Whose Memorial?

The Evolution of a Holiday (Holy Day)

Jerry LeClaireMay 31

When I was growing up, Memorial Day was still known among my much older aunts and uncles as Decoration Day. For them it was a day to remember the dead, not just the military dead, but all those family members who had gone before. It was the family custom to visit the cemetery across the road from the old farm and place flowers on the graves of the remembered dead. 

As a teenager Memorial Day in our small town was the day to listen to a few speeches by local notables down in the local park. They eulogized those who died in our wars. Then local military veterans, mostly in their fifties and sixties, their performance slightly less than crisp, fired off a twenty-one gun salute with their Springfield rifles, seven men, three volleys, in honor of our military dead. The Vietnam War was just starting to percolate somewhere far away. 

Like other national mythologies we were taught, it seemed to me that Memorial Day had always been celebrated—and that it meant the same thing to everyone. The historic truth is far more complex. Our commemorative national holy day grew out of local commemorations organized by locals in various communities during and after the American Civil War. The wikipedia article on Memorial Day offers a window on the complexity of the process by which we arrived at the current observance. The lesson is that many things we take for granted actually evolved over a long period of time, nudged forward by the efforts of many individuals and organizations. Memorial Day today feels like a day trying to speak of national unity—but its origins lie in the sometimes bitter remembrances of our bloodiest conflict as a nation.

As we mark this Memorial Day let us strive to understand and deal honestly with the injustices over which the Civil War was fought and so many lives were lost, lives lost both during the war and in the aftermath that stretches to this day.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. I hesitate to use the words celebration or holiday in describing Memorial Day. Both modern words connote joyousness, a feeling that seems to run counter to day that marks the remembrance of the dead. 

Trouble at Covenant?

Or growing pains among the militant far right?

Jerry LeClaireMay 28

I was going to take today and Memorial Day off, but after reading Shawn Vestal’s update on Matt Shea, The Covenant Church, and Ken Peters in the May 27 Spokesman, I had to share. Mr. Vestal’s writing alone is reason enough to subscribe to the Spokesman Review.

For reference, Matt Shea is the former Representative from LD4 (Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane). After exposure of his “The Biblical Basis For War,” Shea was stripped o his committee assignments and declined to run for re-election in 2020. Then, Mr. Shea, with no known theological training, became the pastor of the Covenant Church at 3506 W. Princeton Ave in near north Spokane, taking over from the former pastor, Ken Peters. Mr. Vestal takes the story from there.

Keep to the high ground,


Shawn Vestal: Matt Shea out at church over schism with fellow ‘general’ Ken Peters, but abortion protests go on

On Tuesday night, the so-called “Church at Planned Parenthood” met along Indiana Avenue to protest abortion, as it has done scores of times in recent years.

There was singing and praying and preaching and calls to end abortion, as usual. They met across the street from Planned Parenthood, as they have done since a judge ordered them to be less disruptive to clinic operations. A guest pastor from the South came and spoke to the crowd.

But some distinct differences were bubbling under the surface.

The alliance between the founder of TCAPP, Ken Peters, and Matt Shea, the former state representative, Ammon Bundy accomplice and supporter of “biblical warfare,” has fractured. Peters started TCAPP when he was pastor of Spokane’s Covenant Church; he left last year to establish other churches and TCAPP events around the South, and when he did, he named Shea as the pastor at Covenant.

But Shea left abruptly last week and started his own congregation, presiding on Sunday over the first services of On Fire Ministries. It appears, based on a video of the service, that a large proportion of Covenant’s congregation went with him, along with several key church leaders.

The reasons for the split are unclear. Peters, in a brief phone interview Tuesday before the TCAPP protest, said, “We let Matt go. We felt he was better on his own. It wasn’t a good fit, long-term.”

He said he didn’t want to be more specific, to avoid airing dirty laundry. But he did say TCAPP would continue.

“We plan on working together with Matt from a distance on issues we agree on, such as abortion and other moral issues,” Peters said.

TCAPP protests in Spokane have been a focus of controversy and legal battles since 2018. Clinic officials spent months complaining to the city about the noise, obstruction and interference with operations from the protests, which started late in the afternoon during the clinic’s final hours of operation.

After Planned Parenthood tried, without success, to get police to either move the protesters or require them to be quieter, the City Council took up the issue and strengthened the city’s noise ordinance last March following a raucous council meeting.

Planned Parenthood is now suing TCAPP, as well as Peters, Shea and other officials, and a judge issued an injunction ordering TCAPP to move its services across the street and start their events after the clinic closes. Clinic officials say that TCAPP has continually pressed up against – and gone beyond – the limits of the injunction, including starting protests earlier than ordered, holding events in front of the clinic and exhibiting threatening behavior toward a clinic representative.

The alliance between Peters and Shea has been central in Spokane’s far-right circles, where religion and politics are one. Shea sometimes preached at Covenant, where ultra-conservative politics were always explicitly on the agenda. As recently as January 2020, Peters appealed to the congregation to make contributions for Shea’s “legal defense fund.”

“Write a check to Covenant Church and put in the memo, Matt Shea Legal Fund, and then we’re going to write out a check from our church to the North Creek Law Firm,” Peters said.

That plea came as Shea’s tenure as a state lawmaker was collapsing under the weight of new revelations about his activities. A state legislative investigation concluded he engaged in domestic terrorism in helping Ammon Bundy plan and carry out the Malheur bird refuge occupation.

A former compatriot helped bring forth a series of damning revelations about Shea’s extremist activities and associations, among them, his planning for an end-times war, including by the training of child soldiers, and conducting background checks into his political opponents. His ties to the Marble Community, a locus of far-right, patriot activities in northern Stevens County, gained renewed attention, as did the connections to Christian Identity and dominionist philosophy.

Following years of local reporting on Shea, he became a national story.

After years of looking the other way, the GOP establishment and others in the conservative mainstream cut Shea loose. The House GOP caucus gave him the boot. Longtime funders stopped writing him checks. That was what was happening when Covenant passed the hat for his legal fund, and when, a few months later, Peters named Shea as his successor.

“This is God moving generals around,” he told his congregation.

Shea and Peters were big Donald Trump supporters and helped to peddle the election fraud canard, and both are COVID conspiracists and anti-maskers. Shea held “Stop the Steal” rallies; Peters spoke at a rally in Washington, D.C., the day before the Jan. 6 insurrection, after being flown down to the capital, he said, by Mike Lindell, the My Pillow guy and election-fraud mainstay.

Shea was a frequent presence at TCAPP from the start, as well. He took over as head pastor at Covenant last May, as Peters left to focus on starting a new church in Nashville – as well as beginning to spread to other cities in the South. Peters said this week that he’s having success growing two ministries: TCAPP and his Patriot Church. The head of the Patriot Church in Colbert, Jay MacPherson, is now the pastor at Covenant in Spokane.

Shea’s ouster occurred last week, and apparently took many in his congregation by surprise. He managed to get his new church up and running without missing a Sunday, he said in his first sermon, which was streamed online. The service took place in a conference room at the Mirabeau Park Hotel, and it was a packed house. It seemed, based on videos of congregation sizes at Covenant, to be as big or bigger, suggesting that many, if not most, of the Covenant congregation followed him.

During his sermon, Shea referred to the split only in general terms. He said Peters had asked him to leave and start a new ministry.

“Some of the stuff wasn’t done in the way that it should be in the kingdom, but we just bless everyone involved because God still wants to work through them,” he said. “We just look forward right now. We don’t look back.”

He said, “The enemy is going to be out there making accusations and everything like that.

“There was no impropriety or anything like that.”

“I know some of you may be a little hurt. … Right now, the biggest thing we can do is return love for animosity.”

Whatever led to the schism, both men showed up for TCAPP on Tuesday night. Peters flew in and ran the proceedings. Shea attended and stayed mostly toward the back of the crowd. Peters closed the event by referring obliquely to the changes and saying that he still loves Shea, “no matter what the press says.”

In the interview, Peters said, “We feel like we made the right decision for our organization in letting him go, but we wish him and those who went with him the very best.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Conservative Backlash against the 1619 Project

Jerry LeClaireMay 26

On Monday I wrote of the 1619 Project and the 1776 Commission Report. The 1776 Commission was hastily assembled by a worried Trump administration in opposition to the 1619 Project. The 1776 Report seems meant to prevent ideas about race and slavery that the Report’s authors considered dangerous. The story of this conflict doesn’t end with the 1776 Report. According to some powerful, monied folk, people who write history like the 1619 Project and gain national prominence with it must be brought to heel. They must not be afforded a secure platform from which to teach, especially not in a university in the southern United States.

Nikole Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her work as prime mover and lead author behind the 1619 Project. She is the recipient of fourteen other awards and fellowships, including a MacArthur Foundations Fellowship. Earlier this year Hannah-Jones was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

For years conservatives have been denigrating “experts” and “elites” at our universities while claiming that a university education is a dangerous indoctrination (excepting, of course, Christian conservative institutions like Hillsdale College and Liberty University). Rarely, though, do these claims spill out into open cultural warfare, they way they have over the 1619 Project. 

According to NC Policy WatchNikole Hannah-Jones, a strong candidate for a tenured professorship as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the University of North Carolina, was backed by the university’s dean, chancellor, and faculty. 

After the publication of the 1619 Project and the alarm it stirred among powerful conservatives, offering a tenured position to an uppity Black women at a university in the south, no matter how well-recommended, qualified, and supported, warranted drastic action—even if the news of that action might spill out. Adam Serwer at The Atlantic writes:

…in an extraordinary move, the board of trustees declined to act on that recommendation. Hannah-Jones was instead offered a five-year, nontenured appointment following public and private pressure from conservatives. Notably, other Knight Chairs at the journalism school have been tenured on its professional track, which acknowledges “significant professional experience” rather than traditional academic scholarship. Hannah-Jones’s Pulitzer and MacArthur genius grant surely qualify.

The denial of tenure is significant. For an academic, nontenure is a short leash, especially for a position for which tenure is customarily granted. That leash declares, “You will censor your ideas, won’t you…” Mr. Serwer goes on:

If you’ve taken recent debates about free speech and censorship at face value, you might find Hannah-Jones’s denial of tenure deeply confusing. For the past five years, conservatives have been howling about the alleged censoriousness of the American left, in particular on college campuses. But the denial of tenure to Hannah-Jones shows that the real conflict is over how American society understands its present inequalities.

The prime value of 1619 Project is that it jump started a valuable and needed conversation about our history—a conversation that conservatives want to control by diminishing the author, denigrating the scholarship, and re-stating their own mythological version of our history.

For an extended discussion of the higher level controversy among historians around the 1619 Project I highly recommend Adam Serwer’s Atlantic article, “The Fight Over the 1619 Project Is Not About the Facts.” It strikes me that the conversation the 1619 Project has sparked might lead to a very healthy re-evaluation of our past and present—a re-evaluation that many conservatives, happy with the old narrative, don’t want to have.

Keep to the high ground,


1619 and 1776

How Will We Understand Our History? 

Jerry LeClaireMay 24

I read the 1619 Project cover-to-cover when it first appeared in the New York Times Magazine in August of 2019. I could not put it down. In a hundred pages that include ten essays, a photo essay, and a collection of poems and fiction by an additional 16 writers, the 1619 Project filled in a multitude of gaps in my understanding of American history.¹ Where it did not fill a gap it offered me a new perspective on much of what I was taught in school and absorbed from a life lived in mostly white culture. 

The title “1619” was chosen to mark the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colony of Virginia on land that, a hundred and seventy years later, would become part of the newly formed United States. The date of first publication of the Project in August of 2019 was chosen to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the enslaved. 

While I found reading the 1619 Project fascinating, others apparently found it deeply and existentially threatening to their understanding of the world. The 1619 Project shines light in the dark corners of American history where racialized slavery and the doctrine of white supremacy have festered, hidden away under a sanitized founding narrative. The backlash against the 1619 Project’s story might have passed without much general notice, except that one of those who felt their worldview was threatened by the 1619 Project was none other than Donald Trump. 

In September 2020, partly in reaction to the danger he perceived in the 1619 Project, Mr. Trump established the 1776 Commission, meant to support what he called “patriotic education.” The Commission was composed of conservative activists, politicians and intellectuals (none with the credentials of an historian). The White House’s announcement of the publication of the 1776 Commission Report (archived—not on the current White House website), well-characterizes the intent of the publication: “1776 Commission Takes Historic and Scholarly Step to Restore Understanding of the Greatness of the American Founding.” You can read (or skim) the 45 page Report here. The blatant, unsupported, Republican propaganda of the Report is eye-popping.²

It seems clear that elements on the right fear that the previously dominant educational narrative (inevitably including elements of the doctrine of white supremacy) is under threat and getting away from them, hence, the words “Restore Understanding” in the Trump White House announcement. Woe betide a country, in their way of thinking, that is capable of introspection and self-examination of its complicated history rather than clinging to a white-washed, mythologized story of national greatness. 

Elevating the 1776 Commission Report and denigrating the 1619 Project is a cause célèbre for right wing media and institutions. Having lost the bully pulpit of the Trump presidency two days after the 1776 Report was trumpeted on the White House website on January 18, 2021, copies of the Report are now prominently advertised for sale in the Hillsdale College monthly circular “Imprimis”, the same forum that hosts such lecture transcripts of the like of Scott Atlas, M.D. and Christopher Rufo. The 1776 Commission isn’t done, either. Recently, a new announcement, “Trump’s 1776 Commission to Reassemble, Tackle Critical Race Theory in History Education” appeared simultaneously on conservative media (e.g. The Epoch Times, where I saw it) breathlessly touted as “breaking news.”

The 1619 Project is not perfect. Legitimate historians have found fault with some of its assertions. Unfortunately for those who do not read the 1619 Project, a few repeated criticisms risk over-shadowing the importance of the work. Historian Leslie M. Harris, herself a critic of a few points made in the Project, captured this danger succinctly, writing that the 1619 Project is “a much-needed corrective to the blindly celebratory histories.” 

I strongly encourage you to read the 1619 Project on line (or listen to it) and decide for yourself about its content. (Or buy a copy and read it as a book.)

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. The basis of conservatives’ attack on the 1619 Project is discussed in an article in The Atlantic ironically entitled “Why Conservatives Want to Cancel the 1619 Project.” This quote expresses the central theme:

The prevailing conservative view is that America’s racial and economic inequalities are driven by differences in effort and ability. The work of Hannah-Jones and others suggests instead that present-day inequalities have been shaped by deliberate political and policy choices.

P.P.S. Another excellent article along the same lines as the 1619 Project is also found in the June 2021 issue of The Atlantic. It is entitled “Black America’s Neglected Origin Stories”. This quote from the article rings true (the bold is mine):

The two origin stories that American children are most often taught are those of Jamestown, Virginia, an English colony founded in 1607 as a moneymaking venture, and Plymouth, Massachusetts, where people escaped religious persecution in 1620. The latter narrative is more inspirational and more in keeping with America’s sense of moral exceptionalism than the former, which is perhaps why it has tended to loom larger in the American mind. Both origin stories emphasize the triumph of amity over enmity between Indigenous people and English settlers, something very different from what actually happened.


The way I recall being taught American history there was a huge gap between 1620, the Mayflower and the slightly earlier Jamestown Colony, and 1763, French and Indian War. All of what happened between those years set the stage for 1776 and yet those years were mostly left blank in my early education. It is as though everything between the Pilgrim’s supposed friendship with Squanto and George Washington chopping down the cherry tree was all hunky-dory and not worthy of mention.2

One small example: The authors dismiss the entirety of Progressivism with a gross lie: “They rejected the self-evident truth of the Declaration that all men are created equal and are endowed equally, either by nature or by God, with unchanging rights.”

The “Lost Cause” Narrative

We are still fighting the Civil War and the doctrine of white supremacy over which it was fought.

Jerry LeClaireMay 21

I was a teenager during the centennial “celebrations” of the American Civil War. In my home state of Wisconsin I participated in a few of the Civil War battle “re-enactments” of the time dressed as soldier and firing a vintage muzzleloader. I marveled how some of my Welsh ancestors, people who had arrived in Wisconsin only thirteen years before the war, had, nonetheless, been drawn in to fight on the Union side. I puzzled how, in some other families, brother had fought brother in a conflict over something as obscure as whether the South had the right to secede. The abolition of slavery, I was taught, was an afterthought, a footnote, to the question of secession, a term now clothed in the concept of “states’ rights.” Robert E. Lee was presented as a noble man to be honored and revered. Nathan Bedford Forrest appeared in textbook and myth as a brilliant cavalry tactician, so brilliant that I was supposed to not notice that Forrest had gone on to found the Ku Klux Klan, a group formed to terrorize newly enfranchised Black citizens. 

In the mid 1960s I was vaguely uneasy when, on a brief home stay with a white Methodist family in a very white part of Atlanta, Georgia, I was given a tour of Stone Mountain. There I was proudly shown the massive monument to Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and “Stonewall” Jackson carved into the mountain (and dedicated on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s death by an assassin’s bullet). I was treated to a recitation of the valiant service these three men rendered to something called the “Lost Cause” in the “War of Northern Aggression.” Slavery was never mentioned, although I later learned that the 2nd and 3rd Ku Klux Klans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy were deeply involved with this memorial. I tried to square my hosts’ pride in this monument with the images I’d seen on television of white state troopers and a white mob brutally beating peaceful black and white civil rights protestors on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. (Only now do I realize that the dedication of Stone Mountain was only a little more than a month after that vivid horror.)

The doctrine of white supremacy is deeply entwined with—and lives on through—the concerted effort to dignify and ennoble those who served in an armed rebellion intended to preserve white supremacy, the slavery it justified, and the economic and social system slavery made possible. 

The rebellion in defense of white supremacy, a rebellion dignified as “The Confederacy,” lives on in the monuments and narrative the United Daughters of the Confederacy and other clever apologists promoted in textbooks and monuments.

Wars don’t end when the shooting stops. The conflict over which the war was fought moves to the desks of writers, to classrooms and pulpits, to dinner tables and family gatherings. Attitudes, “hearts and minds”, change with painful slowness—attitudes are complex and layered. The Confederate battle flag one sees flapping on poles attached to local pickup trucks does not mean the same thing to every person who flies it or sees it—but it should be seen as the flag of white supremacy and it ought to be scorned. Symbolism is important. The battle flag might be symbol in favor of “states’ rights” for some, but it is a dog whistle to white supremacy for most. The doctrine of white supremacy lives on in more American culture than it should thanks to the efforts of some to muddy (“whitewash” if you will) the reason for which the American Civil War was fought. That the South was allowed to re-write the history of that war in textbooks, monuments, and ennoblement of insurrectionists was and is a mistake for which we are now still paying. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. This post was inspired by a superbly written and thoughtful article in June 21, 2021, issue of The Atlantic by Clint Smith, entitled “Why Confederate Lies Live On, For some Americans, history isn’t the story of what actually happened; it’s the story they want to believe.” It should be required reading. (There may be a paywall.)

P.P.S. Contrast the treatment of the Confederate rebellion in American schools and statuary to the treatment of the Nazis and Nazi doctrine in modern-day Germany. In Germany the reality of the Holocaust is required curriculum. You will find no statues to Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels or any others of the Nazi pantheon. Of course there are still those today in Germany who still subscribe to the doctrine of Aryan racist supremacy—but they are not offered a public platform from which to preach and spread their malignant ideas. 

P.P.P.S. On the topic of symbolism I have a vivid memory to share. One Halloween when I was about ten years old I thought it would be spookily consistent with the holiday to put burnt cork on my upper lip and go “trick or treat” as Adolf Hitler. I will never forget my mother’s horror at the idea nor will I forget her heartfelt explanation to my youthful self how my impersonation of Hitler might deeply hurt people who had lost sons in the then recent conflict of WWII. Flying the Confederate battle flag should be seen in the same way.

Excise Tax or Property Tax?

Will the new capital gains excise tax stand up to legal scrutiny?

Jerry LeClaireMay 19

A new Washington State law, SB 5096, signed on May 4th, would levy an excise tax on “certain capital gains.” Here’s how Laurel Demkovich described the measure in a May 10 Spokesman article:

It implements a 7% tax on the sale of stocks, bonds, businesses and other investments if the profits exceed $250,000 annually. Exceptions include the sale of all real estate, livestock and small family-owned businesses.

It’s expected to bring in about $415 million for the state to pay for child care and early learning. Revenue would start coming in 2023.

Four hundred and fifteen million is a big number by itself, but $415 million in collections at a tax rate of 7% means that the amount taxed would be close to $6 billion. That $6 billion dollars in long term capital gains not counting real estate (any real estate, including your home or the family farm), not counting family owned businesses with annual revenues less than ten million dollars, not counting gains accrued in retirement accounts, and not counting any other gains that do not exceed $250,000. It astounds me that with all those exceptions there remains $6 billion dollars of capital gains among individuals and couples in the State of Washington to which to apply the tax. This tax will apply only to the wealthiest of the wealthy and even then it will apply primarily to massive profits made dealing in financial instruments. 

How will the money derived from this tax be used? Ms. Demkovich in the Spokesman article gives scant attention to the purpose of the tax: “It’s expected to bring in about $415 million for the state to pay for child care and early learning.” Ms. Demkovich might better have quoted the law as passed(the bold is mine):

To help meet the state’s paramount duty, the legislature intends to levy a seven percent tax on the voluntary sale or exchange of stocks, bonds, and other capital assets where the profit is in excess of $250,000 annually to fund K-12 education, early learning, and child care, and advance our paramount duty to amply provide an education to every child in the state. The legislature recognizes that levying this tax will have the additional effect of making material progress toward rebalancing the state’s tax code.

That paramount duty to provide ample funds with which to educate our children is enshrined in the Washington State Constitution (Article IX, Section 1). 

The law as passed is also clear about the lack of fairness in our state tax system:

Washington’s tax system today is the most regressive in the nation because it asks those making the least to pay the most as a percentage of their income. Middle-income families in Washington pay two to four times more in taxes, as a percentage of household income, as compared to top earners in the state.

It is the right thing to do. If you’re going to live in Washington State and enjoy the benefits of an educated citizenry and workforce one ought to be willing to chip in to fund that education. The wealthiest among us have benefitted the most from this educated workforce. We currently fund education through a maze of regressive taxes, so this new slightly progressive tax is a done deal, right? Not so fast. 

The conservative group Freedom Foundation, along with the Seattle-based law firm Lane Powell, filed a lawsuit on April 28 seeking to overturn the capital gains tax.

A lawsuit on what basis? In 1930, the Washington State Constitution was amended¹ (the footnote is a copy of that amendment) to read, “All taxes shall be uniform upon the same class of property.” That Amendment 14, however it was passed and for whatever purpose at the time, has been used ever since as a legal argument to claim that an income tax is unconstitutional (from the perspective of the state constitution). The “Freedom Foundation,” funded by the wealthiest of the wealthy, will, no doubt, take this all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court over the issue of whether this new capital gains tax is prohibited under Amendment 14. (This amendment has been used to claim an income tax is “unconstitutional” ever since its enactment.) It will all come down to whether this nearly century-old amendment is interpreted by the nine justices of the Washington State Supreme Court can see this new tax as an excise tax (as the law states) versus a tax that is unconstitutional based on Amendment 14. 

Amendment 14 was passed by the legislature in 1929 and sent to the voters in the 1930 general election. The 1930 voters pamphlet argument in favor of its passage certainly suggests there was no intent to include capital gains on stocks and bonds as “property” for the purposes of the amendment: 

Under the proposed amendment it will be possible to tax bonds and stocks other than those secured by or representing property taxed in this State, at moderate rates, leaving them still desirable as investments.

One hopes that the justices will refer to the voter’s pamphlet (the link to which I found here). How legislators marketed Amendment 14 to the public surely must speak to their intent. 

Brace yourselves for the onslaught from the Washington Policy Center and other Republican anti-tax outfits funded by wealthy conservatives. Fully expect to hear that this new tax must be struck down because it is the beginning of a “slippery slope” that will end in the government taxing everyone’s meager income.² They will strictly avoid discussing how the wealthy have avoided paying their fair share in this state for at least a century.

Keep to the high ground,


Amendment 14 (1930) — Art. 7 Section 1 TAXATION — The power of taxation shall never be suspended, surrendered or contracted away. All taxes shall be uniform upon the same class of property within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax and shall be levied and collected for public purposes only. The word “property” as used herein shall mean and include everything, whether tangible or intangible, subject to ownership. All real estate shall constitute one class: Provided, That the legislature may tax mines and mineral resources and lands devoted to reforestation by either a yield tax or an ad valorem tax at such rate as it may fix, or by both. Such property as the legislature may by general laws provide shall be exempt from taxation. Property of the United States and of the state, counties, school districts and other municipal corporations, and credits secured by property actually taxed in this state, not exceeding in value the value of such property, shall be exempt from taxation. The legislature shall have power, by appropriate legislation, to exempt personal property to the amount of three hundred ($300.00) dollars for each head of a family liable to assessment and taxation under the provisions of the laws of this state of which the individual is the actual bona fide owner. [AMENDMENT 14, 1929 p 499 Section 1. Approved November, 1930.]2

Observe that the same “slippery slope” argument is used in various forms in the controversy over gun regulation: any registry, any control over gun sales, is immediately posed as the top of a “slippery slope” that will end in the government regulating not just military weaponry but confiscating your hunting rifle! The “slippery slope” argument ought, by now, to be wearing a little thin…

Critical Race Theory, a Threat?

The right wing certainly thinks so.

Jerry LeClaireMay 17

Republican state and federal legislators, aided by right wing media, are busy ramping up rhetoric and passing laws against the teaching of something call Critical Race Theory. Most everyone else’s initial reaction was, “Huh???” Most of us hadn’t heard the term before Trump started using it in September 2020. Mr. Trump latched onto it after watching Tucker Carlson interview Christopher Rufo on Fox News. Rufo is a self-promoting polemicist linked to a think tank in Seattle that promotes teaching “Intelligent Design” as science and a failed Republican political candidate. Rufo spoke at length on Carlson’s show about the supposed evil origins of Critical Race Theory and its use in polluting young minds with what Rufo considers scary and un-American concepts like “equity,” “social justice,” “diversity and inclusion,” and “culturally responsive teaching.”¹

Trump, convinced by Carlson’s signature scrunched face and Rufo’s rhetoric, soon after the program issued an executive order banning “critical race theory-based training programs” in the federal government, singling out diversity training for particular scorn.

Words are important. Rufo is no scholar, but he understands getting in front of an issue by picking the right words, defining them to one’s own ends, and using them to sway public opinion.²

The best article I’ve come across explaining why Rufo, Trump, and Republican legislators are so enthusiastically arguing and legislating against critical race theory was written by Steven Woolley, a retired “small town preacher,” writing a blog as “Country Parson.” I’ve copied and pasted his post below and have bolded what I consider a few key phrases.

Critical Race Theory: Why is it such a threat to the right wing?

My limited understanding of critical race theory is that it investigates the role and place of race at the intersection of law, social mores, and political power.  Not exactly a new thing, it’s been around since the 1970s.  It threatens right wingers partly by the assertion that race played a central role in structuring American society, and partly by academics drawing from Marx that social problems are more a function of social systems than of individual beliefs and attitudes. 

The right wing seems terribly threatened by something most people outside the academy have never heard of.  Trump issued an executive order in 2020 demanding that federal funds be prohibited from underwriting teaching critical race theory.  Arizona and Idaho have passed bills against teaching it in their public schools.  Right wing groups are apoplectic about it. Sen. Scott’s rebuttal to Pres. Biden’s speech to Congress asserted boldly that the United States is not a racist country.   It causes one to wonder what could be so frightening to them.

We can’t pretend that race is not a factor in American society.  No matter how much we desire to believe we’re all made of the same stuff, and that all lives matter, we have been diligent about prejudicially dividing the population into discrete groups according to skin color, countries of origin, and ethnic traditions.  Examining race in the context of law, social mores and political power requires understanding the experiences unique to each race.  Critics call it identity politics, and complain that it divides us into competing minorities when what we need is greater unity as Americans.  Michael Ramirez published an April 26 editorial cartoon in which the left side of the panel labeled “Liberals” listed dozens of race, ethnic and social subsets.  The right side of the panel labeled “Everyone Else” had only one category: American.  His point?  The left is dividing us against each other; everyone else sees only Americans.  His cartoon reflected a common belief that until recently there was a common narrative defining America and Americans that worked to unite us in common purpose.  Liberals are destroying that narrative.  In truth, it was a  narrative held in common only by portion of white America that assumed everyone else could easily assimilate into it if they wanted to.  If they didn’t or couldn’t, there was something wrong with them.  Never-mind that the legal structures of the nations worked against them. 

Moynihan called it benign neglect, but there wasn’t anything benign about it.  The old common narrative was blind to the history and social structures that prevented non-whites from assimilating; it reserved for itself the right to dictate terms and conditions for what assimilation meant; and it was disinterested in how the values and traditions of others might add to create a different common narrative.  So entrenched is the old narrative that even today there are efforts to enshrine Anglo-Saxon culture as the official definition of America and Americans. 

To its critics, critical race theory is a frontal attack on the glorious story of how Anglo-Saxon culture built the nation.  The attackers they point to are academics whose voices angrily accuse white America without mercy or desire for reconciliation.  But critical race theory is not a thing.  The many books that try to say ‘This is It’ can’t agree with each other on a common definition.  It’s a wide ranging field of study with no fixed dogma.  Academic work in critical race theory is an essential key that helps unlock a more complete and honest understanding of American history.  It focusses on the stories of each of our people, told in their own voices about the roles they played in the building of the nation.  

There are many strands to the story of who we are woven into the fabric that is American society.   Some fear that examining each strand will deconstruct the fabric so that it can never be put back together.   I think it will help us up better understand how the fabric was woven so it can be repaired where torn, and made stronger to last longer.  Shared knowledge of how the American fabric is woven is what can create a new common narrative that celebrates the dignity of each of us.  

Keep to the high ground,


For more on Rufo see Rufo’s Third Grade Argument2

Consider “‘Intelligent’” Design” as opposed to “Creationism,” to disguise a religious teaching in words that have a ring of science to them. Promotion of teaching “Intelligent Design” as science is the raison d’être of the Discovery Institute with which Rufo is associated.