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July 05, 2011

Don’t Know Much About Biases…

In his debut piece as a contributor for Newsweek/Daily Beast, entitled, “The Founding Fathers, Unzipped,” Columbia University history professor Simon Schama notes that:

“The Constitution’s framers were flawed like today’s politicians, so it’s high time we stop embalming them in infallibility.”

Newsweek being a highly acclaimed mainstream journalistic institution, and the Daily Beast being on the Internet, you of course know that the professor can back up his claim that the Founders are “routinely canonized in the current fairy-tale version of American origins that passes muster for history by those who don’t actually read very much of it.”

First, Professer Schama notes even though Thomas Jefferson is believed by Tea Party adherents to have had a “passion for minimal government,” and his “…aversion to overbearing government makes him a Tea Party patriarch,” there is a dark reality that they must face:

He may have written the Declaration of Independence, but were he around today Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have a prayer of winning the Republican nomination, much less the presidency… For Thomas Jefferson denied that Jesus was the son of God. Worse, he refused to believe that Jesus ever made any claim that he was. While he was at it, Jefferson also rejected as self-evidently absurd the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection.”

As the professer lectures us:

“History is like that—full of knotty contradictions, its cast list of heroes, especially American heroes, majestic in their complicated imperfections.”

 So, to sum up the Professor's logic:

  1. Tea Party people admire Jefferson’s passion for limited government.
  2. Jefferson wasn’t a Christian.
  3. Therefore Tea Party people are idiots.

But it doesn’t end there. Tea Party people are also guilty of:

“…treating the Constitution like a quasi-biblical revelation instead of the product of contention and cobbled-together compromise that it actually was. Even the collective noun 'Founding -Fathers' planes smooth the unreconciled divisiveness of their bitter and acrimonious disputes.”

The lesson to be learned from this?

“History is a book of chastening wisdom to which we ought to be looking to deepen our understanding of the legitimate nature of American government—including its revenue-raising power, an issue that deeply captivated the antagonized minds of that first generation.”

In other words:

  1. Tea Party people have too high a regard for the Constitution.
  2. They also tend to use the strange, unfamiliar phrase, “Founding Fathers.”
  3. We need to raise taxes.

As professor Schama points out, “Instead of knowledge, we have tricorn hats,” and then proceeds to cite instances in which politicians and commentators have mangled history, and by “politicians and commentators,” he means, “conservative politicians and conservative commentators.”

Because we all know that liberals never mangle history.


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July 5, 2011 at 11:06 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Is his name pronounced scam-a, or is it just me?

Posted by: John | Jul 5, 2011 12:03:40 PM

Jefferson claimed that Jesus never proclaimed himself to be the son of God for the wacky reason that Jesus never proclaimed himself to be the son of God. Closest he ever came was to say "I am who you think I am".

Jefferson edited a version of the bible that left in all the direct Jesus quotes (which he approved of) and took out all the supernatural stuff he couldn't accept.

And, not to quibble too too much, but the Tea Party is not another name for Christian conservatives.

Posted by: Michael | Jul 5, 2011 5:13:33 PM

“…treating the Constitution like a quasi-biblical revelation instead of the product of contention and cobbled-together compromise that it actually was."

So according to Schama, God didn't inspire the Constitution through revelation. What should we learn? We should learn from (recent, and sometimes made-up) history, not laws or spiritual beings. I suppose that makes sense, if you don't believe in a God and also like to make stuff up.


Posted by: Mªrty | Jul 5, 2011 11:43:04 PM

Would the good professor be wearing a tin-foil tricorn hat??

Posted by: barryjo | Jul 10, 2011 5:21:44 PM

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