The American media have a habit of perceiving certain newsworthy incidents as attacks on the American way of life. Whether atheists are attacking the institution of Christmas or hordes of Ebola-ridden immigrants are threatening the very existence of the United States, the media love to ratchet up fear. State governments, capitalizing on this fear, also love to pass frivolous and laughable laws. One of the most ludicrous of these was a law passed by the state of Alabama in the fall of 2014, which banned all “foreign laws.” The law was passed on the wave of fear regarding Shariah Law which was created by both ISIL and the reaction of the American media to ISIL. The Alabama state government, of course, passed this law without acknowledging the fact that the Bible wasn’t created in the United States and is indeed a foreign law.
Laws that are created on a wave of fear are not always as cartoonish as the one in Alabama. In Oklahoma, the state legislature will be voting to ban AP U.S. History in public schools in favor of a whitewashed version of history. According to Rep. Daniel Fisher, the AP course is not patriotic enough in that it focuses on the negative aspects of our country and fails to teach American exceptionalism. Patriotism is love of country. What Fisher has proposed is that we should ignore the bad things about our country and focus on the good, which is unequivocally unpatriotic. Being patriotic means loving your country wholly and learning from its shortcomings to improve it so as to make it a better place to live for future generations.
This law will most likely pass the legislature when it comes to a vote. When this bill passes the state legislature, it will be sending a very clear message to the residents of Oklahoma as well as the rest of America that the truth does not matter, and neither does the improvement of the state or country. Another piece to the bill is that certain theological texts and sermons must be included in all U.S. History courses, including “A Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop and “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards. This bill, although it is being pushed by Republicans and it contains clear religious overtones, is not a conservative measure. In the Jesuit mode of thought, to pursue truth is to pursue God. Further, to pursue truth is one’s patriotic duty to his or her country. The Republicans are well known for their rhetoric on God and country, but if this bill is neither pursuing God nor country, then what is the motive?
This bill, although not containing the typical calling cards for the media to consider it an attack, most certainly is an attack. It is an attack on American education, on the truth and on the future of this country. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, this is not conservatism; it is self-interest disguised by ideology. This is a desperate and fundamentally irresponsible attempt by the
Oklahoma state government at indoctrinating a populace with a belief system that will ultimately benefit representatives at voting booths.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.” The march of progressivism has indeed been a slow one throughout our history. The abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage and civil rights all took a very long time to accomplish, but for the most part, the country has moved slowly forward in the right direction.
With House Bill 1380, Oklahoma and the United States are in grave danger of moving backward, and this, not ISIL or Ebola, is cause for fear.
Feb. 27, 2015