Incentive With Inspiration

Incentive With Inspiration

Telling people where to go and sharing America’s story. In a nutshell that is what we do at Jim Hinckley’s America. And we are always looking for new opportunities to do both. That is why we recently launched the podcast Car Talk From The Main Street of Americaand expanded the scope of the Sunday morning program, Coffee With Jim. 

But there is another facet to Jim HInckley’s America. That is the development of educational programs, speaking at schools, and even providing someone on one time for students.

These projects are almost entirely made possible through partners that provide support through our crowdfunding initiative on Patreon. As my dearest friend and I are used to eating on a regular basis, crowdfunding is key to make these type of projects relatively feasible.

We don’t talk much about these initiatives. I don’t feel comfortable giving the impression that they are done for profit.

To date I have had the distinct privilege of working with a variety of schools at all grade levels. Counted among the most memorable programs were those made at schools in Germany. I learned as much or maybe more than the students.

Incentive to continue thiese programs and projects, and the inspiration for them, often comes from students, from their parents and from teachers. A few months ago I receoved a message from a teacher at a school in Chandler, Arizona with a request to speak to her class.

Obviously that wasn’t feasible at the time. It had to wait until I had business in the area. Meanwhile one of the teachers sudents accepted my offer to assist directly via phone or Zoom. One student accepted that offer. He was working on a project about the societal impact of Route 66 in the 20th century. Did I mention that he was just eleven years of age?

Well, we talked on the phone and I answered his carefully crafted and well thought out questions. Then he talked his parents into bringing him to my program at the Performing Arts Center in Apache Junction. Well, yesterday I received this note. “I’m happy to share that I made it to state level and will be participating in the program at ASU (Arizona State University) in April.”

That, my friends is the true reward for what I do. That is the inspiration needed. To my supportring partners on Patreon, thank you. We did it. We made a difference.

In coming weeks I will be sharing an array of exciting updates about pending travel, new programs, and items associated with the fast approaching Route 66 centennial. And as I will be attending a rather dynamic conference and symposium soon, there is every confidence that we will have much to discuss.


The Mine Field

The Mine Field

I was vaguely aware of the horrendous 1917 race riot in East St. Louis, Missouri before commencing with research for the book Murder and Mayhem on the Main Street of Route 66: Tales from Bloody 66But as I studied the incident one question began to dominate my thoughts. How can a tragedy of this magnitude be so obscure?

The answer was relatively simple. History had been censored. It had been expunged from the historic record. It was an ugly truth that did not fit into the acceptable narrative of the era. It was a national embarrassment.

And so it was not included in the text books used by students. As a result, with the passing of years and of the witnesses to the events, it this national tragedy became a forgotten footnote to history.

If in school you had been taught about the heinous atrocities committed during an event know as the Fort Pillow Massacre, would your perception about what the Confederate battle flag represents be different? Would this education have fostered a less romanticized view of the Confederacy?

If you knew that poor Irish immigrants that had died during construction of the railroad had been buried without ceremony in a mass grave in Funks Grove, Illinois, would your views about the settlement of the west be different?

How would your perception of manifest destiny and the settlement of the American west have been altered if you knew of the conflict between the Yavapai and Hualapai, or how the Apache warred against other tribes?

When we censor history because it is uncomfortable, because it is offense to modern sensitivities, we stifle progress. We also deprive future generations of context. Even worse, we become a society that feels honor bound to protect future generations from offense. As a result we become a colorless society. We become a people without comparatives.

The recent uproar over Dr. Seuss books makes for an interesting case study. Some titles in a series of books that have helped generations of children learn to read, and to make memories with parents that read to them, have been deemed offensive. And as a result they are to removed from view. Perhaps they should be burned to ensure that people do not have their sensitivities offended in the future. Obviously I am being facetious.

Yes, some images in the books are racist and insensitive when viewed from modern eyes. But this modern ability to recognize racism or offensive imagery was derived from historic context.

The demand for removal of statues and memorials to heroes of the Confederacy are another example of our increasing hunger to sterilize history. These memorials should never have been erected, but they were. Removing them will not correct the offense. It will, however, deny future generations of needed context.

Would we not be better served if the monuments, the statues were transformed into educational tools that help us better understand why they were erected, who these people were, the decisions that they made, and why they fought to maintain the institution of slavery? Then these memorials would become an instrument of long overdue healing rather than tools for the fostering of divisions. Then they would become milestones that measure our progress as a people.

History must be taught as it was. It must be taught with context. And it must be taught with sensitivity, a respectful awareness that what was once deemed socially acceptable is often now offensive. But how do we know that behavior of the past is offensive? It is because we have context. We owe it to ourselves, and to future generations, to preserve history, no matter how painful.