Thomas M. Sobottke’s Words

Thomas Martin Sobottke (Ph.D) is a friend and a veteran high school teacher in Wisconsin.  He teaches Social Studies and his major interests include labor and the Civil War.  He has been an eloquent letter-writer on all things political and we are pleased to provide his words here.  He’ll welcome your comments below.

Comment on Gov. Walker’s Union-Busting Plans

We were anticipating something like this. We were ready to take a big hit in salary to balance the state budget but the removal without any thought of us of our collective bargaining rights that Wisconsin workers have had for fifty years was a schock.stop and think about what it is they are doing to both us and the future well being of our state’s citizens. They must first think about what it is they are actually doing.  They must think about the power that the Governor is weilding here.  Is this wise?  This question has not even been investigated by our media as yet, much less lawmakers who will ram this through next week in some sort of triumph not knowing what it is they do to change this state forever.

Many of us were simply not prepared for the scope and depth of this anti-union measure.  To say that he disrespects public employees as human beings is putting it mildly.  We were not asked about these changes at all.  We have had no voice in them but our puny little votes at the ballot box.  Others prevailed and this is apparently what a majority of Wisconsin citizens have been longing for. Majority rules and minority rights on the job must be sacrificed.  My Union is having an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss these changes and we are likely to flood our lawmakers with phone calls to tell them not to do this or to at least wait until we can have something to say about what is being done to us.  We want them to

We have already been informed factually that this will be passed by February 16th next Wednesday.  Damn, that’s fast.  Have they held hearings on all this?  Many laws require hearings and a period of time for legislators to think about the full impact of a law.  What will it do to the Wisconsin economy beyond balancing the state budget?  What does the legislative Reference Bureau say about the numbers 5.85% and 12.6%?  Do we know? It would seem to me to be a good idea to hold them so that the public and the legislature could stop and think first.  Stop and think. That is the name of a program that gets teens to stop and think before using drugs in Wisconsin.  Our legislature needs a full course in Stop and Think.

I did hear that Walker the Bulldog is ready to call out the National Guard for prison guards if they walk off their jobs.  But is he actually going to call out the National Guard if any of us go to lobby our legislators some day this spring in Madison on this issue?

As you might guess I have already begun plans to retire from teaching altogether.  It is just not my cup of tea anymore.  Public service is not something I would advise anyone to get into these days.  It won’t pay them nearly enough for the trouble, and they will be hated and reviled and disrpespected for every single day they work in the public sector know matter how little they earn. The hatred of the public for public school teachers in the State of Wisconsin has been a given in the 26 years I have taught in this state.  It will continue even when we no longer have union representation.  We are the chief scapegoats along with our brothers and sisters in state and muncipial work.  What about all those other people in public service?  They are considered high payed lazy bums who should be turned out on the street.  Do people really understand things as they are or only how right-wing media mouths tell them it is?  Utah Phillips once said that the problem in our society is that the blame pattern is downward when it ought to be upward to all the big time chizzlers in government and business who really have the power and who disregard the working man. Walker launches a right-wing media and big business blame pattern that looks downward and blames its victims and future victims for things they have not done.  No doubt many Wisconsites will rejoice that state teachers unions and public employees unions are destroyed and that those in public service will finally get what is coming to them.  But it is the big time chizzlers upstiars in plush government offices (our Governor and conservative Republican legislators) and their big busniess cronies who get the benefit.  Since the 1980’s 89 percent of income growth as been with the top one percent in our nation.  This is a blame pattern that runs fully downward while the real criminals count profits and smile at how stupid the rest of us are.  Will we ever wake up to this shakedown?

Worst of all, the proposal of the Governor re-allocates thousands of dollars a year from each employee to pay for what the government used to provide.  Not only is that hard on the employee concerned but it takes that money out of their discretionary income and means hundreds of thousands of people will spend less money via Wisconsin businesses. Is this guy stupid?  Is the real aim of this legislation to further sap consumer demand from the state’s econcomy? If that is an aim, it will work beautifully.  I don’t see opur household buying one single big ticket item in the next five years.  We won’t have the money to do so or to even borrow for the purpose.  Do Wisconsin manuafacuters really desire this outcome?  Have they thought it through?

I have the highest respect for firefighters and police.  But Walker has deftly left them out of this as they have contributed to his campaign. This is simply divide and conquer. I rate police and firefighters above teachers.  They risk their lives every single day for us.  But…and this is the catch: teachers and all sorts of public servants put a human face on our State government and make it work and carry out what needs doing.  Many of these things benefit our people in ways that are hard to calculate yet are nevertheless vital to us all.

Scott Walker’s disrespect for public employees and this proposed law truly makes us second class citizens. Private sector workers are not being called upon to give up as in my case $15,000 a year for the state and to lose a vital voice in their workplace.   Private sector workers, police and firefighters are evidently a higher form of humanity then I am says this new Wisconsin law.  It is felt deeply, and can be seen and heard by all if they just listen. Our people are told that there is something deeply wrong with the people who teach their children and who run state offices and departments and provide services that requires them to be hit hard like this.  I fully understand that the law is fully Constitutional on both the State and Federal levels.  So it will happen.  There is no stopping this.  But that does not mean it is wise.  Laws can be and have been enacted that hurt citizens and are extremely unwise in respect of the general welfare and yet they can still be Constitutional.  This is just what we have in this proposal of our new Governor Scott Walker.

He has already thrown away a billion dollars in Federal government stimulus money for the economy that would have had a ripple effect and have benefited all workers in the state, and now this.  By June we should be in a complete state of collapse as to employment and state services but the business community should wioll be smiling.  Well, there is one worker in Pewaukee this morning who is not smiling.  And he is fully prepared to go to the Capitol and face National Guard bayonets to have his voice heard as a citizen of the State of Wisconsin and the United States of America.  Has this too been stripped from us?  Le’ts put it to the test: thousands of peaceful public employees.  Yes, we will all be fired.  Walker will be hailed as another Dutch Reagan.  But does he have his charm?  His ability to communicate?  How does it feel to be shot down like a dog in our capitol for merely peacefully assembling and petitioning our government for a redress of grievances?  We can find out this spring.

Does Walker wish to be some sort of more successful Hosni Mubarak?  Let him fire the first shot to kill a worker in Wisconsin and see where it leads.  He has already figurativiely done so thousands of times and he has been somebody else’s Governor for less than two months.  You heard that right.  Somebody else’s governor.  We all accept the decision of the electorate in our democracy here.  But everything this guy does is against my self-interest and that of my family.  He disrepects me and my vocation intensely.  How can I say that he represents me?  Only a fool would do that.  So I can at least say he is “somebody else’s governor”. The AFL-CIO ought to immortalize that phrase on campaign materials from here on out to describe Scott Walker.  He serves people but only some people. Has he violated at least in principle any oath Governors take in coming into the office?  I suspect so.  We must favor a government for all the people and not just some.  Tearing down public employees ultimately will not benefit the rest of us.  It will take time for the rest of the people of the state to learn this truth.  In the meantime a lot of people in the state who were helping hold this state together in tough times will be hurt, largely unecessarily.   

In Solidarity for the Worker’s Commonwealth, and the O.B.U.,

Thomas Martin Sobottke, Feb. 12, 2011


The Stench from The Right

She’s a hair’s breath away from a seat in the United States Senate.  Sharon Angle is challenging Harry Reid of Nevada for the seat as the mainstream Republican candidate this fall.  Last January on a radio show while she was yet in relative obscurity, Angle noted that “the nation is arming, that “if we cannot get what we want from the ballot we must turn to Second Amendment remedies.  Harry Reid must be taken out.” Such a glaring lack of judgment, and contempt for the electoral process, and our democracy should disqualify her from serving in the Senate.  Angle ought to withdraw from the race and apologize to Harry Reid for making what is an open, on the air, death threat.  Her view of the electoral process and how the Second Amendment can be used to subvert it should be of foremost concern to Americans who still respect our system and way of life.

Sarah Palin often includes the phrase “lock and load” in her national speeches.  At a joint appearance with Michelle Bachmann last April in Minneapolis she connected “God and guns.”   What kind of message does this send?  How long will it be until someone or some people take these exhortations to action seriously?  The results could be terrible.  Who will be our next Timothy McVeigh?

The inability of the Right to accept the results of our elections has no frame of reference at all except perhaps our American Civil War. In 1860, it was White Southerners who could not accept the election of the Republican Abraham Lincoln.  Their answer was secession and war. They were convinced their liberties were in danger when they were not.  They could not be reasoned with.  It was as if they had gone mad.  Something of that atmosphere is brewing in contemporary America.

Though no significant violations of civil liberties have occurred under the Obama Administration, these people are waiting for the next red alert that they are convinced is coming.  It is evident everywhere as the legitimacy of the Obama Administration is being challenged by Birthers who assert the President was born in Kenya and not Hawaii.  The anti-Obama rhetoric even before he took office in January 2009 was already there.  Can it be that conservatives in America will only accept election results achieved by the ballot when their candidates are elected? Are we to be like Jamaica, Kenya, or Haiti?  Will an international commission from the UN be forced to come in and monitor our elections as if we did not understand anything about democracy?

Where are the adults?  What happened to the old vetting process political parties used to do?  The move of the Republican Party to the right is having enormous consequences.  Now a Sharon Angle is in the mainstream.  Rand Paul is too. This is not your parent’s Republican Party.  The true measure is that Ronald Reagan if he were alive to come back into politics today would be distinctly to the left of his own party.  Republicans and conservatives are taking obstruction of the other party’s policy to a new arena:  that of violence and intimidation.  What will they do if they and their almost Fascist-like views are rejected by the voters at the polls this fall?  Mass violent disobedience?  Will there be a march on Washington to take over the government?   On August 28, 2010, Glenn Beck will be hosting a live, staged, media event at the Lincoln Memorial.   Why August 28th?  I think you can guess.  He wants to somehow mock the real meaning of the place and the event that took place there in 1963 on that day.  I might suggest that his followers adopt the wearing of shirts or badges.  Perhaps they could be Black shirts?  Silver Shirts?  Brown Shirts? Or would shirts woven from tea bags be appropriate?  I can only think of the German Bundists who staged an event like this at Madison Square Garden in New York just before World War II.  These Nazi sympathizing German immigrants even displayed American flags and a large portrait of George Washington for cover.  What will Glenn Beck use?  Perhaps some people should be there to bear witness to the falsity of this event.  How many counter protestors can we all muster?  What about a March on Washington for democracy and support of the government in the face of this challenge?

When despotism comes it must eliminate the witnesses to the tragedy as it snuffs out a democracy.  Let’s not let that happen in our America.  Challenge the Republican Party’s drift to the Right and place your foot firmly in the sand on the Left of the old reliable center of the political spectrum and hold on fast!  The stench from the Right is in my nostrils and the rot is self evident.  Can you smell it too?

An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh:

Mr. Limbaugh:

No disrespect here.  I do understand your defense of our founders and what from the beginning was a document in the Constitution that was a significant improvement as a plan for government than anything then yet presented to our world.  Yet, as both Thurgood Marshall and Elena Kagan have correctly pointed out, the document did have some fundamental defects at the outset.

The United States Constitution of let us say 1791 (when most of the Bill of Rights had been added through Amendment) was a plan of government that did these things quite plainly:

It denied to all the women of the United States (just over half the population) the right to vote and participate significantly and meaningfully in the government.  Women met in convention at Seneca Falls, New York in July 1848 and began a long hard struggle for the right to vote which was finally won by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in 1920.  Why wasn’t this provision present in the 1791 document?  No one today would stand up and say the vote for women was wrong.  Ronald Reagan’s appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor would have been unthinkable at the time of our founders.  That is a serious defect in the document.

It permitted African-Americans to be owned as property by other Americans and bought and sold like a horse, pig or cow.  This is not to mention the fact that rights of citizenship were fully denied them.  Even after emancipation was completed in 1865, after a convulsive and horrible civil war, Blacks in the nation had to fight and claw to be seen and treated as White Amerians were by long tradition.  Shouldn’t Clarence Thomas be removed from the Supreme Court if your thesis is to be supported?

This is precisely what both Marshall and Kagan have been talking about.  By any measure, then or now, these were serious defects to a plan of government that gave effect to our nation’s mission statement in the Declaration of Independence that declared to the entire world that all men were created equal.  This is the moral bar set by our founders.  The plan of government they set up in 1787 simply did not measure up to that at all.  It was seriously defective for those reasons.

Do you know the story of Thurgood Marshall and his long fight leading the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to fight to overturn the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision of 1896 with the Brown vs. Board of Education Decision of 1954.  The Brown decision as you know, called into question the whole system of segregation in the United States, our apartheid system.  It is perhaps the greatest decision ever made by a Supreme Court next to Marbury vs. Madison in 1803.

What can you tell me about why these comments by Marshall and Kagan are in any way inappropriate to the reality of our original Constitution as measured against our founding idea of all men are created equal?  This is fundamental.  It is not liberal vs. conservative, unless you mean to defend slavery and non-citizenship for American women.

You can comment on this e-mail on your show, and respond to it.  I challenge you to have me on your program at any time or day you might name.  Just let me know.  I also would like to hear from you on this issue both on the air and via an e-mail or letter response.  Please respond.

Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke

329 Evergreen Lane

Pewaukee, WI  53072


The Conservative Right Rewriting the History of the 20th Century

Glenn Beck saying that Theodore Roosevelt was a Socialist, Jonah Goldberg that Woodrow Wilson was a Liberal Fascist, and Ronald J. Pestritto, a constitutional scholar at Hillsdale College in Michigan, that the Progressives of America’s Progressive Era launched a deliberate and calculated attack on the United States Constitution and the values held by our founders.  What is going on here?  Have Conservatives suddenly lost contact with the reality of our nation’s history?  Or are they attempting a major re-interpretive revision of the entire history of Twentieth Century America?  Thus far, as I have observed this phenomenon I have been charitable and chalked it up to simple ignorance or a misunderstanding of our shared past as a people.  But it is gradually getting more difficult to do that.  I must admit here that I have not completely read the books peddled by this crowd, but what I have seen in essays and lengthy appearances on the media have raised serious alarm bells, and rattled the historical compass of this American historian.

First, we must note that none of these people are professional historians whose business it is to accurately reconstruct the past and explain it.  Glenn Beck admits his own ignorance of history right on the air.  Ronald J. Pestritto, while a legitimate academic deserving of our respect, is not a historian but a political scientist and scholar of the Constitution.  Jonah Goldberg is a darling of the right, and a very intelligent purveyor of this element’s ideology. I’ve been trying to run down some of my main-line historical colleagues who have written and studied the Progressive Era and they are nowhere chiming in with this deeply revisionist view of American history.

In his book, Liberal Fascism, Goldberg connects Woodrow Wilson and John Dewey, and other Progressive leaders to the ideas of Stat-ism and Fascism.  George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells become Hitler-supporting Eugenicists.  The Twentieth Century is viewed as a time when the United States embraced the state oriented ideologies of Nazism and Italian Fascism in particular (if you follow Goldberg) and it was those Americans who were on the left in the history of this past century who did that most earnestly. Goldberg notes darkly that many New Deal work programs resembled the great industrial work programs of the Italian Fascists or Hitler’s Nazi Party.  Here something like the old Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC becomes akin to the Hitler Youth program. For Progressives, the state and its power and authority were and are total, if you believe these revisionists.  It is the Progressive Era, prior to the New Deal, in which big government was fully advanced and took the nation on a road to the ruin it is currently experiencing, or so goes their argument.

Let me tell you what is most striking about their point of view:  it is what is left out of the story. The great upheavals experienced by Americans as a pre-industrial nation became one that was industrial and capitalist, and distinctly corporate, is not mentioned at all.  One cannot begin to understand the appearance of the Progressives or their motivations without seeing Progressivism as a response to the social and economic inequalities and serious class conflict that existed in the Gilded Age (1876-1914).  For these folks the industrial world does not exist.  A bunch of state worshiping leftists got together they say and simply hated our Constitution and American values and made the first criticism of the document in our history, and worked to undermine it at every turn.  For those of us who lived at all in the past century, or paid attention in school, we were made aware that industrial capitalism (however you wish to view it) grew up side-by-side with a growing role for government in attempting however ineffectively to deal with its obvious and commonly felt shortcomings.

Of course working men and women are not mentioned in this story at all.  In an essay written for Glenn Beck’s fans on his website, Ronald J. Pestritto mentions the “social and economic ills” of the era but does not bother to state what they were, why they were important, or in what manner people attempted to respond to them. The role of Unions in providing an instrument to advance the legitimate concerns of human beings in how they would earn their bread is not on these people’s horizon at all.  There is the conscious desire, expressed continually by Beck these days (and 2.87 million Americans hang on his every word) that we should “return to the founders.”

Pestritto has become Beck’s guru, along with Goldberg, so we should pay attention.  What is hinted at in the work of Pestritto, is returning to an America that celebrates the exultation of property rights of the individual.  At least that is what his work implies.  If these people, including Beck, truly want to return to the view held by our founders on property rights, it raises the most delicious opportunity for critics.  Our founders lived in a world where the right of property in a slave was to be respected fully, even though no such protection appeared until the Dred Scott decision of March 1857. Even Northern anti-slavery founding fathers were unwilling to press slave holding founders to take away their “property.”  It would be fascinating, though terrible, to watch as descendants of slaveholders got on-line to run down genealogically the descendants of their ancestor’s slaves.  They could then go and take them into custody and bring them home and breed them for profit and buy and sell them on e-bay to their heart’s content.  I am being ridiculous you say?  Perhaps.  But it is the logical place you must go if you accept the arguments of these people.

Also noticeably absent from their thesis is the undoubted commitment of both Presidents Roosevelt and Wilson, and progressives generally, to representative democracy.  Pestritto and Goldberg criticize progressives a great deal but fail to mention how they supported an extension of democracy to other people not seen by our founders.  Progressives made it possible for voters to directly elect their United States Senators.  This is in fact a direct attack on the Constitution of the founders.  But it was done via the amendment process, and would likely be supported today by voters of all stripes. This is our Constitution’s Seventeenth Amendment.  Do we really want to go back to the time when state legislatures selected senators for us?  The Progressive Era ended with the extension of voting rights to women (just over half the population of the nation) in 1920.  Here we are dealing with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  Progressives attacked big city and state government corruption by introducing municipal reforms and the direct primary.  They followed these with the initiative, referendum, and the recall in many states.  These measures extended the level of political participation in ways our founders (all male and white) would never have countenanced.  So I suppose that is the attack made by Progressives on our founders.  Their inclusion of the amendment process for the Constitution, the right of the Congress to make laws, and the Supreme Court to interpret what those laws mean (Hamilton’s Federalist Essay #78 and Marbury vs. Madison 1803) leave wide open avenues to change that Messrs. Beck, Goldberg, and Pestritto must contend with in arguing for a return to say, 1787 or 1791. Supreme Court decisions, laws, and the simple march of events and changes in how we live in relation to each other has turned the world over many times and drastically altered the document known as our Constitution.  These revisionists posit that Progressives were evil in that they saw the Constituion as a living, breathing document capable of change.  Beck and company don’t want any of that.  They wish to recreate the world and Constitution as it was in the time of our founders.  The world has turned over many times since then, and you cannot go back.  But they want to.

What all this is shaping into is a concerted effort to re-interpret the history of our nation, and the Twentieth Century in particular, in a way that totally undermines the reforms undertaken during both the Progressive Era and the New Deal.  Even Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, both Republicans, come under fire.  What these people may envision for our future, is a nation where corporate America exercises an iron control over our very lives and there is no intervening or countervailing force to stop them.  The recent Supreme Court decision with its dastardly assertion and reaffirmation that corporations were human beings with all the rights the Constitution can provide, underlines the direction being taken by these Conservatives.  I do note that Goldberg in a 2008 appearance before C-Span and the Heritage Foundation lamented the fact that they do not yet control what is taught in our schools and universities.  He implied that all educators were leftists.  In reality, we are simply historians telling the truth about our people’s experiences in the past. The sad thing for them, is that it is simply very bad history. It is unprofessional and distorted out of all reality.  It is they who wish in 1984 fashion to re-define words like fascist, and liberal, and social justice and connect them with anyone who wishes to continue the fight for humanity.

The Tea Party: UNHOODED!

By Thomas Martin Sobottke

They were yelling “Nigger!”, “Fagot”, and “Wetback!”   Now we know.  The Tea Party Movement finally and unmistakeably unmasked itself, or should we more accurately say, removed their hoods recently as demonstrators gathered to heckle mostly Democrats who favored a vote for the recently passed Health Care Bill.    Representative John Lewis, a 1960’s Civil Rights Veteran and great American, was called the “N” word repeatedly as were other members of the Congressional Black Caucus.   None of these representatives deserved this type of treatment.  But it should be instructive to Americans who have not yet decided to join the movement.  This is what they really are:  racist nativists of the worst kind.

What really is at the core of the Tea Party Movement?  It is that sick feeling in the stomachs of many White Americans who now know instinctively that the America they once knew, comfortably under the control of White America, despite the presence of racial and ethnic minorities, is slipping away from them.  They can feel it.  And since 2008 they can see it:  Obama, the great demon.  Millions of people from Latin America, mostly Mexico, and from Asia, and the Middle East, are coming to the United States.  Most if not all will become the kind of citizens their predecessors have always become:  great ones who enrich the country with their hard work, talent, and love for freedom.  This has always been the great secret of success of this nation.  We’ve always welcomed the hardest working and most enterprising people from around the world and they have enriched the nation beyond measure.  It’s why we were instrumental in winning two world wars and building the greatest economic power on earth.  And, we have retained our representative democracy throughout.

Forget about all the anti-taxing ideology present in the movement.  Forget about the fear that the Obama Administration will take away their guns.  This is really about race, and ethnicity, and the failure of some Americans today:  nearly all White, to handle it.  The United States is poised on the edge of becoming a society where White people are not in the majority any longer.  That is the essence of the Tea Party Xenophobia, now on display for the entire people of the country.  Instead of embracing a multiracial, and multi-ethnic and tolerant America, where we show the world how to live together in the era of the global village, we are in danger of demonstrating to the world yet again, the hypocrisy of the American ideal.

This should be an exciting time for Americans.  We should be celebrating the fact that so many people want what the United States offers and represents that they will sometimes go to any means to come to our country.  If the Tea Party has its way, we will turn these people away.  Just now I thought I saw the woman with the torch in New York Harbor turn away in shame.

Within the past couple of months, my dental hygienist asked me for her husband if I thought the government would take away their guns.  I assured her the Republic would survive an Obama Administration.  I wanted to crack a joke and tell her that we somehow survived eight full years of George Bush but chose to remain silent.  My pharmacist collared me right in the store and knowing of my expertise in the era of America’s Civil War said, “I just have to tell you that the Civil War was not about Slavery, it was about State’s Rights and State Sovereignty.  Despite denying the reality as known by four million slaves in 1860 in this country, he proceeded to make an argument for the secession of practically all fifty states from the Union.  He admitted he had heard of this powerful idea from right-wing talk radio.  A full hour later with customers piling up behind us and taken over by another pharmacist I had finished my lecture on the Constitution of the United States, its supremacy clause, and the fact that the secession issue has been settled decisively on the battlefield between 1861-65.  I made it clear to him I would be on the other side, supporting the Constitution and the Union as were my fore-bearers.  It was at times a ludicrous conversation.  I felt as though I were arguing with John C. Calhoun, and other Southern fire eaters of the 19th Century.  But I won.  I may have opened the eyes of this pharmacist.  He of course will have the last word as he fills my prescriptions.  Let’s hope there is no residual resentment on his part.  I noted the center of the secession movement comes from White Texans.  Recently, I detailed that State’s distortion of our nation’s history.  Perhaps we ought to let that state go in peace.  Texas might return to its status as an independent republic, a natural repository for the Tea Party lunatics, as it was before 1845.

This nation has a great opportunity before it.  It is finally time for the nation to truly live out the full meaning of its creed as declared by Dr. King in 1963.  The people of color will outnumber the pale faced among us.  They will want their racial status and national origin respected just as the millions of White Europeans who came before them.  It will be a different nation.  We can finally get this thing right.  But we are in danger of veering to the right if we let the Tea Party activists hide behind their version of the Constitution, and this obsession with spending, secession, state power, and guns, and black helicopters provided via the UN.  You know, White people are colored too!  They are simply colored White.  Let’s look at things that way and celebrate the humanity of each other and reach out–not strike out.

This is not about the Health Care Bill at all.  It does not go far enough, and it is too expensive due to concessions made to the Health Care Industry, but it will help a lot of people in meaningful ways.

Let this nation be finally the one where “We hold these truths to be self-evident,  that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This is the great mission statement of the United States.  This is what the United States means.  Lincoln knew it.  We should remember it the next time the Tea Party puts on their hoods and goes riding in 21st Century America.  Let all those who stand for freedom and equality oppose them in strength and un-hood them repeatedly for what they are.

Thomas Martin Sobottke

An outraged teacher reflects on Texas!

(Editor’s Comment:  Sometimes the best time to write a political comment is when you are full of anger.  Here’s what my teacher friend, Tom Sobottke of Pewaukee WI, wrote right at the moment of full outrage when he heard of the terrible changes that were occurring to state curriculum in Texas. How is this sort of thing even possible in the 21st Century, he wondered.  Most seriously, these changes will now infect much of the textbooks of the rest of the nation too.)

What really got to me was news that a Texas Board of Education approved a series of Amendments to what will be included in textbooks in that separate nation.  Oh, is it still a state?  I thought the Governor had wisely decided to secede.  Good riddance to ‘em.  Those folks are just plain loony.  I honestly think they should leave the U.S.  I am ashamed Texas is part of our country. Really and truly.

Here is what they have already decided (the Texas legislature will approve this next May)

1) Key provisions of the First Amendment to the Constitution will not be taught students:  too controversial.

2) Title IX and other laws that fight discrimination on the job and in school for Blacks and Women will have language that says these measures had certain negative and unintended consequences that have made them unwise historically.  Who teaches that at the college level?  Anybody?

3)  Joseph McCarthy will be vindicated as certain documents liberated from the old USSR since its fall show that that nation had designs on the U.S. during the Cold War.  McCarthy was right!  Blacklisting?  Violations of Civil Liberties?  Well we already know from the above that the board members who approved these things do not understand or perhaps they DO understand the implications of our First Amendment and that explains their stand here and there.

4) Between 1899-1903 when the United States killed 600,000 Filipinos (thousands among them unarmed women, children, and old men in several villages) we were merely expanding.  Imperialism as a word will not exist in Texas textbooks.  Expansion is more benign.  So it goes in.  I have an activity where my students debate U.S. Imperialism in the Philippines.  That will no longer exist in Texas classrooms as of next May.   So if I taught in Texas I could not do the activity at all.  Nothing to debate.    It seems to me that in Texas now they can teach that Hitler’s Germany was merely expanding in Europe.  Their expansion into Poland and other nations was a bit trying to the native populations but these things were necessary for nations that must expand like the U.S. and Nazi Germany.  Right?  Must be consistent.  We really made a mistake fighting those guys.  They were merely doing what we do so well.  Why didn’t we help them?

5)  Stonewall Jackson is to be emphasized in the books as the most exemplary American leader in our history.  This traitor to the United States of America between 1861 and his timely passing on May 10, 1863 is to be lionized.  The Lost Cause lives on.  Where is Howard Zinn when you need him?

6)  Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln to get side-by-side and equal treatment in Texas textbooks!  The main traitor to the nation and the main savior of it on equal terms!   Union Civil War veterans are spinning in their graves.  Just give me a loaded Springfield rife and keep them coming!  I’m a member of the Sons of Union Veterans and this is NOT the country that these men saved between 1861-65.

7)  Hate to tell you Maura but Thomas Jefferson is nearly completley out of Texas textbooks.  Some small acknowledgment of him as one of our Presidents and writer of the Declaration of Independence perhaps but NOT as a founder of the nation.  St. Thomas Acquinas, John Calvin, and other religious leaders are the founders of the United States of America. Summa Theologica is the basis for our principles as a nation.  And Blackstone’s commentaries on law are the basis for all U.S. laws.  Jefferson is distinctly OUT!

8) Hispanics are cut out of the books almost entirely.  This prompted a liberal Democrat board member (the last to leave during debate) that this was a white man’s history and country and that in social studies textbooks Texas’ large Hispanic population does not or will not any longer exist.

9) Sorry, Capitalism is out of Texas textbooks.  “Free Market” is more positive.  Any thought on how much coverage Unions get?  I sincerely doubt they are mentioned at all unless it is to connect them to dangerous radicals who were put down after WWI and WWII.

Part of me wants to go down to Texas just to get a job teaching in a high school there for peanut money and I would teach within the curriculum and be deliberately provocative:  we had U.S. expansionism in the Philippines, not to mention the continental U.S. with native peoples.  “Slaughtering them freely for some hours,” was what the Manchester Guardian termed U.S. expansion.  I’d call Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis exemplary leadership in U.S. history as they showed the nation how to commit treason on a massive scale for several years.  And we could go on from there. . . Emancipation:  Four million Negroes went on the loose!  And they have not been corralled and enslaved since!  Think of it!  I’d teach it that way.  Howard Zinn, am I on the right track?

I have a real knock on the noggin but I think I am talking sense.  Maybe I need to give this Texas Board of Education a knock on their collective noggins!

Enjoy!  What a country!  Has Texas seceded yet?  Can’t wait.  Let the Red States go as wayward and departed sisters as Horace Greeley said.  The White South has been allowed to live in a dreamworld of white supremacy and right-wing Christian fundamentalism and look where it got them!

Do these white people (the entire Texas Board minus a frustrated minority was white and Conservative Christian) know that soon the United States will no longer have a majority of white people?  That people of color will be the majority if taken together?  Will these people of color readily take to this kind of treatment in a nation where majority rules?  I say down with my race.  I’m sick of how we act.  I am ashamed of us and very unhappy at this.

I’m ready to carry the banner of battle to the White South!  Oh, I am concerned about the kind of country my two younger children of color will live in.  Joined the NAACP last month.  No one from the Brookfield chapter has yet contacted me.

Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke, Feisty in Pewaukee


4 thoughts on “Thomas M. Sobottke’s Words

  1. Pingback: A teacher’s blogs featured! « Advoken's Blog

  2. This is another great piece Tom, I read your first one and agreed fully. I am retired now and we have moved to Three Lakes in the far north. Republican area to be sure. Last Wednesday they had a forum and among the panel were three gentlemen running for the school board. I posed the question about the travesty in Texas to them, asking what they would do to protect the students of the Three Lakes School District. Their replies were vague, and I only hope they were not up on the subject.

    Oh, Yeah, I don’t expect you to remember me but I am the secretary of the WLHS. I came on board about the time you were leaving to devote more time to research.

  3. Sobttke, I am concerned by your reaction to this tragedy. Yes, Texas is very much in the wrong for their curriculum changes, especially by singling out specific parts of our constitution, but to come out and say that you want to have a war against these people is completly out of line. That they should secede and good riddance to them? this is not the correct way to handle the situation.

  4. Pingback: Governor Jeremiah Rusk Reincarnated « Advoken's Blog

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