In his dystopian novel “1984,” George Orwell described a device called the “memory hole.”
Modeled after the historical airbrushing common during Stalinist Russia, a memory hole was the Ministry of Truth’s tool of choice for disposing of disagreeable historical facts or documents.
“For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes,” Orwell wrote. “When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.”
All of which brings us to Region IV (Ada County) Republican Chairman Ed Humphreys of Eagle.
Just before a COVID-19 ravaged Legislature was about to take a two-week break, Humphreys walked into the House Education Committee with a memory hole of his own.
He wants schools and institutions of higher learning to police themselves of “the racist filth being taught to our students.”
As the Lewiston Tribune’s William L. Spence noted, Humphreys apparently means education along the lines of “social justice” or “critical race theory,” the outrage du jour of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.
Aiding him in that effort was the Education Committee’s compliant ranking member, Judy Boyle, R-Midvale. She took charge because both the chairman, Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, and the vice chairman, Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, were out with COVID-19.
So the panel voted to introduce Humphrey’s handiwork, which would withhold up to 10 percent of state funding from schools, colleges or universities that teach:
l One race or sex is superior to another.
l An individual is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race or sex, “whether consciously or unconsciously.”
l An individual bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by individuals of the same sex or race.
l Merit-based systems are racist or sexist.
l Idaho or the United States are “fundamentally racist or sexist.”
And if the State Board of Education won’t do it, then any citizen can go to court under this bill and demand the funding cut.
Can you imagine any more effective way for a school or college to avoid losing money than to sanitize Idaho’s history?
Obviously, you couldn’t talk about the Rev. Richard Butler and his Aryan Nations, which terrorized northern Idaho in the 1980s.
Down the memory hole goes Butler.
Nor would you want to spend much time about the original language in Idaho’s Constitution, which proclaimed that Mormons, Chinese, people of Mongolian descent and Indians who “had not severed their tribal relations” could not vote or hold public office. While you’re stuffing that down the memory hole, also include the fact that in a 1982 ballot measure, 100,113 Idahoans voted to retain that provision.
Certainly if you’re cleansing the curriculum of anything that remotely might get you accused of teaching diversity or suggesting a racial history, you wouldn’t want to discuss how a series of treaties deprived the Nez Perce Tribe of its historic lands — or of the signs displayed on the streets of Lewiston in 1946 that read “No Indians Allowed.”
You’d want to conceal how Idaho’s territorial Legislature excluded Chinese from working the mines in the early 1860s, only to charge them excessive fees when the exclusion was relaxed.
Would anyone want it noted that in June 1924, 1,500 members of the Ku Klux Klan paraded down Lewiston’s Main Street or that 500 Klansmen later held rallies and cross burnings in North Lewiston?
Throw that in the memory hole — along with the fact that 9,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were locked up at the Minidoka War Relocation Center during World War II.
Here are some other things you want to consign to the memory hole: The fact that it took a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to overturn Idaho’s financial laws that discriminated against women. Or for the longest time, Idaho refused to provide workers’ compensation insurance to migrant farm laborers who got injured on the job.
Humphreys, Boyle and their fellow Republicans who find this idea attractive apparently adhere to Orwell’s admonition: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”
All of them would make Joseph Stalin proud. — M.T.