I thought I was inured to the unspeakable stupidity oozing out of Sacramento’s State Capitol, but I am still after half a century sometimes shocked to see what emerges from the baboons inhabiting those august and ornate halls. Our legislative building is as beautiful as any in the nation, including the one in DC. Its denizens, however, top all in derangement—a truth once again proved by SB 48’s passage through the Assembly and Senate and its signing by the resuscitated political corpse now occupying the governor’s chair. This measure requires adding the “contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” to the state’s public-school history curriculum. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill; the ex-Jesuit Brown’s action, however, was no surprise. Back in 1975 when he was alive and enjoying his first term, Jerry signed the measure striking down the state’s anti-sodomy law.
As the budgetary follies continue here in the Golden State, the very idea of the jackals who feed at our trough doing ANYTHING that would require further public expenditure is beyond abhorrent. Considering how much the majority of the legislators whined when their own salaries were suspended, and given that they are the nation’s highest-paid state legislators (each receives a generous per diem in addition to a bloated salary), one might think that their brief taste of austerity might have helped them understand the common taxpayer’s plight. Not so.
Erecting quasi-ethnic group status on the basis of behavior has always struck me as madness. By those standards, as a boozer myself I belong to the only minority whose very existence was criminalized by a Constitutional Amendment. Even today we are targeted for abuse by innumerable groups such as MADD and AA. Think of the countless heavy drinkers whose deeds are glossed over due to cultural methyphobia! Would Ulysses S. Grant have been any good as a general without booze? Lincoln did not think so. How else could Churchill have steered Britain through the Blitz? Nor are our accomplishments restricted to European Christians. Think of the immortal Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Few, indeed, are the artists of any medium who have not been members of our group. Yet all of this is left out of conventional history books. No school text I was ever exposed to gave alcohol its due in the deeds of great men.
Moreover, despite Prohibition’s repeal, we are subject to constant harassment and ridicule bordering on hate speech. “Drunk.” “Lush.” “Boozehound.” God alone knows how many more epithets are routinely dumped on us in public and private. The AMA may have declared homosexuality to be normal, but they still regard alcoholism as a disease. I myself have been in a raid on a smokeasy, and I’m certain it was as traumatic as anything the patrons of Hollywood’s gay bars endured at the hands of the LAPD’s “Pansy Patrol.” Boozers are subjected to roustings, DUIs (many obtained through constitutionally questionable checkpoints involving entrapment), and all sorts of other abuse. If parents are considered “alcoholics” (another vulgar term), they may easily lose their children. And don’t get me started on harassment in the workplace. Try coming into work with booze on your breath and see what happens.
This may seem a grotesque comparison, but it is indicative of the danger of basing identity upon behavior—even if it seems advantageous to those so depicted. There is an awful lot more to each of us than our vices.
More seriously, partitioning history destroys its effectiveness. Having written a history of the United States, I feel that the great problem with American historiography has been its isolated treatment of its topic. The French and Indian Wars and the American Revolution, for example, are inevitably taught solely in terms of their origins and effects over here rather than as the result of worldwide conflicts. Our history’s true richness—and its ongoing relevance to the world in which we live—is lost. For this reason, I oppose teaching “black,” “Hispanic,” or “Asian-American” history as such.
There is a pink elephant in the schoolroom—the fact that most Californian parents would still object to what they perceive as the glorification of a lifestyle they consider immoral or dangerous. It is for this reason that I am willing to forego state-mandated “alcoholics history.” Whether one believes for ethical or religious reasons that parents should be their children’s primary educators, or that taxpayers should not have to pay for indoctrination they do not want, it shows once again that our legislators are, to quote Kipling, “drunk with sight of power.”
This present bill is proof that what California really needs is a part-time legislature. The Assemblymen and Senators have too much time on their hands and too much money. They need to get away from fiddling with school curricula (which most of them can’t understand, anyway) and banning foie gras to concentrate on our financial woes and crumbling infrastructure.
Government-mandated programs and standards have proved unable to ground our students in any kind of history. Except for a very few (usually wealthy) school districts, American public education has been a colossal failure. One may prattle about church and state, but school and state require a “wall of separation” if the former is ever to become effective.
Regarding mandatory gay-history inculcation, I was able to reassure my brother, who has seven school-age children. Given California public schools’ inability to teach regular history, I assured him that if the bill becomes law, high-school grads would emerge from their twelve years of daycare as ignorant of Harvey Milk and Stonewall as they presently are of Washington and Appomattox.
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