Ross: How Trump’s culture war reached the National Archives
Sep 21, 2022, 8:25 AM | Updated: 9:00 am
I noticed that, as part of the tussle between Donald Trump and the National Archives over those presidential documents, Trump’s lawyers argued that the National Archives is a “highly-politicized agency” that has put “content warnings on the US Constitution.”
And that – is partly accurate!
If you click on the National Archives Catalog page, a banner says “Potentially Harmful Content Alert”. And when you click on the banner, you get a statement explaining that the documents in the collection “contain some content that may be harmful or difficult to view.”
It goes on to explain that some of the documents “reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions.”
So the lawyers are right. That warning is there. But it doesn’t single out the Constitution – it applies to the entire collection. And it’s not part of a highly-politicized plot to somehow censor American history – it’s exactly the opposite.
It’s there to explain that since the job of the archives is to accurately document American history, all those biased, outdated, and offensive documents are displayed uncensored. It’s not somehow accommodating the politically-correct crowd – just the opposite. It’s warning them that American history isn’t pretty, so man-up deal with it.
And if Trump’s lawyers think this content warning is the exaggerated fever dream of a bunch of left-wing archivists, they should check out the site sometime. Allow me to quote from one of the more prominent documents I found – President Andrew Jackson’s Message to Congress in 1830 ‘On Indian Removal’.
President Jackson explains that removing the natives from the southern states “will place a dense and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters… It will relieve the whole State of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy, and enable those States to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power. It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites [and] enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions…to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.”
I think it’s fair to say those opinions, just as the website warns, are “outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent.”
So, my message to Trump’s lawyers would be – man up and deal with it. The archives include offensive documents.
Which tells me the documents you guys are so desperately trying to protect … will be right at home. Once they get there.
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