Posted 11 days ago
Although American historical amnesia is the laziest of tropes—“We learn nothing,” said Gore Vidal, “because we remember nothing”—liberals today are more committed than ever to a passionate remembrance of things past.
It's near impossible, as an American, to ignore the ideological struggle that is taking place over our nation's history. Is it one of freedom, glory, and greatness, or one of oppression, discrimination, and imperialism? Karp hopes to give us his perspective, as a Peinceton historian and a Leftist thinker, of how this debate is playing out in the media and public sphere.
As a vocal supporter of democratic socialism, Karp takes the stance that a lot of this rhetoric seems to simply be rhetoric for itself, and is obscuring real issues of inequality that we could be tackling. As somebody who reads Jacobin, another publication that Karp often publishes in, I tend to agree with him. He writes:
No, the Democrats who govern Virginia will not repeal the state’s anti-union right-to-work law, but yes, by all means, they will make Juneteenth an official holiday. If this movement only signals a shift from material demands to metaphysical “reckonings”—from movement politics to elite culture war—then it is not an advance but a retreat.
It's easy to get caught up in the allure of this writing, but what will really matter at the end of the day isn't words but real progress. To Karp, I don't think he believes it will come. To me, I think that we might be onto a much more racially aware moment in human history (even though we are seriously deficient in other morale principles). But people are realizing that the status quo is not working, and that mass of emotion will become something, I think Karp's point is that things like the 1619 Project are not the type of things that will do it.