As a graduate student in international affairs at Columbia University, I specialized in the study of totalitarianism, especially, though not only, the communist variety. I found the subject fascinating, but I never for a moment imagined that any expertise gained in this field would prove relevant to American life.
Sad to say, it has turned out to be the most valuable subject I could have studied. The totalitarian temptation is not confined to Nazis and communists; it can rear its head in any society and gradually destroy it. And as the Soviet dissident joke notes, one quick way to identify totalitarian threats to liberty is to identify those who falsify the historical record on behalf of their cause.
In America today, two groups are most actively engaged in falsifying history: the ACLU and the anti-smoking movement.
The ACLU is suing cities and counties to remove crosses from their city and county seals. One of the ACLU's greatest victories was getting the Board of Supervisors in a 3-2 vote (the three were the three leftist supervisors) to remove the tiny cross from the seal of Los Angeles County. Of course, this was done in the name of separation of church and state; no one falsifies history without some higher motive. But falsifying Los Angeles County's history was the issue. The cross was on the seal because Los Angeles was founded by Catholics. That is why it is named "Los Angeles," "the angels." (Once the ACLU successfully removes all crosses from cities and counties, will it move on to changing religious names such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and St. Louis, not to mention Corpus Christi?)
The attempts by the ACLU -- and the Left in general -- to expunge the Judeo-Christian roots of America from American history are mirrored by the attempts of America's anti-smoking organizations to expunge the history they object to -- images of Americans smoking.
Examples of anti-smoking fanatics doctoring photographs are so legion that I can only offer a few examples in the space of a column.
In 1999, the U.S. Postal Service released a stamp depicting the famous abstract expressionist artist Jackson Pollock. The most famous photograph of Pollock, who loved to smoke, was a Life Magazine photo of him with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. The Postal Service used the photo, but digitally removed the cigarette.
As a columnist in the MIT student newspaper wrote at that time, "To strip Pollock of his cigarette would be like taking away the character-defining cigar from Sigmund Freud. Would you replace Freud's cigar with a fat pencil?"
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”
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