Hung. Hung Over. Hung Up. Hung Out To Dry


copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  

With news of Congressman Anthony Weiner’s indiscretions the word “Hung” has frequently been heard. “Hung Over” too entered our conversations.  Many asked if he was.   “Hung Up” played a powerful role in reflections. “Hung Out to Dry” seems to be the consensus.  Crowds of Congressmen and women, citizens from each political Party, and even those who claim no loyalties, say, The Representative must be renounced. Few wish to admit that Anthony Weiner is but you and me.  

Supreme Court Justices, who served under Chief Jurist Brennan, perhaps, make three.  Any of us might easily say, as the Justices did decades ago; on the subject of obscene or outrageous, “I Know It When I See It.”  We each do. Still, the definitions vary.

While few of us are officially appointed to write “codes” of conduct, as the Supreme Court Justices are, we too avidly watch the actions of another and judge.

“That man is hung. He knows it and shows it.”  Albeit, not to his friends.  He hides.  She is often hung over.  Yet, she says nothing of her excessive drinking to her loved ones.  She hides. I binge. I purge or did for twenty-five years and three months. I devoted sixteen hours a day to this truth.  Food was my folly.  Discuss my doings with others? I too hid.

We are each hung up. Whether others hang us out to dry or not, everyone has hanged him or herself.  We punish ourselves for not being what we think is good enough, smart enough, successful enough, sensational enough, sexy or even sane.  Rather than say we are preoccupied with our own self-perceived inadequacies, we act out.   Some drink or do drugs in abundance.  Countless persons jump from job-to-job or relationship-to-relationship.  For most of the latter, this equates to hopping from bed-to-bed.  Serial marriages are not uncommon.  Multiple sex partners in a lifetime are even more common.  Indeed, these are so prevalent people do not think to gossip about what so many of us, do daily.  Even those intertwined in wedded bliss belie the notion of monogamy and few blink an eye.  

While I indulged in more than my fair share of “intimate” escapades, my chosen weapon for self-destruction was food.  No matter how much I ate, which was usually enough for perhaps, fifty persons in a single day, it did not fill me up. I hoped it would; however, food never satisfied my enormous appetite.  I was forever hungry!  I craved a connection, not to a person, place, or thing.  I wanted to feel connected to me . .  whatever that might have meant.  I was unsure.  I only knew that I did not trust that I could ever be what I imagined everyone else was.

Oddly, or unexpectedly enough, what saved me was what I feared the most. I told a very close friend. While I was nowhere near the end of my self-destructive path, I knew I had to reveal what I truly believed all would reject, my flaws, my foibles, in unadulterated honesty, me.

One day, while home, engaged in a conversation with a chum of near fifteen years, I took the plunge.  “Cher,” I said with much hesitation “I need to tell you something.” Even now, years later, I remember the wave of anxiety that swept over me at the time.  As close as I was to Cher, and by the way I still am, I was sure she would reject me.  Nonetheless, I took a deep breath.  I sat down on the stairs in my home. I needed to.  I did not think my legs would support me if I stood.

I clutched the telephone, looked down, and began to speak.  I do not remember a word I said.  All I recall was how certain I was; Cher would lose all respect for me. She would be critical.  She could never understand.  In truth, nor could I.  Again, I was wrong, thankfully.

All that I assumed Cher would think, say, do, and feel, she never did.

Cher was there for me, with me.  I smile when I think of how much closer we have become.  Before that conversation, Cher had expressed astonishment at the reality of our friendship: She and I were so tight, now more so.

But the depth and details of that story are ones for another day.  In contrast, what I went through, or imagined I would, could not begin to compare with the agony Barry anticipated.  His transgressions, oh my.  Please ponder the tale.

A good friend, a successful man in his early sixties, Barry spent his entire adult life behind bars.  He was imprisoned by his sense of self.  In his pre-teen years, possibly as late as the age of sixteen, he had done a wrong.  Barry molested his younger sister.  

At the time, he was a good Catholic boy.  He attended Catholic schools all his life.  His family was active in their neighborhood Parish.  Barry was not rebellious, or a rabble-rouser.  He did not rant, rage; nor did he reject his teachings.  

Barry grew up in a home where sex was never discussed.  Demonstrative gestures were not placed on view.   His parents were forever proper.  Barry, in pre-puberty and his adolescent years was confused when he felt sexual feelings.  He was certain these were sinful.  Indeed, he believed his very essence was an error. Barry felt as though he was the scourge of the Earth, the devil incarnate.  He wanted so much to understand, to speak with someone, any one, but whom.

Conversations on the subjects of sex nay sexuality were never heard in his home. The church offered no answers.  Certainly, shamed by the sensations, he felt he could not discuss the topic with classmates.  There was no one he trusted to chat with or to.  Hence, Barry acted out.  He acted on what overwhelmed him, raging hormones, inner conflicts, and his confusion. When his younger sister, Rena, was asleep, he entered her room and her body.  Ultimately, the young man felt more miserable, less deserving of the life given to him than he had before he did such a dastardly deed.

The boyish-man, a mere innocent child, thought the girl would tell their parents.  Barry imagined this would open the door to the conversations he craved.  Rena never said a word about what occurred, not to her mother, her father, or her brother.  Barry wondered; did she never know what he did?  The wonder gnawed at him.  Barry could not continue to do as he had done whether Rena was awake or not.  He sealed his soul in silence, as he later learned Rena had.

Indeed, the “girl” did not speak of the events for eons.  The five or more times Barry penetrated her being became his secret.  That is, until Rena was in her late fifties.  Barry’s sister, silent, as he was for all those decades spoke up.

While neither expressed the pain in words before, it was now obvious.  Each experienced their hurts in great depth.  Throughout the course of their lives, the two had dived deeper into all that distracted them.

Barry and Rena excelled in school.   The pair showed, or pretended to show the world and themselves that they were good, or at least good enough.  On the surface the brother and sister soared.  Parents, whose mere disapproval could do more damage, for all those years, never knew.  Nor would anyone else.  

Others opinion of us can cut to the core.  Our opinions of ourselves cut deeper.  Wounds, while not visible, scar a soul.   Rena and Barry surmised they could sear the lesion.  Still, blood was spilled in the form of tears and fears.  Facades were erected in hopes that these would serve to protect fragile hearts.  

The brother and sister built prominent, professional résumés.  In their chosen careers, the siblings achieved great success.  Both married, grew their families, formed fine images.  Yet, neither felt whole.  The two hid . . . from others and themselves.

Food became their friends, more so than mates.  All that mattered was the need to hide.  Silence and secrets sealed their fate.  At home, at work, with family, and the few friends each had, neither was happy.  Rena and Barry were as they are, or would be until the day the dam broke.

When Rena opened up, she instantly blamed Barry for her plight. Likely she had for all those years.  Rena did not know that Barry too placed the onus on himself.  He took full responsibility and does.  

Today, just as I had done earlier, as Anthony Weiner did days ago, Barry works to share what he created, a casket for himself.  More significantly, he has risen from the dead.  Barry opened the door and invited his sister in.  He asked for a conversation. Rena said no.  In actuality, she wrote this in a mail.  Rena wants no contact.  She does not wish to discuss what was or is with anyone.  While she has made some changes in her life… by all appearances, her circumstances remain the same.

However, Barry, while devastated at first, slowly found himself.  Barry said to me, someone he thought of as his one close friend, that he had been haunted by this incident forever.  He recalled and reflected on the similarities of our experiences.  I too hid my self-destructive behavior for a very long time.  Granted, I chose to speak of it before my recklessness became known. Still, once the secret was out in the open I was freed.

Barry remembered how my life changed, or my sense of self did, once Cher knew me at my worse.  He wanted that strength for himself.  Barry began to look at every aspect of his life.  He mused as his favorite musician had; If you are not busy being born, you are busy dying.”  Bobby D and Barry. Indeed.  Barry chose to get busy, to thrive rather than merely survive.

Little by little he sought solace in other than food [What only Barry knew of in the past was also revealed and rejected.  The sort of sex, which might be defined as debauched, was left behind.  Drink to drunkenness was another habit forfeited.]  All was replaced with revelation.  First Barry needed to introduce himself to himself.  The wounded wonder for the being he was had been so severely depressed, Barry had blindly walked through his life.   He was uncertain; who might Barry be.

The process was and is painstakingly measured.  Each step was evaluated.  Barry stumbled. He fell. Then, as a Phoenix, he rose again.  Today, the more Barry tells the tale the more empowered he feels.  He had never realized the power to punish was his alone.  Only he could hurt himself as he had.  

Just as I discovered when I shared my truth with Cher, Barry exclaims, the people who love and like you for who you are, as you are, are those well-aware of your every flaw, foible, and failure.  Indeed, that is the reason others appreciate you as they do.  You are you; he is he.  I am me.  As silly as it seems, we each are or have been self-destructive at times.

Still, as individuals we are unique.  That is truly special.  Our experiences teach us, and those we touch.  Were any of us to ever admit to ourselves that the strong are vulnerable, were we to value that vulnerability, perchance none of us would engage as we do, in lurid behaviors.

Insecure? Nay few show it aloud.  Yet, each of us is. “Regrettable” actions? Guilty as charged. Congressman Anthony Weiner owned his.  The Representative has availed himself of an opportunity to learn, grow, and glow greater.  He has found, just as Barry and I did, the persons’, who had cared for him most, still do.  Might you?   Might you see yourself in another human, one who was self-destructive and has decided to walk the road to recovery?  Will you?

References. Realities. Resources  . . .


Let The People Awaken

copyright © 2007 Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

Copyright 2007, Paul Kane.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

For the past few years the Bush administration in concert with Congress has led America down a path based on fear backed with little in terms of real facts.  As the truth begins to be seen over time we find much of what we were assured was factual in nature was in honest truth distorted or fabricated in many instances.  We, the people, were misled into a war of aggression in Iraq.  Today we find our military stretched to the limits as the situation collapses before our eyes.  Violence within the country continues with attacks against civilian populations on a near daily basis.  American deaths are increasing and now exceed 3800.  Death of and injury to military contractors are increasing in numbers, too, even though those numbers are not in the news these days.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans more than 2 years ago.  At the time the administration promised real and rapid restoration of the city.  Instead today we hear tales of displaced persons not allowed any return to their homes and communities while developers salivate at the prospect of new properties to build for profit.  Much of New Orleans city once was occupied by low income housing in which there was a sense of real community.  Today those doors are padlocked, the residents not allowed to return, and are being displaced from the FEMA trailers given as temporary housing.  The plan is to build condiminiums that may sell for as much as $400,000 and up.

Park land and open federal lands are being sold to the highest bidder around the country.  Once again we see new housing and commercial development taking the place of once reserved open lands.

The president’s most recent budget requires the US Forest Service to sell 300,000 acres and the Bureau of Land Management to raise $350 million from auctioning some of its holdings.

The Veterans’ Administration is struggling with the healthcare needs of veterans returning in increasing numbers from Iraq with both mental and physical needs.  All we hear from the administration is about how well we support our troops.  The news tells a different story in many instances as our veterans sent to war by Uncle Sam are finding Uncle Scrooge to be their new host.

America must awaken from its slumber.  The strength of America is in its people.  We have shown our resilience and strength over the years as a variety of foes were presented.  Today the real foe is in our own government.  The administration is failing to offer real leadership and real solutions to national problems while continuing to promote the occupation of Iraq.  We can no longer afford to continue this course.  The costs in both manpower and dollars exceed our ability to pay.

Polls demonstrate an increasing disconnect between the desires of the voting public and the actions of elected officials.  Who are those officials representing these days?  Many are working to see themselves continue a career in office.  To that end support goes to the highest bidders from the corporate world or the military industrial complex.  Others may only hear from the loudest voices.  In either case the public is not being well served.

For the people of America it is important to take on our responsibility as citizens.  We must accept our part in the actions of our nation.  We as voters and as citizens are the first line of any political action in our country.  We must take action and take action today.  We cannot be sure what our actions will bring as a result.  Uncertainty and doubt will always be part of any decision making process.  We must not allow these feelings to reign.  But we CAN be sure that if we

do not take responsibility for the future of our Nation, others will.   If we do not lead, we will be led.

Political leaders all across the landscape today talk to us, the voting public of the country, as though we cannot understand the issues of the day, as if we are not able to grasp complex ideas and formulate solutions.  Instead of real leadership we are treated to a pep rally rather than national conversation.

We are strong in our inner beings.  The time has come to shed our sheep skin use our strength to benefit the nation.  We can no longer sit quietly by and allow ourselves to be led like sheep (sheeple, really) to the slaughter.  We are better than that.

I urge each and ever one to stand up today, right now, and take action.  Fear, uncertainty, doubt, and hesitation will take your life away if you allow that to happen.  Let these feelings prod you to seek greater knowledge and involvement and always remember action is the antidote to all our woes.  Action will change the world IF we get moving.  

Let the world see real Citizens in action.  Let the world once again see real leadership as we begin to move the globe to a new status of security and economic development.  We can shed our sheep’s clothing and lose our fears along the way.  Together we can move the world once we get up and get ourselves moving.

Tillman. Lynch. Americans Weary of Lies and War

How they lied when Pat Tillman Died. YouTube.

The wars leave us all wary.  Soldiers in Afghanistan tire.  Troops in Iraq are exhausted.  The people in the states are fatigued.  Families and friends are drained.  America wants its soldiers to come home, alive.  Citizens cry when chatting with their Representatives.  They shriek when telephoning their Senators.  They write to the President.  Our countrymen spoke with their vote. yet, the combat continues.  The United States stays the course.  It is not the long days and longer nights of worry that weigh on the expectant public; it is the lies. 

Listening to Kevin Tillman speak of his brother Pat, while testifying in front of the House Oversight Committee, I was reminded of the dishonesty.

Earlier today, in dramatic testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Kevin Tillman accused the Bush administration of twisting the facts of his brother’s death to distract public attention from the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib.

The U.S. Army fabricated a story of his brother’s heroism in action, knowing he was killed by friendly fire, Tillman said.  Authorities constructed not only a story of combat action — accompanied by a silver medal – but lied about his medical care, saying he was transferred to a field hospital for continued medical care for 90 minutes after the incident, when the back of his head was blown off.

“These are deliberate and calculated lies” and “a deliberate act of deceit,” Tillman said.

His voice shaking, Tillman said the official account of his brother’s death in 2004 was “utter fiction ? intended to deceive the family and more importantly the American people.”

He said the incident that led to his brother’s death was “clearly fratricide” and described the account of a soldier standing next to his brother who reported the slain soldier’s last words, “I am friendly, I am Pat (expletive) Tillman.”

As Jessica Lynch shared her story and her confusion, my anguish increased.  Today, April 25, 2007, when the last soldier to see Army Ranger Pat Tillman alive, Army Specialist (SPC) Bryan O’Neal spoke of his orders not to divulge the truth of his comrades death, I wept.

O’Neal particularly wanted to tell fellow soldier Kevin Tillman, who was in the convoy traveling behind his brother at the time of the 2004 incident in Afghanistan.

“I wanted right off the bat to let the family know what had happened, especially Kevin, because I worked with him in a platoon and I knew that he and the family all needed to know what had happened,” O’Neal testified. “I was quite appalled that when I was actually able to speak with Kevin, I was ordered not to tell him.”

Asked who gave him the order, O’Neal replied that it came from his battalion commander, then-Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey.

“He basically just said … ‘Do not let Kevin know, that he’s probably in a bad place knowing his brother’s dead,’ ” O’Neal told House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman. “And he made it known I would get in trouble, sir, if I spoke with Kevin on it being fratricide.”

I have been doing a lot of crying lately.  As the causalities mount, so too do the stories.  Sadly, the legends told by our leaders President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the Department of Defense are rarely factual.  Fiction is thought to be more favorable by this Administration.  It seems our leaders feel we “can’t take the truth.”  Therefore, they do not tell it.

Vice President Richard Cheney, equipped with his five deferments was able to avoid military service; yet, repeatedly he states, the “United States does not have the stomach for the fight.”

Mister Cheney is correct.  He, an American never had the guts to fight.  His compatriot, George W. Bush also gracefully avoided battle.  As young men, these two combative, hawkish chaps chose not to fight on foreign soil, or anywhere else for that matter.  Yet, today, they hypocritically claim American men and women are not willing to go to battle.  Oh, Dick, whom are the people fighting and dying for this country?  Certainly, you and your nearest kin are not on the front-lines.  I do not see the Commander-In-Chief dodging bullets now; nor was he as a lad.

After years of what seems an endless, “protracted” war, most Americans feel as Mister Cheney did and apparently still does.  They do not wish to go to fight and chance death.  The Armed Forces are struggling. Recruitment is down.  Soldiers declining to re-enlist.  There are not enough recruits to maintain a volunteer service; yet, no one is willing to reinstate the draft. 

As early as July 2003, there was talk of troop confidence; there was little.  Frustrated soldiers wrote to Congressional Representatives “requesting their units be repatriated.”  Morale was low, although according to the Administration, troop spirits were high.  After arriving home from a hastily scheduled trip to Iraq in November of the same year the President told the nation in his Saturday radio address.

I’m pleased to report back from the front lines that our troops are strong, morale is high and our military is confident we will prevail.

Lies, more lies, and perpetual deception.

Years later the problem persists.  Troops want to come home.  Families long to see their soldiers alive and comfortably seated in their own living rooms.  Yet, we were told, leaves will be shorter, rotations sooner.; However, the fact is this nation cannot finance such a decision, or is that the fiction.  One never knows.  I truly am perplexed.  Nevertheless, the new strategy is . . .

Stretched military to get more leave instead of bonus pay
By Pauline Jelinek
Associate Press.  Baltimore Sun.
April 18, 2007

Troops will get extra days off — rather than “buckets full of gold” — for being sent to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more frequently, the Pentagon says.

After months of debate on the new plan, Defense Department leaders decided that time off was more in keeping with “the ethos” of military service to country than money — and that rest is more directly connected to the fact that troops are being stressed by repeated deployments, said Michael L. Dominguez, undersecretary for personnel and readiness.

“We weren’t trying to find some metaphysical balance between the service you are rendering and buckets full of gold — or any other thing we could do for you,” Dominguez said Wednesday.

“This wasn’t about that balance. This was about telling men and women of the armed forces that we know when we ask you to do something extraordinary, we’re conscious of it, we’re aware of it.”

In a sometimes-contentious Pentagon news conference, Dominguez declined to say whether officials had studied whether troops themselves might prefer money, saying it was a leadership decision.

In what Dominguez acknowledged was a complicated formula to explain, the policy starts with giving one day off for every month troops are recalled early and increases as various thresholds are reached.

Fear of funding problems was not an issue, he said.

“The Congress of the United States has been superb and excellent in terms of if we needed something for the troops, they’ve given it to us,” he said.

Yes, when soldiers were needed they were provided.  The troops came from unexpected places.  Weeks ago, while standing with James on a local street corner, we conversed as we held up our “Make love not war” signs.  Cars passed us, tooting their horns in favor of “Exit Iraq” policies.  People leaned out their windows restating the words on our banners, “Bring the troops home now.”  “Cut the funds.”  “Grandfather and Veteran for Peace.” 

As the vehicles raced by, James shared his story I winced as he recounted the details.  His older brother is thirty-nine [39] years of age.  He enlisted in the National Guard years earlier.  Financially the then young man needed financial assistance for college and saw the Guard as a means to an end.  A short time ago, James brother was assisting with the Katrina cleanup.  He was proud to help. 

The older sibling was serving his country as expected, on American soil.  Suddenly, he was sent home early.  He was told he would be leaving for Iraq.  The shorter stint in New Orleans would allow for some time at home before he departs.  James’s elder brother has a wife, three children, and is physically not, what he was.  There was a time when the National Guard did not fight overseas.  George W. Bush might remember it well.

At Height of Vietnam, Bush Picks Guard
By George Lardner Jr. and Lois Romano?
Washington Post.
Wednesday, July 28, 1999; Page A1

Two weeks before he was to graduate from Yale, George Walker Bush stepped into the offices of the Texas Air National Guard at Ellington Field outside Houston and announced that he wanted to sign up for pilot training.

It was May 27, 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. Bush was 12 days away from losing his student deferment from the draft at a time when Americans were dying in combat at the rate of 350 a week. The unit Bush wanted to join offered him the chance to fulfill his military commitment at a base in Texas. It was seen as an escape route from Vietnam by many men his age, and usually had a long waiting list.

Bush had scored only 25 percent on a “pilot aptitude” test, the lowest acceptable grade. But his father was then a congressman from Houston, and the commanders of the Texas Guard clearly had an appreciation of politics.

Bush was sworn in as an airman the same day he applied.

However, those were the days when George W. was eligible to fight.  Now he orders others to tend to the frontline.  In 2000, George W. Bush entered the service as the supreme officer; duplicity continues as we spread democracy. 

Oh, the deceit, deception, dishonesty, and finally the disillusionment.  When will it ever end; when will the war.  It is not worth asking this White House.  Obviously, we cannot trust the answers.

Looking at Lies, Lives, Legends . . .

  • Soldier said he was told to keep quiet on details of Tillman’s death, By Johanna Neuman. Los Angles Times Staff Writer. April 24, 2007
  • pdf Soldier said he was told to keep quiet on details of Tillman’s death, By Johanna Neuman. Los Angles Times Staff Writer. April 24, 2007
  • Soldier: Army ordered me not to tell truth about Tillman.  Cable News Network. April 25, 2007
  • Katrina poses key test for stretched National Guard, By Mark Sappenfield. The Christian Science Monitor. September 2, 2005
  • Transcript: Vice President Cheney on ‘FOX News Sunday.’ Sunday, January 14, 2007
  • Study: Army stretched to breaking point.  USA Today. January 24, 2006
  • U.S. Army Challenged to Meet Recruitment Goals. By Madeleine Brand.  Day to Day. June 10, 2005
  • War may have some Fort Carson troops leaving the ranks. By Dick Foster, Rocky Mountain News.
  • pdf War may have some Fort Carson troops leaving the ranks. By Dick Foster, Rocky Mountain News.
  • Cheney’s Five Draft Deferments During the Vietnam Era Emerge as a Campaign Issue, By Katharine Q. Seelye. New York Times. May 1, 2004
  • Troop morale in Iraq hits ‘rock bottom,’ By Ann Scott Tyson.  Special to The Christian Science Monitor.  July 7, 2003
  • pdf Troop morale in Iraq hits ‘rock bottom,’ By Ann Scott Tyson.  Special to The Christian Science Monitor.  July 7, 2003
  • The Course is Stayed. Orwellian Style. ©

    Since George W. Bush was selected, the comparison has been clear.  George W. Bush channels author, George Orwell.  Laws that deny citizens their right to privacy are titled, “The Patriot Act.”  A unilateral attack on Iraq, an attempt to “change the regime” is declared, “spreading democracy.” 

    Just as Bush senior coined the phrase, “collateral damage” to define the loss of innocent lives during the previous Persian Gulf War, Baby Bush does the same.  The two play with words.  They each plot to gain strength and resources in the oil rich Middle East, and call their endeavors “compassionate.”

    While the litany of lexicons is ample and I might submit many for your consideration, I will focus only on the most recent, our change in tactics.  You may recall the strategy is the same.

    Bush Won’t Change Iraq Strategy.
    Associated Press.

    President Bush conceded Friday that “right now it’s tough” for American forces in Iraq, but the White House said he would not change U.S. strategy in the face of pre-election polls that show voters are upset.

    With Republicans anxious about the potential loss of Congress – and with conditions seemingly deteriorating in Iraq – Bush addressed the question of whether he would alter his policies.

    “We are constantly adjusting our tactics so that we achieve the objective, and right now it’s tough, it’s tough,” Bush said in an Associated Press interview. . . .  Despite calls for change, Bush said, “Our goal has not changed. Our goal is a country that can defend, sustain and govern itself, a country that which will serve as an ally in this war.  Our tactics are adjusting.” 

    Were it not so painful to experience, the Bush presidency would be my pleasure.  After all, it provides ample humor to [the demeaning term often used to identify Democrats] an intellectual.

    I invite you to enjoy the rhetoric, reflect, and realize, the past is the present.  We live in 1984 on an Animal Farm.  In 2006 this is the World According to George.

    I ask you to delve more deeply into the universe.  The Sandwichman at MaxSpeak offers a glorious assessment of the course, the discourse.  Please enjoy Stay the (Dis)Course.

    Learning to love Big Brother George W. Bush channels George Orwell,Daniel Kurtzman. San Francisco Chronicle. Sunday, July 28, 2002
    Bush Won’t Change Iraq Strategy. Associated Press. Military Advantage. October 21, 2006
    Animal Farm. George Orwell
    1984 George Orwell

    Accountability; History Textbooks Receive a Failing Grade ©

    A New York Times article, “Schoolbooks Are Given F’s in Originality,” caught my attention.  It stated that two of this nation’s most prominent history textbooks were virtual duplicates.  The authors were not the same; however, the words within these books were.  I was not totally surprised to see this, for I have often mused, “Who writes our history?”  We read the words within textbooks, repeat these, and recognize the specifics as fact.  Yet, how do we know that what we read is true.  According to the New York Times,  much of what is presented is not as it appears.

    Authors and academician whose names appear on the textbook cover do not pen what is within.  Dead authors do.  Ghostwriters compose even more; their contributions are expansive.  These indistinct individuals construct a convention.  Then we, a trusting public, accept what these unknowns inscribe.  What most of us believe is valid is not a universal veracity.

    Things change in the translation, much to the chagrin of noted authors.  When told that text within his book, “America: Pathways to the Present,” was essentially the same as that found in “A History of the United States,” written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Historian Daniel J. Boorstin, Brooks Mather Kelley, and Ruth Frankel Boorstin, author, Historian Allan Winkler, stated “They were not my words.”  He continued, “It’s embarrassing.  It’s inexcusable.”  Yet, he excused it.

    Professor Winkler said he understood the editorial perils of textbook writing, but wanted to reach a wider audience.  He said he was not motivated by money.  Named authors share royalties, generally 10 to 15 percent of the net profits, on each printing of the text, whether they write it or not.

    Allan Winkler, a Historian at Miami University of Ohio, who supposedly wrote the 2005 edition of “Pathways,” book with Andrew Cayton, Elisabeth I. Perry, and Linda Reeder, was now making history, though not necessarily writing it.

    According to The New York Times, much of the text offered in the 2005 high school editions of each of these history textbooks was identical.  In discussing the September 11, 2001 tragedy or the Persian Gulf wars the verbiage was effectively the same.  We might conclude history no longer guides our textbook writings; power and money do.  Surprise!  Significant stories of eons gone by now must be short, sweet, and yes, even stup**.

    The American Textbook Council reports, the problem is

    what educators, critics, and journalists informally refer to as “dumbing down.”  Many history textbooks reflect lowered sights for general education.  They raise basic questions about sustaining literacy and civic understanding in a democratic society and culture.  Bright photographs, broken format and seductive color overwhelm the text and confuse the page.  Typeface is larger and looser, resulting in many fewer words and much more white space.  The text disappears or gets lost.  Among editors, phrases such as “text-heavy,” “information-loaded,” “fact-based,” and “non-visual” are negatives.  A picture, they insist, tells a thousand words.

    What appears in black, white, and is read all over is not as it appears. Authors are not as noted, and facts are flimsy.

    As editions pass, the names on the spine of a book may have only a distant or dated relation to the words between the covers, [it is] diluted with each successive edition.

    This according to people within the publishing industry.  Authors themselves make similar assertions.

    Again, the American Textbook Council states,

    Textbook content is thinner and thinner, and what there is, it is increasingly deformed by identity politics and pressure groups.

    Apparently, Political Action Committees produce much of the literature.  Politicians exert their power; they want those with these groups to vote for them.  Money and the market are influential. A contract with a major school district is worth tens of millions of dollars in profit.  If a State Department adopts a textbook series, the bucks will surely pour in.  Publishing is a business and we know businesses have their own self-interest at heart.

    Asking academicians to document a dynamic occurrence or two can deplete profits, and that would not be economically wise.  Therefore, it is rarely done anymore.  Historians may write the first edition, from there on, no one knows who authors a text.

    Professor Winkler, one of the authors of “America: Pathways to the Present,” said he and his co-authors had written “every word” of the first edition, aiming to teach American history from a sociological perspective, from the grass roots up.  But, he said, in updated editions, the authors reviewed passages written by freelancers or in-house writers or editors.

    He said the authors collaborated on their last major revision before September 11, 2001, working with editorial staff members in Boston.  But he said that after the attacks, he was not asked to write updates and was not shown revisions.

    “There was no reason in the world to think that we would not see material that was stuck in there at some point in the future,” Professor Winkler said.  “Given the fact that similar material was used in another book, we are really profoundly upset and outraged.”

    However, this practice is not a new one.

    Susan Buckley, a longtime writer and editor of elementary and high school social studies textbooks who retired after 35 years in the business, said that “whole stables” of unnamed writers sometimes wrote the more important high school textbooks, although in other instances, named authors wrote the first editions.  In elementary school textbooks, Ms. Buckley added, named authors almost never write their own text.

    She said even if named authors did not write the text, they had an important role as scholars, shaping coverage and reviewing copy.

    What that role might be is illusive.  It escapes many that read of this situation.

    Nevertheless, the concept and customs do not go unnoticed.  The watchful eye of William Cronon, a Historian at the University of Wisconsin, Madison is aware of what is happening in the textbook publishing world.  Mr. Cronon authored the statement on ethics for the American Historical Association.

    He said, textbooks are corporate-driven collaborations efforts.  The publisher governs the market.  They have well-defined rights to hire additional writers, researchers, and editors.  They may make major revisions without the authors’ final approval.  The books typically synthesize hundreds of works without using footnotes to credit sources.  The reason for these declaratory privileges is profit and a conciliatory stance to those in power.

    Professor Cronon affirms,

    “This is really about an awkward and embarrassing situation these authors have been put in because they’ve got involved in textbook publishing.”

    Textbook publishing is an industry like all others; the driving force is the desire to increase earnings.  Publishers must be innovative, imaginative; yet, they need not be truly instructive.  It is assumed educators will do that.  The printers of textbooks create a market regardless of a need.  Publishing houses know they have a captive audience.  Curriculums change little from semester to semester.  However, the text is altered regularly.  The publisher must create a demand so that they can offer a supply.  They have bills to pay.

    In a recent Washington Post article, Textbook Prices On the Rise, journalist Margaret Webb Pressler reported,

    the California Student Public Interest Research Group found that the average release time between textbook editions is 3.8 years, regardless of whether the information has changed since the previous version.  Of the textbooks surveyed, new editions cost 58 percent more than the older version, rising to an average cost of $102.44.

    Publishing corporate bigwigs cut corners as they relate to production and quality; however, they never lower the prices.  School districts know this, as do college students.  Again, according to the Washington Post,

    The National Association of College Bookstores says wholesale prices of college textbooks have risen nearly 40 percent in the past five years.  And students are finding that many of the same books are sold overseas at much lower prices.

    Yes, textbook publishing is quite beneficial.  The printer of these volumes realizes great earnings.  Textbook writing can also be quite a prize; authors satisfy their yearnings.  A textbook writer may achieve fame and perhaps, further his or her fortune. Allan Winkler acknowledges this.

    “I want the respect of my peers,” Professor Winkler said.  “I’ve written monographs, biographies,” but these reach a limited audience.  “I want to be able to tell that story to other people, and that’s what textbooks do.”

    Schoolbooks do tell a substantial story, though it may not be the tale Mr. Winkler or we expected.

    Thus, I ask again, “Who writes our history?”  The answer is, publishers, guided by profits, politicians promoting favorable policies, pressure groups, then historians.  After all, Historians seeking acknowledgment from their peers do submit their anecdotes; however, these contributions are less important.  Over time, historical accounts will be lost, just as our past is.  Apparently, profits and power are our only presents [presence.]

    • Author and Professor, James Loewen was kind enough to visit Be-Think and read this exposé.  He offered his reflections, and I realized I was remiss in acknowledging Mr. Loewen in my missive.  Now, I wish to present this prominent researcher and writer.

    With thanks to James Loewen, the staff of the New York Times became aware of the conundrum existing in our schools.  Dr. Loewen disclosed the fact that high school Social Science textbooks are not as they appear to be.  It was his awareness for the sad the state of affairs that enhanced the knowledge of others.  I wish to publicly acknowledge a wise and wonderful scholar, James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, Lies Across America, and now Sundown Towns.  Please visit the James Loewen webpage and ponder further.

    Read What is Written, if you choose . . .

    Schoolbooks Are Given F’s in Originality, By Diana Jean Schemo. The New York Times. July 13, 2006
    “America: Pathways to the Present,” By Andrew R. L. Cayton, Elisabeth Israels Perry, Linda Reed, Allan M. Winkler
    “A History of the United States,” written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Historian Daniel J. Boorstin and Brooks Mather Kelley, Ruth Frankel Boorstin
    Allan Winkler, Organization of American Historians
    Daniel J. Boorstin 1914-2004 The Library of Congress
    America: Pathways to the Present, This Prentice Hall “History” Text Is Essentially a Propaganda Tract By John Fonte. The Textbook League.
    Widely Adopted History Textbooks American Textbook Council.
    American Textbook Council.
    Testimony of Gilbert T. Sewall, U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing. American Textbook Council. September 24, 2003
    Doing It by The Book, Textbook Publishers Profiting from Students’ Loss. By Tim Paulson. Corporate MOFO.
    Textbook Prices On the Rise, Frequent New Editions, Supplemental Materials Drive Up Costs, By Margaret Webb Pressler. Washington Post. Saturday, September 18, 2004
    California Student Public Interest Research Group
    Frequently Asked Questions About Textbooks The Association of American Publishers (AAP)
    Directory of Publishers and Vendors, Education Publishers, AcqWeb.
    Getting Started Creating A Textbook, By David A. Rees, Southern Utah University. Society of Academic Authors.
    When Government Writes History, A Memoir of the 9/11 Commission. By Ernest R. May. The New Republic. May 16, 2005