Not only is it clearly evident that American public school education has not been paying enough attention to teaching American government (generally called Civics) for the last 20 years or more, it is also the case that the results of that policy have begun coming home very, very seriously. 

The U.S.A., the world’s leading democratic republic, appears hobbled and sick. Since at least November 2020, when former POTUS Donald Trump launched a straightforward attempt to subvert the essence of continuous democratic government — the peaceful transfer of power to the winner, not the loser, of elections — the U.S.A’s experiment in building democracy has been taking a serious beating.

Too easily many of us have simply referred to “African jungle politics” or the rise of the Nazi brownshirts to characterize the bold attempt by Trump and his henchmen to usurp the country’s constitutional norms. While those are certainly conversation starters, this essay’s focus is on an element with a lot more cachet than either of those.

The “Lost Cause” thesis of American history, some version of which has been taught publicly for well over a century in this country, is more to blame for the current pickle we find ourselves in. Right now, only the country watching Donald Trump being sent to prison for his crimes will shake the fog from our collective eyes that the “Lost Cause” lie helped put there.

As explained in Britannica Encyclopedia, the “Lost Cause thesis, is a prevailing, though mythical interpretation of the causes and consequences of the American Civil War that attempts to preserve the honor and prestige of the old South by casting the Confederate defeat in the best possible light. It attributes the loss to the overwhelming Union advantage in manpower and resources, while nostalgically celebrating an antebellum South full of benevolent slave owners and happy, contented enslaved people.” 

The thesis downplays or altogether ignores slavery as the principal cause of the war. The thesis became the philosophical foundation for the racial violence and terrorism employed mainly by Whites to reverse the legality and reality of Reconstruction and for the reimposition of White supremacy during the Jim Crow era and beyond.”(The best popular example of the “Lost Thesis” was the movie “Gone With the Wind,” a giant blockbuster when it premiered and it still reigns as one of the top grossing American movies of all time.) 

To its credit, by being accepted nationally in newspapers and school textbooks, it did help this country heal and reunify after the Civil War and become the dominant nation it is today. But part of the great cost associated with that acceptance and reunion has been the slow pace of achieving real civil rights and self-determination for African-Americans.

Because it actually represents an ancient, unhealed sore that was broken open again during the George Floyd protests (and the fight over getting rid of many of the standing statues of southern military heroes at American parks, universities and city centers), the fight over CRT (critical race theory), etc., the “Lost Cause” thesis has now led to where it was always logically headed, a renewed attempt to destroy democratic government so the zealots — who really can’t and do not really want to govern — can take charge.

We need to pay focused attention to the congressional Jan. 6 Committee, and we need to keep our eyes on the ball. This is very serious business, folks.

For me, I’m still waiting to see Trump entering Rikers in handcuffs.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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