Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.
Oh, come off it, my duped and sleeping brethren, there was no Little Rock Central High School crisis 50 years ago.
Another invocation of the Big Lie, like the Apollo missions, the Clinton murders, the prestidigitated WMDs. And here an entire issue of the paper devoted to perpetuating it.
There was no Central High School for there to be a crisis at.
The famous old brick-looking building is just a facade that blows over every time there's a strong wind. Every time it blows down, we all suspend disbelief until the grounds crew, themselves invisible for the duration of the job, hurries out to prop it back up again. Then when reality as we know it snaps back, we can persuade ourselves that we see “students” and “teachers” going in or coming out, and we can follow them inside if we want to, and “see” classrooms and apparent instruction taking place.
All a sham. Think matrix, from the same-name movie.
Reality is whatever's transiently agreed upon, and you can't trust it for crap. Third Reich reality lifespan was announced at 1,000 years and it lasted barely long enough for Eva to do her business on ol' Schicklberger's puss. Pickling and the vac-pak bought Lenin's reality carcass comparative jack squat. Mission Accomplished reality lasted about as long as it took the bosuns to take down the sign. I get the feeling that bothersome reality for Dick Cheney is just a buzz, and that off camera he's constantly slapping at it, like gnats. Today's youth find reality so grotesque that they hie to the sanctuary of white noise and “whatever.”
Reality is the transiently agreed upon, and history is only momentary consensus concerning the past. And that quality of plasticity that allows us to see the Central High facade as a school or the Iraq surge as a success allows us to constantly reshape or refashion both reality and history, like we do the Wikipedia, or like the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette rolling a corpse for a pedigree.
The same quality admits of a constant reworking of the Central High myth, such as the current effort to give the Faubus character a more sympathetic part, relieving him of some responsibility for the alleged misery and alleged shame that some of his alleged actions during the alleged crisis allegedly caused. The cue seems to have come from a Faubus quotation — “Just because I said it doesn't make it so” — which he never said, of course, the hillwilliam miscreant never having achieved the corporeality that would have allowed him to.
The game here seems to be to unhook Faubus and slime the disgrace over onto the Arkansas Gazette, a newspaper alleged to have been extant then, and its editor Harry Ashmore, whose claim to having been involved in actuality is as problematical as yours or mine. This Ashmore supposedly was alive then and is dead now, but you couldn't prove it by me, and in another 50 years' time who'll be able to say? I don't know what the motivation might be for absolving Faubus and blackguarding the Gazette, except that the imp of the perverse makes it fun sometimes to beatify scoundrels and pull down statues of the righteous.
There was no Faubus. There was no Harry Ashmore. There was no Daisy Bates. There was no Jimmy Karam rousing rabble and hawking plaid sports coats to mob toughs. There was no Justice Jim Johnson to entrust with the mystery contents of suspect turtlehulls. The Nine might or might not have fretted their hour on the imagined stage but how do we know in retrospect that there were nine of them, or that they were black, or that they didn't just collect $75 from O. D. Gunter and go on home?
We have no more evidence that these characters walked to and fro in that old putative contretemps than Gerald L.K. Smith had for his Snidely Whiplash Sanhedrin. If you've seen Bad Boys on TV, you know how much eyewitness testimony is worth, and how no two memories ever exactly tongue-and-groove. And what other verification do we have but some old footage, unreliable since “Zelig,” and some yellowed clips, certainly no step for a stepper Ministry of Truth?
There was no school. No jeering segs to make us all proud. No interposition bullshit. No naked bayonets poked toward tender girlie anatomies. No white supremacist preachers running around like edgy woofy shepherd dogs. No Obsitnik billboards. No Edwin Walker. Harry Reasoner wasn't here but the new medium fooled him into thinking he was, as it fooled the rest of us, and continues to. Central High never happened. Not nare bit of it.
Ah, denial such as this or such as in Bush's whirling Babylonian fantasia can be a comfort, perhaps the orb's one and only, when both the history and the reality bite. Rather than having to make the best of a bad deal, you can simply refuse to acknowledge the bastard, and while that might be a problem if you're president, with your denial habit requiring that daily gigantic fix of young blood and somebody else's treasure, it's never done any harm to ol' moi that I know of, except to enisle me here in lonely eccentricity, or to anyone else in my very limited hallooing range.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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