Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Vietnam War Era America in 2020

        The year of 2020 has shown relentless negativity towards all around the world who are living through it. However, recent events uncover just how similar America in 2020 is to the sociopolitical climate in America during the Vietnam War. Upon Martin Luther King Jr. assassination in the spring of 1968, protests erupted across 100 cities in the United States that resulted in the deaths of almost 50 Americans. Similarly, George Floyd's death at the hands of law enforcement in the summer of 2020 saw protests spread across 200 cities in the United State Undoubtedly, the vigor for racial justice is still alive throughout America. Furthermore, disclosed interviews with Bob Woodward revealed to the American public that President Donald Trump understood early on the seriousness of the Coronavirus Pandemic that has left over 200,000 citizens dead. Equally as relevant, were the Pentagon Paper’s, which became leaked to the New York Times in 1971, and publicized to the American public that previous administrations had acknowledged early on during the Vietnam War that the United States could not achieve victory.

            To be sure, there are several stark contrasts in the events during the 1960s and 70s to those occurring today. The American public was astray for almost three decades on the United States involvement in Vietnam and on the motivations for being there. The timeline for the Covid-19 pandemic cover-up is sped up with the outbreak beginning in January of 2020 and the released interview of President Trump, which was recorded in March of this same year, saying that he “wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down” regarding the virus. Many American’s, who were already hesitant in believing that the Trump administration had been honest about the seriousness Covid-19, were now convinced that if the president been forthcoming about the urgency of the virus, tens of thousands people might still be alive. Regardless of the timeframe differences, multiple administrations in the past eighty years have been discovered lying to the American people during times of crisis and are ultimately responsible for the deaths which occurred because of their negligence. Still, another aspect of daily life differs in 2020 than it did fifty years ago. That is, the advent of social media.

            While the immediate reactions to Dr. King's assassination and the murder of George Floyd were similar, the long-term effects were immensely different largely due to social media. The King assassination riots gripped America for 4 days in the late spring of 1968 when black Americans released their frustrations about the death of their beloved leader of civil rights. The Floyd protests, which lasted throughout the entire summer of 2020, at times evolved into riots. This was largely due, however, to increased and aggressive local, state, and federal law enforcement. Indeed, both instances of mass movements resulted in the deaths of people involved. 43 people died during the Dr. King riots while 19 were recorded to have died from the Floyd protests. While the United States public unified and sympathized with the loss of Dr. King and Floyd, the reactions from executive leadership differed greatly on the issues. Unlike Lyndon B. Johnson, who exalted caution to mayors and governors who were bolstering their military and law enforcement presence in reaction to social unrest, Trump consistently vilified the protest movements and disregarded the message they were trying to evoke. That is, racial injustice is still occurring. Further, Trump sent federal officials into various American cities where protests had, at times, become violent. Ironically, the presence of heavily armed federal agents did not quell the unrest.

       The Pentagon Papers are unquestionably linked to the origin of when modern America began to distrust its government. Previous administrations had misled the American public on the Vietnam War and therefore stained their presidencies. Trump continues this trend of dishonesty with his own Vietnam War. A conflict that is costing the lives of over three times as many American deaths in Vietnam. Additionally, even though the civil rights movement lost steam with the death of Dr. King in 1968, the civil rights movement in 2020 will undoubtedly continue to be a major social issue during this decade thanks to the connectedness of social media. Trump is unfortunate to have been president while failing to alleviate both monumental issues. If there is anything that history has taught about the outcomes of the public unrest in late 1960s and the reaction to the Pentagon Paper’s, it is that November 3rd will introduce a new president.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Trump’s Disparages Constitution with Attack on Education and Youth Movement

        It has been stated recently that the current social climate in America mirrors that of the late 1960s. That is, divisiveness, turmoil, and uncertainty about the future. However, in the 1960s, Lyndon B. Johnson did not encourage division or disparage the American education system, which was at the time leading the anti-war movement against Vietnam. Donald Trump’s recent attacks at the National Archives on education and the youth movement in the United States the reveals how deeply misunderstood his notion of what America represents and should strive to be. While Trump endeavors to dismantle school curriculums that promote diversity, teacher, such as myself, continue to teach with perspective and inclusion at the forefront of our lessons. 

The sections of curriculum that I teach involving the United States, such as the Cuban Missile are sure to provide students with a proper understanding of the event. John F. Kennedy is not portrayed as the savior of America just like Khrushchev is not depicted as the villain. Both leaders had their flaws and contributed to international tension. However, what would that lesson look like under Trump’s newly announced commission to propel “patriotic education?” Already Americans are seeing Cold War rhetoric from Trump with messages to fear progressivism and how parents should fear the indoctrination of their children. Trump is using the protests against systematic racism and frustrated rioting as excuses to push a nationalist agenda. Simultaneously, Trump is ignoring and downplaying the root of the issue on why Americans are upset and apposing diversity in education which would help alleviate part of the aforesaid problem. 

        Much of Trump’s disdain throughout his speech focused on the New York Time’s 1619 Project to which he called “toxic propaganda.” Trump’s avoidance to acknowledge the impact slavery had on America is dangerous and insulting to Americans who are still feeling the effects of the institution. The downplaying of diversity and inclusion in schools’ spats in the face of the millions of descendants of slaves who “built” America. Indeed, while Trump is appealing to his base by attempting to dispel that racism still exists, his damaging rhetoric and policies on young people growing up un-exposed to diversity and inclusion will have poor side-effects for their academic development. Additionally, students miss out on a well- rounded historical understanding of the United States. It is important for young people to understand fully what America’s history is to appreciate the progress that has been made and what still must be done. Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his last inaugural address “Our Constitution of 1787 was not a perfect instrument; it is not perfect yet” but that America must press onward towards progress. The United States’ most progressive moments in history have been when corruption and injustices are met with unity throughout all levels of society. Trump looks to avoid FDR’s words and divide the American people by dismissing the United States’ flaws.

        Trump proudly referenced his 4th of July speech at Mount Rushmore by continuing the argument that the left and educators are indoctrinating young people. His expressions must be addressed if Americans are to avoid another mis-guided generation like those who grew up during the Cold War and were taught to despise any country which was not capitalist and emulated un-American qualities. Ultimately, Trump’s fear mongering statements like "We must clear away the web of twisted lies in our schools and classrooms” and “the left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools" pose questions such as what lies are being taught? However, with Trump’s own Attorney General William Barr comparing stay-at-home-orders to the horrors of slavery, it is clear where the indoctrination is coming from. That is, the United States president. 


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Why Another Cold War Should be Avoided

The recent directive from the Chinese government that the American consulate in Chengdu must close, marks another step towards a fully realized Cold War. Although China was responding to the Trump administration’s closing of the Houston consulate, these events further claims made by historians that the international stage is poised for another Cold War. All that is missing in 2020 is a proxy war. Indeed, there are many uncertainties on how the conflict between American and China will unfold. What is evident, however, is the rise of anti-Chinese sentiment circulating among domestic politics which, historian Steven Lamy claims, distract from “problems of climate change, global poverty and increasing inequality.” Will Americans be able to overcome the anti-China propaganda created by current leadership and pursue the course of global cooperation and equity?

As an educator who teaches about capitalism, socialism, communism, and democracy, it is important for me to ensure students understand the context for which economic systems were utilized under certain leadership. In other words, the Nazi party had socialism in the name, however, Hitler’s Germany was not socialist. This is not to say that communism is system that should be encouraged just because the Soviet Union used it as a ploy for authoritarianism. Rather, young people should be aware of the perspective to not immediately disavow a characteristic of a different economic system than America’s that could improve equity around the country. The same perspective should be encouraged by American leadership regarding international collaboration. Instead, Americans are prone to the consequences of trade wars, cyberwarfare, and political countermeasures. 

During the previous Cold War, all areas of American society encouraged anti-Soviet propaganda. While the leadership throughout the Soviet Union’s tenure should not have been praised, an entire generation of Americans become conditioned to relating government regulation and assistance to that of authoritarian communism. In short, social programs such as universal healthcare, housing, and income are viewed to be communistic and ill-suited for American society. The victims of this mindset are paradoxically Americans who resent progress towards equity. Whereas the previous Cold War pitted capitalism vs. communism, the current international agenda is seeing globalism oppose nationalism.

    To be sure, China’s government is not a system that should be commended. Human rights and individual liberties are not as accessible in China as they are in many western countries. However, Americans must be able to differentiate the leadership of a country to that of the country’s citizens and the benefits of cooperation such as economic growth, counterterrorism, and environmental protection. Furthermore, the anti-Chinese, “America first” mentality encouraged by United States leaders, such as President Trump, alienates and distracts the American public from more pressing issues. Shifting international policy away from global cooperation will increase foreign and domestic issues of economic inequity. 

    The “us versus them” mentality in the last Cold War was as damaging then as it is now. In the last thirty years America has enjoyed being unchallenged as a superpower. However, Americans should be hard-pressed to avoid another Cold War due to the socio-economic consequences still evident in South America and across Asia. Although America came out on-top, many countries felt the brunt of the United States and the Soviet Union’s competition for international influence through proxy wars, espionage, and political corruption. It is vital to avoid a replay of twentieth century international and domestic politics if America and the world are to tackle twenty-first century issues. Americans should be voting in leadership that encourages cooperation and not division if those issues are to be solved. Americans should heed the warning of historian Robert English that “Only we can destroy ourselves” in the fight against liberal international cooperation.


Trump Further Manipulates the American Public on Education

As a 24-year-old social studies teacher in Queen Anne’s County Public School in Maryland ready to enter my third year of my teaching career, I was taken aback by Donald Trump’s  4th of July speech at Mount Rushmore.  He continued to divide Americans rather than unite them during these turbulent times. However, where Trump struck a nerve with me- and other educators- was his divisive rhetoric about the current state of education. That is, “our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.” What Trump calls indoctrination, I call perspective. 

While listening to Trump’s speech I recalled my undergraduate student teaching at Central Dauphin High School where I taught students about Civil Rights in America. The class was aghast when they saw Emmett Till after he had been murdered. What was just as surprising to the students was that the suspects in the murder got off scot-free. Students began understanding the Black Lives Matter protests which began in 2013. How relevant a topic this was then and is today? Till was a victim of systemic racism and accountability of the suspects was not upheld. However, to Trump those conversations in a classroom equate to a “campaign” to re-write history. 

Growing up in a conservative family I heard that public education and college was left-leaning and biased. In fact, school had such an impact on my life that I became a teacher to educate young people about issues Trump neglects completely. During my student teaching for United States history, it was a privilege for me to teach young people about the anti-war movement in America and the Civil Rights Movement. not because I despise America, but to encourage young people not to make the same mistakes generations before them did. But also I wanted to remind them that, as Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “When a law is made that is unjust, thus unconstitutional, we should fight it: politically and legally.” These are the values I encourage in my class.

The atmosphere in United States is reminiscent to the 1960’s where civil rights protests shook the foundation of what many Americans believed was normal for centuries. This is a time where difficult discussions about this country’s past should be taking place to explain why there is so much social unrest. Unfortunately, Trump not only avoids the conversation, he discourages having them at all. 

That teachers are propagating a campaign to wipe out our history is an insult to historians and educators everywhere. Just two years into my teaching career I and other educators have felt the sting of the Trump administration’s lackadaisical response to education. And now, he blames the turmoil in the United States on what is taking place in the classroom. The reality of that statement is quite the opposite of his characterization. Teachers are attempting to give students a well-rounded view of the world and prepare them to be engaged citizens in the wider community. Trump’s baseless claims about education simply to appeal to his voters demonstrate how distant he is from what takes place in the classroom:  the effort and care teachers put forth to ensure student growth. 

To be sure, there are teachers that “fall through the cracks” and teach with minimum effort for the betterment of the students and community. But they are few and far between. The education system in America has its flaws and it is not perfect. However, educators work tirelessly to ensure young people growing up in Trump’s America have respect not just for the history of the United States, but for the world as well.