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Watching the latest debate on economic policy among Republican candidates, I was reminded of remarks made by novelist Stephen King. He had been asked his thoughts about prohibiting students in public schools from seeing or reading certain books and magazines. King, a former school teacher himself, said he respected the right of school authorities to deny students access to materials they considered unsuited for children. But he added that when young people were old enough to legally do so, they should see what was prohibited to them. He said, and here I’m paraphrasing, that what the authorities don’t want people to know is precisely what they should know.
I was reminded of King’s statement while watching the most recent public debate, in which the candidates were discussing tax and economic policy. It occurred to me that the Republicans didn’t want viewers to remember certain aspects of past and present GOP economic policy, and that what the Republicans want us to forget is exactly what we need to remember to make informed decisions this upcoming presidential election year. And what they don’t want us to remember is this—long before deficits began to skyrocket during the Obama Administration, the irresponsible combination of tax cuts and spending increases pushed by Republican presidents and accepted by Republican-dominated congresses were exceeding any deficits created by Democrats. Indeed, it was a Democrat, Bill Clinton, working with a Republican congress which actually brought deficits under control and balanced budgets, at least for a few years.
But of course Republicans have no monopoly on offenses against memory. Hillary Clinton, for example, recently said that we should take, with the utmost seriousness, charges made by women who claim that they’ve been sexually harassed, or even raped. Hard to argue with that one—except Hillary doesn’t want anyone to remember the charges made by Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Juanita Brodderick against her husband. Nor does Hillary or any other Democrat want anyone to know or remember that the cities with the greatest racial turmoil or fiscal crises—Baltimore, Maryland; Detroit Michigan–are those which have been (mis)governed by Democrats.
And speaking of racial turmoil: Critics of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department don’t want us to remember that the officer charged with the shooting was exonerated by a grand jury after many witnesses, including African Americans, said he had been attacked by the deceased. On the other hand, defenders of the New York City police don’t want us to remember that the African American who died while in a police chokehold had committed no crime other than to sell cigarettes as single units (in New York City it’s illegal to sell single cigarettes because to do so deprives the city of sales tax revenue).
There are many other issues—national security, foreign policy, immigration, refugees—which will also be debated during the 2016 presidential campaign, which has been going on quite a while now, and will only intensify with the upcoming new year. We, the people, will be asked to look at, listen to, and swallow a great deal of propaganda from all sides of the race, as well as try to keep track of charges and countercharges made in connection with whatever news stories emerge. We should, of course, pay attention to whatever everyone wants as to know, without automatically accepting or rejecting what we’re being told. But we should be just as determined to know what nobody wants us to know, and remember what everyone may want us to forget.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.