Michele Bachmann’s Lack of Historical Awareness

Michele Bachmann dominated cable news and the blogosphere recently when she claimed that the Founding Fathers worked hard to eradicate slavery in the United States.

Her revision of American history is patently false yet she stood by her words when questioned (see video below), maintaining that John Quincy Adams — who was about 9 years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed — was the Founding Father who worked to end slavery. With a 9-year-old abolitionist on our side, I can’t imagine why slavery continued to flourish for another eighty years, but I digress.

Obviously, anyone who knows anything about American history knows that Bachmann’s version of the Founding Father’s treatment of slavery was grossly inaccurate, especially when you consider that many of the Founding Fathers were slaveholders themselves.

But this is old news. Why are we writing about it today? Because this week Michele Bachmann has done it again. This time she’s endorsed a document that contains more racially divisive contrafactual information.Some say, “What’s the harm?  So she goofed a few times. Surely she isn’t the only politician who doesn’t have a firm  grasp on American history. What does it matter?”

I ask those who pose those questions:

  • Should an automobile mechanic be able to distinguish between a carburetor and a crankshaft?
  • Should a heart surgeon know an aorta from an ankle?
  • Would you seek legal counsel from someone who claimed to learn the law from watching “Judge Judy”?

Considering the huge amount of resources at this country’s disposal and the fact that elected officials in the United States wield tremendous power both domestically and abroad, we can’t afford to place people in office who don’t have the right tools in their toolbox.  We all suffer when that happens.  We’re living with the legacy of the Bush Administration. Need I say more?

According to Politifact, when compared to other serious presidential hopefuls, Michele Bachman has the worst record for making false statements. One would think that would be a bad thing for a presidential hopeful — but judging from the polls, one would be wrong.

Bachmann’s false statement frequency doesn’t seem to put a dent in her appeal. She is running a strong second to the leading Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney — and has just passed him in the Iowa polls.

And now she’s signed a pledge promoting conservative values which includes the following in its opening statement:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President

When a serious candidate for the presidency of the United States signs a vow that includes in its preamble an assertion that glosses over the holocaust conditions African-Americans endured for hundreds of years — omitting the long history of rape, forced breeding and other forms of brutality — and that same candidate continues to enjoy broad support, that sends a strong message to African-Americans and hopefully to all people of conscience.

It would be unthinkable for an American politician or serious political candidate to take any aspect of the Jewish holocaust and cast it in a favorable light for political gain. This is as it should be. History has shown us that we should guard against anything that glosses over or minimizes human atrocities.

Michele Bachmann will more than likely have to answer to the media on this. Let’s hope she handles this situation with more honesty than she handled the Founding Fathers gaffe.

What I find particularly troubling about this whole affair is that Michele Bachmann’s supporters, the majority of whom are white conservatives, don’t seem to be concerned enough about Bachmann’s statements to withdraw their support.

It could be they don’t see any reason to be concerned. This highlights the chasm between blacks and whites on issues of race and racism in this country.  In my opinion, the chasm exists partly because of a lack of understanding. Being black in America, statements like the one in the preamble of the pledge Bachmann signed are cause for concern.

If you are among those who just don’t get it. If you are a person who can’t seem to understand why these actions are unnerving to blacks, imagine this :

This week, ABC aired a two-hour special with Diane Sawyer interviewing Jaycee Dugard, a young woman who was abducted at age 11 and held captive for almost 20 yrs in her abductors’ backyard. During her captivity, Jaycee Dugard was raped repeatedly and ultimately gave birth to two children. About two years ago, she was found and reunited with her family. Only now has she been able to come forward and tell her story.

The man and woman who held her captive and raped her for all of those years have been arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. It’s unlikely either of them will ever again experience life outside of a prison cell.

This is a tragic story — one that has already touched the hearts of millions, myself included.

But imagine if instead of being sent to prison, the couple who committed these horrendous crimes weren’t arrested, weren’t charged with crime at all, got away completely — didn’t even receive a slap on the wrist. And for good measure, the Dugard family is told that the two children born to Jaycee and her rapist kidnapper where lucky to be raised in a “two-parent household”.

That would be unthinkable, wouldn’t it? Yet, this is what is contained in the document Michele Bachmann endorsed.

And yet, Jaycee Dugart’s mistreatment, horrific beyond comprehension, was not so different from what millions of African American slaves experienced for an entire lifetime, generation after generation for more than a century.

Any presidential candidate lacking cultural and historical awareness to this degree is nothing more than a liability. It boggles the mind to think that she was ever elected to Congress.

Sharon Kyle

Publisher, LA Progressive

Published by the LA Progressive on July 9, 2011
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About Sharon Kyle

Sharon Kyle, J.D. is the Publisher of the LA Progressive which she co-founded with her husband Dick Price. Ms. Kyle is an adjunct professor of law at Peoples College in Los Angeles. She sits on the board of the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and is on the editorial board of the BlackCommentator.com. Photo courtesy Wadeva Images. www.wadevaimages.com