Happy Independence Day

Today many of us celebrate the birth of the United States of America. If I were to sit down with the typical public school textbook of our history, I would read stirring dramatic accounts of Columbus' discovery of America, colonists fleeing to our shores to escape religious oppression and Patrick Henry's brave speeches. These textbooks, of course, are generally approved by elected bodies that must answer to the will of the people and as is often the case, if the books say something unflattering, these elected officials know they might be accused of being "un-American" (which, somehow, is a grave crime in the eyes of many Americans.)

Knowing this, perhaps I might seek out more authoritative works about the origin of this country; I might seek out authors not beholden to popular opinion, but to their vision of truth. I might read about the genocide that Columbus started (but certainly didn't finish), how many religious colonists were hell-bent on setting up their own particular brand of religious oppression and how the story of Patrick Henry's life is, perhaps, a patchwork of myth and reality. In fact, writer Bill Bryson, in his book Made In America writes of the comments attributed to Patrick Henry in the Virginia House of Burgesses in May 1765 (verbatim quote with original emphasis):

According to one surviving eyewitness account -- written by a French hydrologist who just happened to be present, and found quite by chance in the archives of the National Hydrological Institute of France in 1921 -- Henry did make some intemperate remarks, but, far from being defiant, he immediately apologized to the House of Burgesses if "the heat of passion might have lead [sic] him to have said something more than he intended" and timidly professed undying loyalty to the king -- not quite the show of the thrust-jawed challenge portrayed in countless schoolbooks.

The American Revolution, we soon learn, was not a universally popular notion. The average person often didn't care -- this was a revolution of those with money and power. Many colonists considered themselves English and were quite loyal to the king.

In further research, we also discover that while we most certainly were a Christian nation -- merely by virtue of most colonists being Christian -- our founding fathers most decidedly were not and they tried to build safeguards into the Constitution to prevent religion from being a force in government. Reading through the Constitution and the Federalist Papers makes this clear. In fact, the Constitution was almost not adopted because so many objected to a secular government.

Probably some of the above information is just as fictitious as the history we read in elementary school. Somehow, though, I'm "un-American" for wondering what really happened. What led to nation that we currently have? What efforts shaped our history? Why is it somehow a crime for me to dig for the truth in struggling to understand the past? Should not the love of our country be the love a mother has for her child? Not an uncritical "my child can do nothing wrong" sort of love. That's tragic. Rather, I would see a "I love my child even when he does something wrong" sort of love where we honestly face imperfection and work to improve it. That's what patriotism should be. Ours is not a perfect country and we shouldn't pretend otherwise, but neither should we automatically discount it because we are not happy with everything that has happened. By working together, yet acknowledging out rights to disagree, we can make this a better country and, perhaps, a better world as a result. We've done many terrible things, but we've done many good things, too. Let us not turn a blind eye to that.

Happy birthday, America.

My knowledge of American history is zero - well, apart from what I learnt from the Buffy episode, Pangs, and thinking about it that was Thanksgiving, so I shall shut up and just wish you a very happy Independance Day, with plenty of pumpkin pie. :o)
Your point about patriotism being seen by many Americans as an uncritical "my child can do no wrong" is well-taken.

I posted this morning about an article on the opinions expressed by Europeans on America and Americans. The final lines of the article read:

To Europeans, it said, some Bush supporters suggest a fond mother who watches her son at a graduation parade and notices that, while everyone else leads with the left foot, he leads with the right.

"Look," the mother exclaims to the woman next to her, "they are all out of step except my Johnny!"


What? You mean you prefer honest history to the simplified feel-good stories that make up the average man's portion of our national myth?

I'm not sure, but that may be outlawed by the Patriot Act. Honesty can lead to confusion, and confusion can lead to questioning, and questioning can lead to loss of consensus for the important national priorities our leaders have planned for us. They know best. We must all trust them.

[Irony aside, I agree with you completely, particularly your last paragraph.]
yes... and no...

...what results/action/consequences do you think would come from teaching our little ones from day one history as you stated it?

"Probably some of the above information is just as fictitious as the history we read in elementary school. Somehow, though, I'm "un-American" for wondering what really happened."

At what stage do you think children/teens/adults are capable of critical analysis? Obviously the information is out there, and maybe you are able to look at things with a clearer understanding. Sadly, I see many uncapable or unwilling to do this. Kudos to you for your view point. (I'm not being sarcastic here)

I guess I am rippling against the liberal views, just like I did against the conservative in SLC.

I wholly disagree with the manner in which we do many things here in this country, but I am hesitant to say let's do everything different without looking at the potential adverse effects. Consider the outcomes. You and might be able to take our history straight up or on the rocks, not everyone can... or could in the past...

Lastly, I agree with your perspective and would like to see that attitude applied with the same rigor/level of integrity in peoples personal lives (not turning a blind eye, but rather accepting them for what they are). I bring this up b/c you've heard my bitches, moans and complaints.

...sorry to butt in here. (don't hate me!) I'm opinionated and outspoken.

I hope you enjoyed yourself this weekend. :)
Re: yes... and no...
I can see your point of view and I think, perhaps, that it stems from a misunderstanding of my intentions (or perhaps I poorly communicated them.) I don't feel many children are willing or able to understand history as it really happened (to the limited degree that we can ascertain it.) However, I think there is a big difference between scaling back what we teach our children (perfectly defensible) and teaching them things that we know to be untrue (not defensible.) For example, much of the traditional history of Columbus' "discovery" of America, is patently false. I do not suggest that we attempt to give our children graduate level courses in history. I do suggest that lying to them is a bad thing.

And yes, I had a good weekend and no, I don't hate you :)