I’m one of the people calling Trump Hitler, but it isn’t because he’s the worst person history ever produced — he’s just the one that might make the biggest impression. Because when people want to “take back America” and “make America great again” they don’t mean to the “freeing” of the slaves or even Susan B. They’re not terribly interested in some “alternative” history that isn’t all baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet.
When I taught composition in grad school, part of what our program emphasized was that there is no such thing as a neutral author. We taught students to think about an author’s goals in writing, and to look for assumptions in texts that might or might not be true. I used these moments to make my students question everything they “knew” about history, especially since it’s always written by the victors. These poor rosy-cheeked suburbanites started the semester thinking that everything in a text book or newspaper was a 100% accurate reflection of reality and left doubting everything. :-D
Most Americans don’t want to hear that their history is a lie or even that racism might still exist — even as they vote with their whiteness. (Maybe the answer is a bunch of subversive composition teachers who force kids to think for a change!)
I was very proud of my 18-year-old daughter and her friends, a few from very conservative homes, who not only questioned everything this election but smashed some of it with a proverbial baseball bat to vote against hate. But then the question becomes, how do we take these politically charged kids and nurture that uncompromising idealism and engagement after college when most people seem to become complacent, assimilated, and more concerned with their wallets than their morals? How do we keep them from turning into their parents?!