From the Letters to the Editor column in the November 2012 issue of Perspectives on History
Letter to the Editor: On Political Facts and Historical Thinking
Ed Knight, November 2012
Editor's Note: Perspectives on History welcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should follow our guidelines. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters' contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.
To the Editor:
I want to wholeheartedly thank James Grossman and Allen Mikaelian for their side-splitting satire "Political Facts and Historical Thinking" (Perspectives on History, September 2012) in which they pretended to defend the absurd position of Debbie Wasserman Schultz when she likened the long-overdue move to require voter identification with the Democratic Party's "Jim Crow" laws of the Old South. Laughing uproariously as I read their comedic piece, I hoped other readers got the joke and likewise saw the humor when they compared codified racism and poll taxes with a sincere desire to stop voter fraud. I also chuckled when Grossman and Mikaelian purported to advance the notion that voter fraud is a fallacy, and that there is no need for any voter to prove he or she is casting a valid ballot. Now, I must admit that, as a member of a mixed-race family, I cringed a bit at Grossman and Mikaelian's feigned condescending assertion that people of color are too stupid to figure out how to acquire a photo ID. However, I am aware that high farce sometimes requires hyperbole that is really over-the-top, so we will let that one slide for the sake of humor.
Interestingly, some of my colleagues actually thought that Grossman and Mikaelian had written a serious piece, and were up in arms over what they perceived as the AHA being hijacked by radical political hacks, bastardizing history for their ideological ends. When I pointed out that they missed the point, and that the key to the article was recognizing levity in academia when they see it, they, too laughed raucously. I hope that Grossman and Mikaelian will continue to regale us from time to time with their zany antics, but at some point they will have to leave political satire and return to serious scholarly discourse. Otherwise, word will get out that Perspectives' usefulness is limited to the interior of bird cages.
Ohio Valley Heritage and Landmarks, Inc.