Wednesday, December 28, 2011



Yesterday I was listening to a DEMOCRACY NOW interview with director and author, John Sayles, from Thanksgiving day. It is appropriate that it was played on Thanksgiving because Americans should always take that long weekend to recall 400 or more years of American history.

Speaking of history, John Sayle’s movie, LONE STAR, was played several times on TV last spring in Taiwan and Asia. His films provide a much more nuanced and almost real photo snapshots of the continuing ongoing cultural wars in the USA. These wars are over memory and how to narrate them. Here is the text from a great clip of that film. The text deals with a parent and teacher debate in a local Texas School:

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip of Lone Star, set near the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, a parent-teacher meeting erupting into clear fault lines between white parents and Chicano parents, who want a more diverse portrait. The two teachers leading the meeting—one white, one Latina—try to resolve the tension.

TEXTBOOK COMMITTEE WOMAN: Just tearing everything down, tearing down our heritage, tearing down the memory of people who fought and died for this land.

MEXICAN-AMERICAN FATHER: We fought and died for this land, too. We fought the U.S. Army, the Texas Rangers.

ANGLO FATHER: Yeah, you lost, buddy. Winners get the bragging rights. That’s just the way it goes.

MODERATOR: People! People! I think it would be best if we don’t view this thing in terms of winners and losers.

TEXTBOOK COMMITTEE WOMAN: Well, the way she’s teaching, it’s got everything switched around. I was on the textbook committee, and her version is not—

MODERATOR: We think of the textbook as a guide, not as an absolute.

TEXTBOOK COMMITTEE WOMAN: It is not what we set as the standard. Now you people can believe whatever you want, but when it comes to teaching our children —

MEXICAN-AMERICAN MOTHER: They’re our children, too. And as the majority in this community, we have the right.

ANGLO FATHER: Oh, yeah? Well, the men that founded this state have the right, the right to have their story told the way it happened, not the way somebody wanted it to happen.

DANNY: Eh, eh. The men who founded this state broke from Mexico because they needed slavery to be legal to make a fortune in the cotton business.

PILAR: I think that’s a bit of an oversimplification.

ANGLO FATHER: Are you reporting this meeting, Danny, or are you running it now, huh?

DANNY: Just adding a little historical perspective.

ANGLO FATHER: Oh, yeah? Well, you call it history; I call it propaganda. Now, I’m sure they’ve got their own account of the Alamo on the other side, but we’re not on the other side.

PILAR: There’s no reason to be so threatened by this.

ANGLO FATHER: And we’re not about to have our schools taught that way!

PILAR: Excuse me. I’ve only been trying to get across part of the complexity of our situation down here, cultures coming together in both negative and positive ways.

TEXTBOOK COMMITTEE WOMAN: If you’re talking about food and music and all, I have no problem with that. But when you start changing who did what to who.

TEACHER: We’re not changing anything. We’re just trying to present a more complete picture.

TEXTBOOK COMMITTEE WOMAN: And that’s what’s got to stop.

TEACHER: Look, there’s enough ignorance in the world without us encouraging it in the classroom.

TEXTBOOK COMMITTEE WOMAN: Now who are you calling ignorant?

The idea that winners get the bragging rights over those peoples that American colonialism stomped on has been rejected in the USA for more than half a century but in response, cultural wars of backlash have been financed by the same people who fought reconstruction and a 100 years of post Civil War deprivations of the masses in the South.

What have you been teaching our youth this holiday season, America?

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