What will seventh graders in the year 2063 learn in school about the American political milieu during the reign of Barack Obama? That’s just 50 years from now, but it seems none of the current participants is considering legacy. Yet that history is being made now, and the first accounts of it are being shaped daily by the nation’s newspapers, media broadcasts and periodicals.
The people who will write the textbooks that seventh graders will study 50 years from now are today seventh graders themselves, growing up in a nation that is making what are, for the adult population, head-spinning social advancements. A little ways into the future these social changes will be for today’s seventh graders the acceptable norm. The history of this period will be utterly unrecognizable by 98 percent of those involved in fashioning current reality because they have not considered how their actions are being perceived by others.
Case in point: In 1963 George Wallace auditioned the words below in his inauguration speech as governor of Alabama. Four months later while blocking two black students from the entrance of a state university, he unleashed the words again, this time on the entire nation: “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” This was, at the time, a popular sentiment in much of America and solidly so in the South.
Fifty years later the practice expressed in this sentiment is prohibited by law, scorned by many Americans, and only clandestinely embraced by an influential few – it ain’t any longer cool to be a straightforward racist in America. Historians have dealt a damning blow to the figures from the Wallace era. Many of those who championed the racist and obstructionist policies of 50 years ago and were admired and supported then, are dishonored and disdained in history books for their part in the very roles that many of their contemporaries approved. Ask any seventh graders today to define and evaluate George Wallace’s role in history and even students from the South will send Wallace lumbering away from this evaluation with a far from flattering appraisal. What happened in those 50 years? The people who would write that history disagreed with the people who made that history; or, at least saw it differently.
If all you listen to is the noise, you’ll find it hard to discern that underneath the clamor of major political struggles, and as a direct result of exposure to what filters through this clamor, the nation’s younger people get a chance to make choices that are always more honest and more righteous than the adults in the polity. The battle for hearts and minds that’s taking place in the glaring spotlight of talk radio, cable television and newspaper headlines will form independent opinions in young people. What is shaking loose, “trickling down,” if you will, from this most monumental struggle isn’t what one side or the other intends; it is their contrast that will form what young people see as their truth. There will hardly be any changes in the minds of the combatants themselves. Those in the battle and their supporters hold on to what they bring to the battle; they don’t see how the crash flushes out to others and they haven’t taken time to consider how their roles will be viewed in 50 years. But the foresighted see.
Young people’s social and political views are being formed by the clamor going on now. They will grow up in a nation fairer to LGBT people, less skewed against women, more inclusive of minorities, and more intolerant of income inequalities, and each disadvantaged group will have a larger and more visible role in the country’s power base To be sure, seventh graders today will have their own intergenerational differences in adulthood, but they will have settled the questions of who was right and who was wrong in this era. Those among them who will become historians – and more of them will be minorities, gay, and women – will gather the raw data being produced in today’s media to write the history of this time.
It is unlikely that any of them will miss the fact that on the day of the inauguration of the first black president, Republican Party officials met to consolidate their opposition to the new president. They agreed, each man and women there, to use total obstruction to oppose whatever policy the president proposed. Nothing, not even the comfort and safety of the American people, would be allowed to come between them and their goal. It may have been an oath-taking event close to what happens when a wiseguy becomes a made man in a darkened basement in Brooklyn, New York, minus, perhaps, the pricked finger. They had been unsuccessful in preventing a black man from being elected to the highest position in the land and now they would do all they could to defeat him at every turn. They didn’t ever want there to be a first black president; now they want to make Barack Obama the only black president ever, and in their minds, his defeat at governance would ensure that the American voters come to associate this one black president with potential calamity in all other black presidential hopefuls. This was the single most openly racist act by elected American officials since the institution of slavery. Future historians will point out by name the Republican legislators who resolved to work against the interests of the American people in a blind racial rage that rendered them fuming idiots.
There will be a chapter in the history books of 2066 entitled “The Failure of a Little Mind from Kentucky to Make Barack Obama a One-Term President.” This chapter will feature a picture of an extremely thin-lipped, red-faced man name Mitch McConnell, who, although dressed Ivy League, displayed the aura of (a useful term I recently heard in the George Zimmerman trial) a creepy-ass cracker, or, my own term, a “haystack hick” with a bias against niggras (I think this is how he would pronounce it).
Speaking of the Zimmerman disaster, commentators reminded us time and again that the Zimmerman jury was comprised of six women and that though these women were white, five were mothers – the implication being that white mothers would be able to relate to another mother whose child was killed needlessly. We heard it over and over that five of these women would embrace the motherly instinct to protect the offspring of mothers in general.
You won’t have to wait for historians of 50 years hence to point out that although five of the women on the Zimmerman jury were indeed mothers, they were mothers of white children who would never have to consider the dark concerns of black children. A white mother can’t imagine herself giving “The Talk” black parents have institutionalized in a small pamphlet circulated from Harlem to the South Side of Chicago to Oakland CA, on how young black boys need to behave in the presence of white men, especially white policemen, if they are to survive. A poll of today’s seventh graders would land Zimmerman in the joint. Tomorrow’s historians will record their agreement with 2013 seventh graders on this matter, while I believe they will portray Mitch McConnell as the creepy-ass cracker he’s been for the two terms of the Obama Administration and quite possibly for the whole of his natural born life.
Everything has been recorded and preserved, thus readily available, thanks to the internet. Scrum as they may, these Republican weasels would not be able to wriggle loose from the judgments of a history that’s authenticated, as solidly as theirs is, on YouTube and all the other internet archives. Some of you reading this will still be around in 2063. For as long as there is a Republican Party, no other of them will ever again yell “You lie!” at an American President. You heard that here first. And I want you to remember that I also predict this: History will elevate Barack Obama far, far above the creepy-ass crackers who served in government during his reign, and an awakened American people will agree.