Case in point. The man who struggled against the Japanese, the French and ultimately the Americans to unify Viet Nam was inspired by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Ho Chi Minh thought a liberated, post WWII Vietnam should emulate America and its democracy.
I don't know why that should surprise anybody. It's been an historical fact for more than 60-years. Even I knew it.
So, here's the deal. Obama is visiting Vietnam. Emerging from talks with president Truong Tan Sang, Obama said this:
"At the conclusion of the meeting, President Sang shared with me a copy of a letter sent by Ho Chi Minh to Harry Truman. And we discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson. Ho Chi Minh talks about his interest in cooperation with the United States. And President Sang indicated that even if it's 67 years later, it's good that we're still making progress."
Stop the presses! All those rockets up all the asses of America's radical right instantly ignited in sheer outrage. Former Tea Party congressman Allen West tweeted:
"Ho Chi Minh was inspired by Jefferson: POTUS gaffe or insult? Regardless he owes Vietnam vets & families an apology."
Several conservative media outlets blasted the president on similar terms. "Obama may have just been trying to flatter his guest who was obviously eager to show that Ho was not the monster history shows him to be," Chris Stirewalt, digital politics editor for Fox News wrote. "But his connection between the American founders and Ho shows either a massive lack of historical knowledge on the part of the president or a remarkable degree of moral flexibility." (The Drudge Report quickly picked up the Fox piece.) The headline at Breitbart.com read, "Obama Praises Communist Dictator & American Enemy Ho Chi Minh." And so on and so forth.
The fact is, the Vietnam president was able to show Obama only a copy of Ho Chi Minh's letter. The Americans have the original. What's more:
What Obama said is literally a historical fact. In September 1945, Ho Chi Minh delivered the Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi to a crowd of nearly a million Vietnamese. Not only was the "The Star-Spangled Banner" played by a Vietnamese band during his address, but he opens his speech by quoting Thomas Jefferson. Here's the excerpt:
"All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness"So, what is the deal with the American radical right. Did FOX News, Drudge et al really not know this? That's hard to believe that they could trip up over something as well known as this. Besides, they could always Google it or look it up on Wikipedia. It's not hard to find. This suggests the benign interpretation, that these radical right pundits were simply ignorant of their own history is very unlikely. That leaves only the second interpretation; that they were deliberately manipulating their already dumb-downed audiences.
This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.
This incident serves as a chilling example of the subject of Tuesday's post, "The Carefully Engineered Ascendancy of Public Stupidity" in the United States. It echoes of Henry Giroux's warning
"America has become amnesiac - a country in which forms of historical, political, and moral forgetting are not only willfully practiced but celebrated. The United States has degenerated into a social order that is awash in public stupidity and views critical thought as both a liability and a threat. Not only is this obvious in the presence of a celebrity culture that embraces the banal and idiotic, but also in the prevailing discourses and policies of a range of politicians and anti-public intellectuals who believe that the legacy of the Enlightenment needs to be reversed."