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America the Ahistorical: Ben Carson and the Dangers of Willful Ignorance


In a country where politicians routinely usurp doctors’ roles and pretend to know what’s best for women’s bodies, some policymakers and legislators are now masquerading as historians.

Two recent examples: We’ve heard the new secretary of Housing and Urban Development’s confusion about the difference between immigrants and enslaved people (to wit, “immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less”). Spouting the garbled nonsense that’s his unfortunate calling card, Dr. Ben Carson lumped in millions of kidnapped Africans with those huddled masses who, yearning to breathe free, packed their own bags and came to the New World under their own steam. Also, as Rewire‘s Teddy Wilson recently reported, a Missouri legislator proposed a bill that would place an exhibit about abortion in the state museum—and require it to be in close proximity to displays about slavery. The logic, you say? Because under the original U.S. Constitution, enslaved people counted as three-fifths of a person and “many people” say a fetus “is not a person until he or she takes her first breath,” according to state Rep. Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove).

Welcome to the latest iteration of the Culture Wars. And the 2017 edition is promising to be a doozy.

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