Friday, September 24, 2010

Getting Medieval, Deep in the Heart of Texas

Battle of Hattin, from MS of Matthew Paris, 13th c.
The Texas State Board of Education today passed a resolution 7-6 warning textbook makers that they would, in the future, "look to reject future prejudicial social studies submissions" that show a "pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias." One of the board members, Don McLeroy, justified his vote in favor of the resolution by saying that "one of the greatest gifts to the world was medieval Christendom."  Heck, he even (earlier) had written a short essay about it in response to an earlier protest against the actions of the TX State Board of Education.

Whoa there, tiger.

Let's not lie to ourselves here: proposing and then passing this resolution is not an innocent action.  The conservatives on the TX State Board of Education, and Don McLeroy in particular, crave a holy war (or perhaps think that one's already under way).  As Prof. Mark Chancey points out, the resolution that the board has now approved is very clear with its worldview -- pro-Islam = anti-Christian.  The 2 stand in counterpoint to one another, a zero-sum equation in which one benefits only when the other loses.  During debate today, the board seemed to confirm these intentions by voting down a counter resolution that would condemn any bias in the textbook but leave out any specific references to Christianity and Islam.  The majority of the board wanted to get that frame across -- Islam vs. Christianity. 

I've discussed this kind of thing before.  This kind of rhetorical violence is always a bit hedged, a bit cloaked, but it seems to keep coming up.  Most especially in the debate over the New York City Muslim community center, and even in political campaign ads.

And people understand what this rhetoric means.  For example, one woman spoke in favor of the resolution:
"I believe Middle Easterners have bought the textbooks! They've bought everything else here!  I'm biased in favor of Christianity!  I'm biased in favor of America!"
Look at her "biases" - Christianity and America.  They're the same thing, right?  Hear how Renee Ellmers uses "the Muslims" and "the terrorists" interchangably and equates building a mosque in modern New York with the taking of Jerusalem in 638 and Constantinople in 1453?  We've apparently been fighting this holy war for a long time.  Christianity vs. Islam.  America vs. Islam.  The weird thing about all this is that these Christian zealots are saying basically the same thing as Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden

UPDATE: The good people at sent me this video they compiled with some video from the hearing:

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Anonymous said...

... ugh. That is all I have to say. Ugh.

Liam said...

It's all very ugly, very depressing, and very stupid.