FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2022
...except when Otherized: As best we can tell, eighth-grade students in McMinn County receive this type of instruction:
BRADY (1/10/22) The curriculum that we use is called EL What does that stand for?
I see some teachers here. What does that stand for? "Expeditionary Learning."
So, the whole idea is that students go on these expeditions, and they will spend two months or so on these different expeditions, and that’s their modules. In eighth grade, that is four things. We do Latin America, we learn about food, the Holocaust and Japanese internment.
This [Holocaust] module helps students begin building their background knowledge as they prepare for high school. The task that students do at the end of this module, after they spend a couple months talking about the Holocaust, studying this, the project that they do, that shows they understand what went on.
Steve Brady is an eighth-grade teacher and an "instructional supervisor" in McMinn County, Tennessee. That was his description of the county's eighth-grade curriculum.
Brady spoke at a recent school board meeting. He felt the book in question should be retained as part of the eighth-grade curriculum. After a fairly lengthy discussion, the board decided to replace it.
The board decided to replace the book in question. But as he called for the vote on that question, board member Jonathan Pierce said this:
PIERCE: I’ve got enough faith, from the Director of Schools down to the newest hire in this building, that you can take that module and rewrite it and make it do the same thing.
Our children need to know about the Holocaust. They need to understand that there are several pieces of history, Mr. Bennett, that shows depression or suppression of certain ethnicities.
It’s not acceptable today. We’ve got to accept people for who and what they are.
According to Pierce, eighth-grade kids in McMinn County need to know about the Holocaust. The two-month module about the Holocaust would remain in place. Only one text would be changed.
As of January 10, that's seems to be where matters stood in McMinn County. Eighth-grade kids would spend two months learning about the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. After that, they would spend an additional two months learning about the Holocaust.
That's where matters stood until the creepy crawlers within our tribe came slithering up from between the floorboards and out from behind the walls.
For whatever reason, a highly accomplished, intelligent blogger/journalist had strangely chosen to describe McMinn as "East Bumfuck County." Then, just as it ever was, the floodgates opened and The Ugly and Stupid came forth.
Way back when, a certain number of Republican congressmen staged an embarrassing spectacle about "the rat smart thing to do." Now, the creepy crawlers of our own extremely dumb tribe came slithering up through the boards.
Such people live to Otherize others. According to experts, nothing is going to change this behavior. Our brains are wired this way.
An unfortunate bit of background is needed at this point. After mocking McMinn as "East Bumfuck County," Kevin Drum had begun using his indoor voice.
Aside from a footnote which only made matters dumber and worse, this was his entire post:
DRUM (1/27/22): Our story so far: East Bumfuck County¹ in Tennessee—about 20 miles away from the site of the Scopes monkey trial—has banned Maus, a Pulitzer-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust. Outrage is universal.
But rural, conservative school districts have been doing this kind of stuff forever. They don't like sexual themes. They don't like nudity. They don't like swearing. Maus is an adult novel that features all of these things. But there are lots of other novels and nonfiction books about the Holocaust. If Maus is too raw for them, how about recommending something else instead of getting dragged into the usual pointless culture war squabble. Wouldn't that be a better use of time?
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! East Bumfuck is only 20 miles from the site of the Scopes monkey trial! Nothing ever changes among the yahoos who live in such locales!
At that point, Drum began using his indoor voice. Why should high-minded people like us "get dragged into the usual pointless culture war squabble" by the ridiculous rural folk who live in East Bumfuck County?
Drum suggested a better use of our time. At that point, the floodgates opened.
COMMENT 1: Maybe—if people banning the items are acting in good faith. It could even be argued that nudity in books about the Holocaust will distract from the message, especially where teens are involved. But it does seem the people seeking the bans are looking for pretexts to remove books, not to improve discussions on sensitive topics. Why on earth discussing the Holocaust or saying "Nazis are bad" is now considered "sensitive" by the right wing is beyond me.
Just like that. Commenter 1 seemed to suggest that the school board in East Bumfuck was saying we shouldn't criticize Nazis. It very much seemed to Commenter 1 that the board in East Bumfuck County wasn't acting in good faith.
This is the way the more pestilent minds of our war-inclined species have always worked. And just like that, Commenter 1 received these responses concerning what "these people" think:
RESPONSE: Because these people will tell you the only thing Hitler did wrong was invading Russia.
RESPONSE: And national healthcare. I have it on good authority that's why Obama was just like Hitler.
RESPONSE: That must be why wingnuts avoid the interstate highway system, modeled on the autobahn, and stick to forlorn country roads where the feds can't surveil them.
RESPONSE: These people think the only thing Hitler did wrong is “not finish the job.”
Just like that, the creepy crawlers of our failed "liberal" tribe were staging the typical field day. The crawlers knew what "these people" would tell you. They knew what "these people" think.
One crawler even knew why "wingnuts" of this type avoid Interstate highways. It had something to do with the autobahn.
Warning: When maggots and yahoos crawl out on the land, their comments won't always make sense. But a few of these comments were quite direct. Those ugly comments said this:
"These people"—the people in East Bumfuck County—think the only thing Hitler did wrong is “not finish the job!" Also, "these people" will tell you that the only thing Hitler did wrong was invading Russia."
So our own maggots quickly proclaimed as they crawled out on the land. Stating the blindingly obvious, this has long been one of the ways we lose elections, and with those elections the world.
Eventually, Commenter 1 returned to say that the board's concern about nudity in Maus was just "really weird." It didn't seem to have entered his head that the ugly, stupid responses he'd generated were something much weirder and worse.
Meanwhile, let's be clear! The otherization of These People certainly didn't stop there. Commenter 2 and Commenter 3 also slithered out on the land. The stupid comment by Commenter 3 inspired a typical stupid response:
COMMENT 2: I really gotta wonder. They claim they don’t like a couple of boobies and a handful of curse words sprinkled in among this powerful and personal story. But then, the coincidence that they happened to ban it just about on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day? Hmmmmmmm. Makes you ponder.
COMMENT 3: "They don't like sexual themes. They don't like nudity. They don't like swearing."
No, those things are OK. They don't like Jews.
RESPONSE: They don't dislike Jews, they just like Nazis more.
Commenter 2 could smell a conspiracy based on the calendar. Meanwhile, he showcased his high-level sexual politics with his skillful remarks about the "boobies" in question.
(Another response to Comment 1 offered this high-level remark concerning a fact he misunderstood: "Shaved pussy is shaved pussy, species immaterial." When our slugs sluther forth to otherize Others, their own sexual politics may not always be totally grand.)
These are the creepy crawlers who slither among our own tribe. Helpfully, Commenter 3 was quickly able to define what the school board had really been saying:
"They don't like Jews," this commenter said. In response, another night crawler offered this: "They just like Nazis more."
These are some of the gruesome players with whom our tribe is burdened. Their stupidity is matched by the ugliness of their instinctive reactions.
Once you say words like "East Bumfuck County," they crawl from behind the walls. In this instance, the idiots who lurk within our own tribe just kept pouring it on as they skillfully performed Our Latest Otherization.
They spoke about "these people" in ways which are familiar to any student of Otherization and human war. We offer a few more samples:
COMMENT 15: There is nothing that I would recommend to these ignorant folks. No wonder they seldom rise from the ground.
COMMENT 16: I love all the earnest suggestions of people in this thread. The reality is that any book that makes any white person feel discomfort is too much...
COMMENT 19: They don’t like anything more challenging than learning a trade, IME.
RESPONSE: And a lot of times not even then. Especially if it's a trade that involves numbers or isn't "manly" enough. Come to think of it, there's a considerable overlap of the two.
COMMENT 26: You should realize it's not about the nudity or the swear words (I think one was "God damned" but I could be wrong), it's about the subject matter. You can pick any book you want about the Nazi genocide (not only against Jews but also against the Romany and others) and this group of people in Tennessee would find some way to object to it because it defines what they want to do so desperately as a crime against humanity.
These people in Tennessee! They'll object to any book about Nazi genocide because any such book will define "what they want to do so desperately" as a crime against humanity!
This is ugly, monstrous stuff. It comes from the realm of the monsters.
Mainly, though, it's monstrously stupid. We saw no sign that any of these tribal yahoos had reviewed the transcript of the board's decision—knew what they were talking about in even the most basic sense.
Along the way, Commenter 12 decided to traffic some snark. A rodent piped up in response:
COMMENT 12: East Bumfuck County? Better watch out there, Kevin. Rural people might think you’re making fun of them, disrespecting them or condescending to them. A few years ago, you warned all us liberals that we shouldn’t do that to rural folk, and instead should empathize with them.
RESPONSE: East Tennessee is mostly bumfuck counties, although it was generally pro-Union in the Civil War…
The region is mostly bumfuck counties, this sage observer now said.
For the record, this process of constructing The Other is part of our human wiring. The Nazis had the Jews, and quite a few others. On this day, our own tribal idiots were quite literally defining our own tribal monster:
COMMENT 24: Maus is an amazing work of art. Instead of looking at alternatives, Drum should inform us why the County thinks like it does, starting with the transcript of the hearing and perhaps call a spade a spade.
RESPONSE: To explore alternatives with them is to concede that their book-banning position has some legitimacy. If you decide to meet a monster half-way, you've already lost.
It's what our tribe has been shouting for years! Please don't ever speak to The Others! Once you "meet a monster halfway," you've already lost!
Down in McMinn County, the monsters in question spend two months teaching eighth-graders about the Holocaust. Before that, they spend two months teaching those same kids about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
That sounds like a good curriculum to us. But who will teach our own monsters about the stupidity flooding our souls? Our tribe is very, very dumb, and there is exactly zero sign that this is ever going to stop.
Just for the record, our self-impressed tribe sends these signals across the land on a quite regular basis. We mock the people of the various Bumfucks. We describe them as Nazis and monsters, then we're puzzled as to why they refuse to vote the way we tell them to.
We wonder why they don't vote our way. Has anyone ever been any dumber than our own self-impressed tribe?
There's a great deal more to say about this ugly episode, and about the attitudes behind it. We won't get there today. With regret, we won't get to what Bill Clinton said about his respect for the Pentecostals, even though they didn't generally vote his way.
We won't have time to discuss what it means to have respect for people who don't match us in perfection. That said, those ugly, amazingly stupid comments help us see who and what we actually are.
We don't have the slightest idea why an otherwise (highly) sensible person would have trigged this ugly onslaught. But the episode gives us a portrait of ourselves, and of one of the ways we lose elections, and with those elections the world.
"Physician, heal thyself," someone said. He or she had a good sound idea.