahoma via forced march on the Trail of Tears. The other side staked their homestead thanks to a fifteen year old girl who drove her horses and wagon at full speed across the prairie in a land run. I’m proud of all of them. And they would be astonished at the claim that the United States government had no hand in shaping their lives in Oklahoma.
Moving on… let’s forget politics and history and talk about books. And what have we here? The Elements of Literature for Christian Schools (Bob Jones University Press, 2001). According to this tenth grade textbook, the public school system purposely works against the cause of Christ, and studying James Joyce’s writing “is not a necessary or even a healthy goal,” and Emily Dickinson is almost certainly in hell. With Mark Twain, of course:
Twain’s outlook was both self-centered and ultimately hopeless. Denying that he was created in the image of God, Twain was able to rid himself of feeling any responsibility to his Creator. At the same time, however, he defiantly cut himself off from God’s love. Twain’s skepticism was clearly not the honest questioning of a seeker of truth but the deliberate defiance of a confessed rebel.
On the whole, the textbook seems to suggest that most great writers are terrible and damned. But all is not lost: students can safely reject the hellish lure of heathen literature, for “there is no writing in English that equals the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible.”
Even Christopher Hitchens loved the King James Bible. But teaching kids that most other books are dangerous and useless: that’s truly hellish.