MAUS And Teaching The Teachers


“There’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” — Flannery O’ Connor

As Wikipedia indicates, Maus is cartoonist Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel about an exchange with his father respecting WWII Holocaust matters. It was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize, but it’s not what I’m focusing on here, my title notwithstanding. That said, the work is germane for my purposes in this article.

MAUS here is an acronym for Massacres Are the United States of America. More specifically, Massacres Are US is the name of new game show being pitched, as I write. I know two brothers who are engaged at the moment in trying to sell an idea for a half-hour entertainment series which asks participants to identify this or that domestic atrocity. Those who succeed with the American “trivia” items are able to compete on a similar basis respecting international abominations; one could will a million dollars by being the last contestant standing, as per their proposal.

Though the foci are anything but trivial — are, by any standard, at the opposite end of the spectrum from that categorization — the whole business smacks of Trivial Pursuit, obviously. And is a horror in and of itself, whether or not any producer dares to mount such a show.

I am writing about this because it’s not an isolated case. Already our airwaves — taken over more and more by private financial interests each day — deliver fare which is stomach-wrenching. And decent folks who are, say, climbing the walls over all of the sexual assault scandals and improper behavior reports coming out of Hollywood and various hallowed political realms, among others, aren’t making the connection between dramatic offerings such as Game of Thrones and the decline of morality, specifically the treatment of women and our youth as so much disposable meat. Truth be told, all of humanity is denigrated by such series, violence ‘cross the board encouraged, life viewed as less and less sacred with each and every passing episode.

And yet, I know educators who were dismissed from their posts because they criticized what I’m judging here. Fear reigns in academic circles for those who challenge what’s popular in the world of entertainment. Anything which threatens our moral momentum.

Maus was one of the first graphic novels to receive academic attention in the English-speaking world, but if it had focused on any of the state-sponsored violence of the United States it would have been — at the very least — prohibited on the vast majority of college and university campuses in the country. And depending on what abomination abroad was spotlighted it could have been burned.

And so most academics keep their mouths shut and heads turned away when it comes to addressing exactly what our 800 overseas bases are all about. You’d be hard put to find any educators at our institutions of so-called higher education zeroing in on the nefarious activities of our “Little Americas” and/or our small radar facilities and drone operations.

In a survey I conducted recently (targeting faculty members at 70 colleges and universities, the same number of countries where we have bases, by the way), not a single instructor or professor — out of 625 — could come within 50 of telling me how many bases Russia, Britain and France have abroad; most were off by at least 100. Half were reminded about the number of bases the U.S. boasts, and all of those respondents guessed a figure that totaled more than 100. Bottom line, though, the educated class in the U.S., generally speaking, doesn’t seem to have a clue as to what’s going on outside of our borders… except what the glean from the mainstream media and/or alternative sources which are not really helping their audiences to self-educate sufficiently.

But the worst thing I have to report here is that the vast majority of respondents either didn’t think there was anything wrong with what the two brothers were pitching, or they didn’t think they could do anything whatsoever to prevent what was slated to be aired.

If you teach the teachers you cross paths with, perhaps they’ll teach their young charges properly.

Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel is a member of the Oxman Collective. She can be reached at [email protected].


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