The “1776 Report” Is Trump’s Last Gasp of State-Sponsored Hate

by nyljaouadi1
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It’s perhaps fitting that one of Trump’s last gasps in office, the “1776 Report”—revisionist guidelines for teaching U.S. history—came on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which in right-wing circles marks a massive celebration of misappropriation. Ted Cruz, facing the horrors of a Biden administration, quoted King, calling on us to have “the courage to face the uncertainties of the future”; gun-toting representative Lauren Boebert, who described the white supremacist mob before it attacked the Capitol as “her constituents outside [the] building,” cited King’s 1963 book Strength to Love, much of which was written in jail. But it was a local Las Vegas politician, Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, who most fully expressed the right’s bizarro-world distortion of MLK and history when she invoked King to condemn…Black Lives Matter protests.

Such is the spirit of 1776 as conveyed in this report, likely to become a blueprint for millions of red state and Christian academy children. It’s also a window into what’s already there: the curriculum of textbooks such as The American Republic for Christian Schools and homeschooling programs that celebrate Confederate general Stonewall Jackson’s birthday; the hugely popular “history” produced by David Barton, a former math teacher whose organization advises GOP leaders that the irksome wall between church and state was actually meant to protect the church from state authority—not the other way around. 

That view is one of the foundations of this “new” report, which, eked out on the penultimate full day of Trump’s presidency, is mostly meant as a means of mainstreaming Christian nationalism into the very public schools it disdains. It’s authored by a handful of right-wing scholars and businessmen, plus the founder of Patrick Henry College, created for conservative homeschoolers and Charlie Kirk, the smirking face of far-right student group Turning Point USA, who himself dropped out of college to devote his days to campaigning against what’s taught at college. 

What Kirk and co. appear to hate most is the discipline of history itself, one in which the study of the past is not fixed but ever subject to new research, evidence, and yes—because we are human—interpretation. Stop right there, says the Commission. The “facts,” it says, are settled, and so, too, their meaning. These “facts” of history “provide necessary—and wise cautions against unrealistic hopes and checks against pressing…utopian agendas too hard or too far”—a sentiment that may be more concisely phrased as “stay in your place.” Beneath this not-so-great notion appears a picture of Washington crossing the Delaware; a page down we find MLK on the Washington Mall, his hand raised, presumably, as a “check” against the crowd’s “unrealistic hopes.”

King appears again in a section of the report titled “Challenges to America’s Principles,” under the heading “Racism and Identity Politics”—equal “challenges” in the report’s view, as if the demand for diversity is every bit as hateful as, say, lynching. The report hijacks King and makes of his memory a missile it aims at his legacy: “The Civil Rights Movement,” reads the report, “was almost immediately turned to programs that ran counter to the lofty ideals of the founders.” The awful outcome, according to the report, is “social justice,” which it equates to the views of John C. Calhoun, the seventh vice president and one of history’s most ardent advocates of enslaving Black people. 

The report does acknowledge slavery as one of the “challenges” of American history, but Trump’s Commission warns against pressing that critique “too hard or too far.” For instance, those who fault Jefferson for enslaving 600 human beings, have had a “devastating effect on our civic unity.” Not slavery’s legacy; its critics. What’s special about America, they contend, was its eventual renunciation of slavery—some 61 years after Haiti, decades after England, only by force of arms, and in many ways incomplete to this day. But don’t let those fixed facts get in the way of history’s MAGA mission. Looked at in the proper light, suggests the report, the Three-Fifths Compromise—by which slaves were counted for the representational purposes of slave states as three fifths of a human being—was a good thing. “Practical politics,” says the report. Unity, in the upside-down vernacular of the post-insurrection Republican Party.

Premature abolition, argues the Commission—forcing free white men to give up their property, which is what the right interprets as “the pursuit of happiness”—could have led to despotism. So too, Black Americans demanding equal protection under the law today—that is, not getting shot by police—is seen by many on the right as a form of tyranny. In fact, the report proposes, it is slavery, not the freedom struggle, that is the “direct ancestor” of such “destructive theories that today divide our people.”

Allow me a breath; this document is not just absurd. It’s worse than ugly. It is profane. As the Trump administration leaves, it screams hate to the last.

The next “challenge” faced by the U.S., according to the report, which does not mention Native Americans at all, was—wait for it—“Progressivism.” That’s the movement that brought us child labor laws and the 40-hour work week. But what the Commission really loathes is the civil service, a.k.a. the “shadow government.” Read: the deep state, a shout-out to QAnon, presented here in Q’s own horror-movie terms: “it continues to grow around us.” 

Much like fascism, the “challenge” that follows. “Like the Progressives,” begins the section, “Mussolini”—and I’ll stop right there. Besides, proposes the report, communism was a much bigger problem, even now, because college, where the wicked thought of Marx (and George Soros) “pervades much of academia and the intellectual and cultural spheres.” 

Perhaps Lenin put it best: What is to be done? “Patriotic Education.” It starts with “The Role of the Family,” which is to “reclaim [the] duty to raise up morally responsible citizens who love America.” Reclaim from whom? Public school teachers, who “demean America’s heritage.” The antidote? Faith. Indeed, the report proposes, there may not be an America without the “pulpits, sermons, and publications of Christian instructors.” There could not be a clearer statement of Christian nationalism, the far right’s insistence that the U.S. is a Christian nation in which other faiths are suffered only so long as they pay deference to the “fixed laws” of God. A casual reader, brainwashed by public education, might wonder what these are. Chief among them, know Christian nationalists, for whom “natural law” has long been a bulwark against secularism, is gender. God created man and woman. Fixed law. There are, I should note, no women included in the report’s 11 images, though in one, the sun falls beatifically on a little blonde white girl raising her hand.

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