A Disease of The Dream: Part 1
Following the events of January 6, 2021, on Capitol Hill, I finally knew what I had already felt; something is deeply wrong with the United States. For years we have openly called the state of political division and discourse the “culture war,” but somehow that term made the potential of another Civil War feel like hyperbole, but not anymore, that illusion has been shattered.
I started this project by spending months systematically looking at every image in the Library of Congress’s online Civil War glass- plate and print archives. Initially I was not sure what I was looking for, but perhaps I wanted to know what the future could look like if we do not tread lightly and thoughtfully. I found profound violence, destruction, and blood-soaked rural landscapes.
Very few images documented events as they occurred, but often if they did, the occasion was an execution by hanging. Carefully constructed and picturesque, staged so that the photographer had an elevated clear composition, these images were carefully considered and were meant to send a message: - Whether you be a high-ranking Confederate militant or, a conspirator in a president’s assassination, or if you choose to leave your ranks and desert the Union Army, don’t turn your back on the United States.
The archive is not only a record of our past;, it provides an example of what we are capable of. We should not be complacent and believe we are above our past behavior. The legacy of the Civil War is alive and well in our daily lives and is perpetuated by our political and educational systems.
"...if destruction be our lot we ourselves must be our authors and finishers. As a nation of freemen we will live forever or die by suicide..." - Abraham Lincoln
A Disease of The Dream: Part 2
In 2020, the confluence of the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, and nation-wide calls for police reform, and social justice formed the prelude to a presidential election of existential stakes, that would culminate in the events of January 6. Amid the chaos and confusion of 2020, Donald Trump issued and executive order titled “Combating Sex and Race Stereotyping.”
This executive order would become the template for what are now nearly two hundred pieces of legislation explicitly banning an academic theory notion known as Critical Race Theory. Once a little-known legal doctrine, it holds the United States’ social institutions (criminal justice, education, and healthcare systems, as well as labor and housing markets) as systems that are embedded in and reinforcing systematic racism.
These pieces of legislation purposefully redefine what Critical Race Theory is, as well as knowingly and wrongfully claim that this theory is being taught in American K-12 schools. Under the guise of diversity and inclusion, these bills cleverly co-opt progressive language to promote conservative ideologies. They censor factual statements about the United States Constitution in regard to its explicit race and gender discrimination by referring to these criticisms as left-wing indoctrination. They define such ideas as inherently divisive concepts, and revisionist history. They frequently and explicitly ban extra-curricular learning materials such as the Pulitzer Prize– winning 1619 Project. Their intent is to remove critical discussion of current events and their historical context from the classroom.
It is my belief that these bills not only infringe upon the First Amendment rights of students and teachers but also greatly diminish academic freedom to speak, think, and research freely. Thanks to the work of an organization called PEN America, which compiles and tracks of these bills in spreadsheet form, I was able to begin carefully reading and criticizing this legislation. I have begun to systematically print, read, and then highlight the aspects of these bills which that I find objectionable as it pertains to the ways in which history and social studies are taught, or in truth, not taught.
At the end of the 19th nineteenth Century, the United Daughters of the Confederacy led a political movement to rewrite the history of the Civil War, and dictate how that history could be taught in schools. The UDC were not only responsible for the construction of nearly four hundred Confederate monuments across the United States, but they also spent much of their resources indoctrinating children to believe in an alternative version of American History known as the Lost Cause. In which the North and Abraham Lincoln were tyrants and oppressors, ultimately responsible for the Civil War, and wanted to keep the institution of slavery alive more than the South.
They did not stop there . They also claimed that the slaves were happy, and grateful to their masters. These ideas were written into textbooks, informed by two texts, “A Measuring Rod for Textbooks” and the “Truths of History.”, White- supremacist fictions of this kind were present in textbooks across the South until as recently as the 1980’s. Divided at the core by the factual account of our shared history, it is no surprise we stand so divided in ideology and policy today.