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Smoke Bombs



It isn't at all surprising that Mike Lee is making the rounds with his bottle of Clorox. After all, he seems to believe in bleaching America's racist record and in preserving a mostly white—and damned-well proud of it—nation.

Lee's white-washing activities don't stop there; he seems determined to disavow anything in U.S. history that falls short of a perfect storybook ending—one that will always conclude, "And they lived happily ever after." Lee doesn't want our children—or his fellow Utahns—confronted with the unvarnished truth.

Unfortunately, he's in la-la-land about the endemic racism in our country. Instead of helping Utahns to see America's history with clarity, he's lashing out against educators, social scientists, the NAACP and his own constituents. Why? Because Lee is loath to address our nation's sins; he likes his version of history better, one that promotes a love of country and ignores truth.

Sadly, Lee's actions and rhetoric don't at all match the voice of the people who elected him. He seems only to represent a handful of radical right-wingers who are hijacking our country for their own egotistical aims. Rather than looking for constructive solutions, his usefulness seems to center on the Republican Party's central theme, which is obstruction.

If there's any label that fits, it's Lee's lap-dog alliance to an ex-president clinging desperately to the crazies who support him. It's a conscious choice; after all, Trump, according to Lee, was like the Book of Mormon's Moroni—a strong and moral leader, a man above reproach. As far as I know, the character of Moroni wasn't a womanizing con artist, yet at a campaign rally in Arizona, Lee did compare Trump to Moroni—a comparison that was even offensive to the majority of Utah's Latter-day Saints.

A full six months after Trump's departure, Lee has continued to sidestep the reprehensible acts of the past administration while brown-nosing Republicans in positions of power. Following the Donald's playbook, his strategy for dealing with racial problems is to disavow them altogether or, at least, spout declarations that the teaching of critical race theory will cause kids to question the perfection of a country that was, as he believes, established by God's hand. On the issue of CRT, Lee has backed himself up against the hill and dug in his heels.

The question—whether or not to teach our kids to think about U.S. racial justice—should be easy for anyone with any integrity. Honest people are willing to admit failures, because they know that acknowledgement is the first step in fixing what's wrong.

Lee is much like the Holocaust deniers. You'd think that a rational man would know: Simple obscuration doesn't actually make something disappear. The smoke dissipates, and 6 million Jews are still dead.

And what is his justification for his head-in-the-sand approach to our painful history of racial discrimination and intolerance? We could blame it on the mistakes of previous generations, who, just like Lee, found it easier to sweep the mess under the edge of the carpet than to attempt a more permanent and effective cleaning.

Then again, maybe we should blame it on a life of being brainwashed by the earlier generations of teachers and historians—the ones who took the sanitized and wishful legends of the past and simply "refreshed" their computer screens with the newest ones.

My guess: Mike Lee is the ultimate politician—someone whose only interest in politics is the power, money and public applause that positions of power bring. Who is this man? Is he a Republican? Is he a conservative? Is he a Christian? Is he a moralist? Is he anyone's idea of an equitable juror? No. Lee is none of those. His only allegiance is to me-me-me.

Sadly, Lee is just another of America's self-serving legislators—very much representative of Utah's bad choices in Congress. (Look at Rep. Burgess Owens, who's out there trying to save Britney Spears from her financial conservatorship instead of working on our nation's real problems—among them, drought, COVID-19, race relations and women's rights. Fixing Britney's legal and health problems is not what we're paying him for.)

Just think: While Lee is occupying valuable space in the Senate, we could have been represented by someone who was thoughtful and relevant. Lee is trying to do the same thing with CRT as he did in responding to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Sweep it under the rug!

The senator seems to believe that a few smoke grenades tossed into the pages of our past and current events can make our problems cease to exist. As for the Capitol attack, he's not even willing to properly acknowledge it because it could lead to the conclusion that our Trump-led nation was, at least, temporarily out of control that day. And I'd have to say that, with the same demon still drumming up the band, our democracy remains in mortal danger.

How the hell did Mike Lee ever get to be a senator? He might as well rename himself "Xi" or "Vladimir," because his disloyalty toward our democratic process—and his tenacious attachment to our nation's myths—make him, not a public servant, attending to the needs of our state, but a nemesis of our great, but imperfect, nation.

Private Eye is off this week. Michael Robinson—a retired businessman, novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army public information officer—writes his weekly online column, Taking a Gander, at Send comments to