Reason vs. Bad History » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names
A basic lesson that I teach my students is that they have to have a reason for everything they do. Their struggle cannot be based on hating gringos or hating the system. They always have to ask why?
To use an overworked maxim, “everything happens for a reason.”
I have been motivated to struggle by injustice and stupidity that trigger a moral outrage. But I also have to have a reason for that anger. For example, the burning of the Mayan and Nahuatl codices and the destruction of Native American religions always infuriates me.
I am not be flippant when I say that Europe did not invent science and mathematics but benefitted from the Greeks who in turn acquired sources of their knowledge from the East through India, the Middle East and Africa.
Everyone knows the story of Polish astronomer Nicholaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and his “discovery” that the earth revolved around the sun. His now historic book was suppressed by the Church.
How much further would we be today if Copernicus had known Archimedes’ work on the universe? (Or for that matter the Mesoamerican astronomers?) He would not have had to delay publication of his work and then be forced to recant his findings. No doubt this lack of knowledge retarded the progress of western science.
It doesn’t take a genius to draw parallels between what happened to Copernicus and the destruction of the codices and other indigenous knowledge.
Recently I got into trouble for criticizing the movie “For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada,” the so-called story of los cristeros in Mexico. Some accused me of hating Catholics and basing my arguments on my biases. However, that is just not so.
I am against the cristero movie, not because I dislike Andy García’s politics, but because the movie is based on bad history.
The fight over the separation of Church and state dates back to ancient times. It includes Copernicus. The Protestant Revolt succeeded because of secular dissatisfaction with Church’s monopoly of economic, social and political resources.
The struggle between the church and state in what later became the cristero movement has its origins in Colonial times and was partly caused by the Church’s monopoly of Indian lands and labor. It broke out during the 18th Century as the Bourbon monarch’s sought to control the religious orders. It erupted again after Mexican Independence with wars between the federalists and the centralists, i.e., liberals versus the Church Party.
Liberals won and the Mexican Constitution of 1857 was adopted. This touched off ten years of civil wars that saw the Rise of Benito Juarez and Liberal control of Mexico to the Mexican Revolution. It ended with the adoption of the Constitution of 1917 which once more reaffirmed the principle of the separation of church and state. As in previous revolts the friction was over whether the Catholic Church was to receive special rights, i.e., the maintenance of ecclesiastical courts and to remain the state religion. Finally at issue was the freedom to practice other religions.
I urge students to base their decisions on reason. That is why we study what is happening in Arizona and have made trips there. We invited Asian American students along on these trips because we want them to also take ownership.
I support the struggle to save the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American studies department based on reason. This judgment is not based on nationalism or a whim but because it is pedagogically sound. My decision is based on the same principles that guided my reasons in condemning the destruction of the codices and defending the principle of “freedom of religion.”
The Tucson struggle also has to be put into the context of our history to achieve literacy and the failure of the schools. We cannot be free; we cannot live in a democratic society, without literacy that is the cornerstone of reason.
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