Texas’ 1836 Project

There are different stories, legends, and narratives in popular culture today in Texas, and parts of the U.S., about events that took place over twelve days and nights at Misión San Antonio de Valero February 23 to March 6, 1836, otherwise known as the Siege of the Alamo. One such pop-narrative is from a southeastern Anglo-American viewpoint, post-Civil War. Another is from a later Anglo-Texian viewpoint about the new Republic begun in 1845. And still another much less popular or well-known narrative from an indigenous Tejano viewpoint begun in circa 1821. There is a fourth narrative that is so obscure and completely overlooked today that for the purposes of this blog-post, time, and word-count I shouldn’t mention it. But that would disrespect and defeat the virtues of Agnotology, something I personally hold very dear in our modern fight against disinformation, destitute scholarship in town squares, and partisan politics. Therefore, I will indeed mention the unsung fourth narrative of earliest Texas history: the Indian Nations of Taysha, or Texas.

It’s worth mentioning that part of Texas’ state and national identity is wrapped in what we call the Six Flags of Texas. Technically speaking this is not the full story. It should actually be at least “Seven Flags of Texas,” perhaps one representing the Indian Nations of Taysha. But unfortunately when Anglo-Americans write their victorious histories, peoples they’ve labelled “uncivilized” are omitted and made footnotes, maybe. But oh well, I digress.

Quietly woven throughout the narratives of the Southeastern Anglo-American and Anglo-Texian viewpoints, but rarely mentioned publicly or taught in Texas school classrooms today was slavery’s role in Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico and eventual willing annexation by the expanding United States. The deluge of Anglos immigrating from the Deep South slave-states which Mexico was against and trying to stop were, in the minds of Mexico’s government and empresarios, illegal incursions and seizures. At the very least, they were controversial, agitating, and enflamed tensions present between several clashes of cultures throughout the once vast (proclaimed) Spanish Territory of Tejas. Anglo-American immigrants did not wish to pay any taxes or tariffs to the Mexican government, particularly to Antonio López de Santa Anna who seized power himself in an insurrection against former President Bustamante. Many prevalent Tejanos of Tejas such as the very well-known José Antonio Navarro opposed Santa Anna’s dictatorship and by default Mexico.

What might surprise many Texans today is that several of Tejas’ Tejano elite such as the Navarro family also owned slaves, and by default and by way of economic motivations, Navarro and key Tejanos of Texas’ Republic also opposed Mexico’s recent independence from Spain and from the practice of slavery. However, these historical facts found on a Texas 1860 Census Slave Schedule for Atascosa County (location of Navarro’s San Geronimo Ranch) show he owned six to nine slaves indicating clearly that Texas’ fight was at least in part to keep slavery legal in the new Republic. Navarro and other famous Texas Tejanos with him fought Mexico for independence along with slave-owning Anglo-Americans…

…to protect the practice of slavery in Texas, upon which cotton farming relied heavily. It was not uncommon for families of this group to own slaves in the colonial period. Although the number of families holding slaves was small, it was a vital connection between Tejano elites and American cotton growers immigrating to Texas.

Henry and Patsy Navarro” from Casa Navarro History at the Texas Historical Commission website, accessed 7/10/2021
Movie set of the 2004 film “The Alamo”

What is also commonly unknown about earliest Texas history is that those same Tejanos who fought, bled, and died for Texas’ independence from Mexico at the Alamo and other battle-fields eventually lost over the next decade their original land grants and rights as citizens of Texas. By 1860-61 they were “legally expunged” you might say when Texas officially joined the Confederate States of America and its fight to keep slavery alive.

Since the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the legendary fight at the Alamo twenty-nine years earlier was intentionally altered to emphasize the southern Anglo-American and Anglo-Texan narrative as a fight solely against Santa Anna, thus overshadowing all other narratives in the face of humiliated Confederate defeat. Confederate Texans wanted to save face then and were successful. Now today with the advent of reignited racial awareness and heated tensions, resident first-, second- and third-generation Texans (a few fourth-generation too) and politicians—many of whom trace their pedigrees to the Midwest and Deep South slave-states—want at any cost to protect and advance a more Anglo-narrative of Texas history. More precisely, Texas school curriculums are being further realigned to promote an anachronistic Republican narrative which is not comprehensive or contextual to verifiable TayshaTejano Texas history.

Over the past two-weeks of this month, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, himself a first-generation Texan from Maryland, confirmed on his Twitter account that he personally called for the censorship and cancellation of a July 1st book promotion at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, TX. The name of the book and co-authors? Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth by Chris Tomlinson, Bryan Burrough, and Jason Stanford.

But this censoring tactic is part of a greater movement by GOP state officials like Gov. Gregg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Senator Ted Cruz, and other Republican officials regarding critical race theory and whether verifiable academic history has a place in Texas public school curriculums.

On June 16th, 2021 the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 797 requiring Texas schools to display the term “In God We Trust” across campus buildings if such signage is donated to them. House Bill 2497 was passed by the Texas Legislature in May 2021 giving a biased GOP committee the authority to promote our “official” state history—to residents receiving their driver’s license—from the aforementioned Anglo-narratives. House Bill 3979 is awaiting Gov. Abbott’s signature and it dictates how Texas teachers can talk to their students about current events and America’s as well as Texas’ history of racism and slavery. These legislative bills are just three of a number of other bills in a state-wide Republican campaign to teach reteach and promote a more narrow, patriotic version of our national and Anglo-Texan histories. Here in Texas it is called The 1836 Project and it plays off of and counters the acclaimed or controversial 1619 Project, but with a modern, intentional Texas GOP twist. From Gov. Gregg Abbott this past May:

“To keep Texas the best state in the United States of America, we must never forget why Texas became so exceptional in the first place.”

Personally I would argue that these recent campaigns to modify or omit established historical scholarship that is indeed verifiable, in Texas and other states, began as early as 2010, if not sooner. Though governmental officials like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are and have been censoring or obstructing democratic freedoms and liberties in Texas on public property, they have gone much further than book promoting events.

For those of you born prior to the year 2000, remember in your classrooms the concept of “Compare and Contrast“? Critical-thinking and analysis skills are paramount for students to learn and acquire for the overkill of today’s “Disinformation Age.” Beginning at least in 2010 and 2012 political campaigns within the Texas GOP began muddling up this vital concept and skill getting taught in our public school curriculums. From The Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact website:

Gail Collins [of the New York Times] says Texas GOP platform calls for schools to stop teaching “critical thinking.”

Sue Owen, PolitiFact.com, August 11, 2012 — accessed 7/11/2021

Nevertheless, the Texas GOP did muddled-up and confuse the issue. Deputy Executive Director of the Republican Campaign, Chris Elam, stated the platform subcommittee unintentionally and unknowingly implied opposition of teaching critical-thinking in schools. He and his party were correct about that as can be read here:

“We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

As Gail Collins wrote, the Texas GOP platform does state that the party opposes “critical thinking.” But Collins also leaves out some important context. The platform makes it clear that its opposition is centered on one type of education model: outcome-based education.

Whatever one wishes to call it and play complicated games with words and phrases, this past May and June 2021 in our Texas Congress, the confusion and muddling has been scaled up again. It seems it has taken on yet another form when it all begins to censor and omit significant facts that compose an exhaustive contextual historical picture. This new type of political manipulations upon verifiable, established academic scholarship—whether in classrooms or in the town square—has become a dangerous epidemic in 21st-century America. Allowing this epidemic to continue will only setup further future digressions into sociopolitical turmoil that is ill-equipped to correct, adapt, and progress itself into a truly healthy, thriving Constitutional democracy. I’m unsure how you my readers might feel, but this destitution of Agnotology being replaced by (hyper?) Patriotism over historical, contextual facts disturbs me greatly.


Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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The Bastard Muses

Democracy. What does it mean? The Oxford-English dictionary defines democracy this way:

1.0 — A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. (1.3) The practice or principles of social equality.

Yet, it is more than that. In fact, it is a LOT MORE than that. Stanford University in a 2004 lecture for humanistic studies breaks down democracy with four pivotal elements.

  1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
  2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
  3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens.
  4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

It is #3 that is the focus of my post here. But it is not the advocacy of “protection” that I’m going to address. I like a process I sometimes call Reciprocal Comprehension, or examining the positive and negative aspects of an image, in this case principles. Here is Stanford’s breakdown of #3…

  • In a democracy, every citizen has certain basic rights that the state cannot take away from them.
  • These rights are guaranteed under international law.
  • You have the right to have your own beliefs, and to say and write what you think.
  • No one can tell you what you must think, believe, and say or not say.
  • There is freedom of religion. Everyone is free to choose their own religion and to worship and practice their religion as they see fit.
  • Every individual has the right to enjoy their own culture, along with other members of their group, even if their group is a minority.
  • There is freedom and pluralism in the mass media.
  • You can choose between different sources of news and opinion to read in the newspapers, to hear on the radio, and to watch on television.
  • You have the right to associate with other people, and to form and join organizations of your own choice, including trade unions.
  • You are free to move about the country, and if you wish, to leave the country.
  • You have the right to assemble freely, and to protest government actions.
  • However, everyone has an obligation to exercise these rights peacefully, with respect for the law and for the rights of others.

[emphasis mine]

There is also an inferred responsibility to all law-understanding and law-abiding citizens to be informed about and keen enough to understand the difference between rhetoric/propaganda and facts/truths regarding a subject. Just because someone has the right to say whatever they want, however they want, doesn’t make it right or true. Each of us, me included, are responsible to discern what the real facts are or what the probable or highly probable facts and truths are so as to properly identify bastard muses.

nine muses

Cleanth Brooks is often referred to as one of the Fathers of New Criticism. He also is credited for composing formalist criticism of literature and poetry. While being the keynote speaker at the 2011 convention of History Makers in New York City, Bill Moyers spoke these words about literature, journalism, Cleanth Brooks, and to modern social-media:

…while “most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence,” the research found that actually “we often base our opinions on our beliefs … and rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions.”

These studies help to explain why America seems more and more unable to deal with reality. So many people inhabit a closed belief system on whose door they have hung the “Do Not Disturb” sign, that they pick and choose only those facts that will serve as building blocks for walling them off from uncomfortable truths.

[…]

George Orwell had warned six decades ago that the corrosion of language goes hand in hand with the corruption of democracy. If he were around today, he would remind us that “like the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket,” this kind of propaganda engenders a “protective stupidity” almost impossible for facts to penetrate.

[…]

The late scholar Cleanth Brooks of Yale thought there were three great enemies of democracy. He called them “The Bastard Muses”: Propaganda, which pleads sometimes unscrupulously, for a special cause at the expense of the total truth; sentimentality, which works up emotional responses unwarranted by, and in excess of, the occasion; and pornography, which focuses upon one powerful human drive at the expense of the total human personality. The poet Czeslaw Milosz identified another enemy of democracy when, upon accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature, he said “Our planet that gets smaller every year, with its fantastic proliferation of mass media, is witnessing a process that escapes definition, characterized by a refusal to remember.” Memory is crucial to democracy; historical amnesia, its nemesis.

Against these tendencies it is an uphill fight to stay the course of factual broadcasting.

I would like to personally clarify Brooks’ three bastard muses of broadcasting, or social-media, and Milosz’s amnesia muse on democracy, and modernize, more specifically distinguish, those bastard muses as opposed to the nine inspirational Greek muses.

Propagat Bastard

Propagat, or propaganda, is as most of you know a selling, marketing, or diffusion technique of hype and/or disinformation of an ideology, cause, product, or service that may not necessarily be factual or truthful. Who or what can you name, past or present, that was a masterful or sinister propaganda machinist? Here are six rules-of-thumb from one of history’s most successful propaganda campaigns by one of the world’s most elite, most notorious propagandist:

  • Propaganda must be carefully timed, reaching its audience ahead of competing propaganda.
  • Propaganda must have a theme that must be repeated over and over.
  • It must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans.
  • It must evoke the interest of the audience.
  • It must diminish anxiety.
  • It must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium.

Who was this elite propagandist? He was Nazi Germany’s and Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. He was also primarily responsible for much harsher discrimination policies across continental Europe including the extermination of Jews in the Holocaust. This is the power of unchallenged, unscrutinized propaganda.

Addendum — The Pink Agendist below in comments offered an exceptional article that further reveals the spine-chilling, remarkable power of propaganda. I highly recommend reading it. Thank you Pink.

Nostalgia Bastard

Sentimentality, or as I’m calling her nostalgia, in my opinion is the most covert, the most misunderstood bastard muse. Brooks correctly describes above that it is unwarranted emotion and in excess of the occasion; it panders to a gullible human sentiment to “rewrite history” as this Vox video informs us:

Sadly, much of modern racism, discrimination, and segregation in America can be attributed to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. They’ve kept much of the old Confederate prejudices alive today.

Pornographos Bastard

Pornographos, or pornography, perhaps the antithesis of Erato, but only from a conservative, pious, or puritan viewpoint. She is derived from the Greek word Eros that in ancient Greece is historically just one of six forms of “love.” Modern-day conservatism rarely understands the full experiences of endearing Greek relationships of Antiquity.

Despite the fact that Brooks does indeed give in very few words the correct, yet truncated definition of pornography, I feel the fuller understanding of the muse Pornographos should be understood in her expansive form. Bill Moyers may have described her more fully at some other place and time, I’m not sure. But he did not elaborate or hint in this opening speech what he means by “total human personality.” That is what I wish to do.

Pornography, or Eros, belongs with another 5 or 6 siblings:  Ludus, Agape, Philia, Pragma, and Philautia. The sixth sibling, in my opinion is the antithesis of jealousy:  Compersion. It is unfair for societies and religious ideologies to separate out or orphan Eros (pornography). Though she can be the center of attention for a period of time and degrees of sublime endeavor, she will always be one of six sister muses. When her other six sisters are neglected, that is when habitual problems and implosion creeps in. When sexual organs and associated body parts are exploited and/or abused for the gains or pleasures of another, while at the expense or humiliation of the entire person/victim, then CLEARLY that is wrong, illegal, and detrimental to everyone involved. All become less human.

Based on what I know about Bill Moyers and what I’ve briefly read about Cleanth Brooks, this latter specified condition of an orphaned Pornography is more their “bastard” muse. It is still incomplete. Their description is the modern connotation of pornography within conservative-puritan society, but it does not represent her family of six sister muses.

Amnesia Bastard

Amnesia, or historical amnesia, is indeed an infection to democracy. On the distinctions of history, national or individual, known or unknown, there is probably no better an expert, a firsthand expert, than Czeslaw Milosz. While becoming an acclaimed poet, he survived ethnic cleansing, exiles, and two world wars in Europe and the constant annexations and occupations of his homeland by Russia/USSR twice and the Nazis occupation 1939 – 1945 during World War II. Plain and simple, the man knew much about history and truth. Milosz writes:

“The creative act is associated with a feeling of freedom that is, in its turn, born in the struggle against an apparently invisible resistance. Whoever truly creates is alone… The creative man has no choice but to trust his inner command and place everything at stake in order to express what seems to him to be true”

The 20th century culture surrounding him worshipped victorious power-versions of history, but Milosz is the artist who through his poetry worships truth. His craft allows him to save his and the reader’s soul. Perhaps the trick (or struggle) for all free citizens of democracy — the type of democracy Stanford describes above — should be which muse you fall in love with, which muse beguiles you and why, yes?

nine muses

(paragraph break)

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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