Amnesia, Anesthesia, Denial

/ 24 October 2006

Because I spent the entire weekend working through the dismantling racism workshop that MCARI leads on our campus, I had no time to do anything else, and my blogging fell away to nothingness. But this morning I’m catching up a bit, and found in TheCorner a piercing critique of Bush’s removal of habeas corpus via the Military Commissions Act. It’s Keith Olberman’s “special comment” on MSNBC, and it struck me with renewed force how vitally important it is for us not to forget history.

Olberman's commentary walks through a number of moments in US history when escalating fear caused US presidents to get rid of various constitutional protections, and to use government processes against US citizens (not to mention countless others!). I imagine that many white, middle class Americans don't know this history. That "not knowing" is part of the amnesia, anesthesia, and denial that is built into what MCARI names as the process of racial socialization in the US.

Certainly Japanese Americans know about the internment camps under Roosevelt. But how many white Americans do? Olberman's commentary deserves to be widely heard -- and the history within it MUST be something we learn and teach to our children. If you're wondering where to start, some texts you might find useful include Lies my Teacher Told Me, and A People's History of the US.

This is not about a "left" version of history versus a "right" version of history. This is about remembering the brave people who have gone before us, and the idiocies our government has promulgated in times of fear. Christians, as an Easter people, ought not to give in to such fear, and one step we can take is to learn from history AND NOT REPEAT IT.

Those of us who carry white skin privilege probably are thinking to ourselves that we have nothing to fear from a suspension of habeas corpus -- but we would be wrong, for a whole host of reasons, not the least being the intimate ways we are all bound together in God's creation. The pain of an injury done to the least amongst us, ought to be perceived by all of us.