Reading Sgt Mom’s new historical novel inspired me to research some additional sources on that era of history. At the library, I picked up A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory, by Randy Roberts and James Olson. The first half of the book is devoted to the actual historical events, the second half to the differing ways these events have been portrayed in legend and in formal history over the century and a half that has passed since they occurred.
At the end of the book, the authors describe a commemoration that was held at the Alamo in 1999. There were thousands of people there–one attendee they noticed was “an Anglo graduate student from the University of Texas, filled with passionate intensity…plain, metal-rimmed glasses rested down on his nose, and his goatee was trimmed a la Leon Trotsky.”
They also noticed a Hispanic family with three girls ages 8 to 12. The father, a CPA with a Wharton degree, photographed his family in front of the limestone walls of the chapel and told them briefly about the Alamo, telling the girls that “it stood for courage and integrity, virtues they needed to cultivate in their own lives.”
At that point, the Anglo graduate student arrived at the chapel door. He asked, “Why are you even here today? Don’t you know what this place stands for? It represents the rape and destruction of your people.”
The Hispanic man replied politely at first, but the graduate student was persistent:
“You don’t understand, you just don’t understand,” he continued. “You shouldn’t be teaching your kids this stuff.”
…at which point the CPA replied with understandable irritation:
“Soy tejano (I’m a Texan]. Mind your own goddamned business. It’s my Alamo too.”
The grad student’s behavior was, of course, not just obnoxious but racist. He did not care about the background, beliefs, experiences, profession, or emotional life of the man he was addressing–all he saw was skin color, and all he heard was accent.
I don’t know how this particular student came by his opinions, but the belief system he demonstrated–in his fundamentally racist worldview and his view of America as an imperialist power–is available for purchase, and is heavily promoted, at many American universities. (See this post on how American history is being taught at Bowdoin College today.)
According to Robert and Olson, the teaching of American history has been greatly influenced by the New Western History movement, which emerged from Yale University in the early 1980s. “Traditional historians, alienated by the crusading zeal of the revisionists, accused them of examining the past from a neo-Marxist perspective and seeing only class conflict, imperialism, and racial tension..For some traditionalists, the New Western Historians had bulldozed the profession, formulating a party line that brooked no opposition and tolerated no dissent.”
It is true that American history, as taught many decades ago, did tend excessively toward uncritical hero-worship. But it is equally true that much teaching of that history today tends toward unreflective demonization. Politically-minded intellectuals often like to talk about the virtues of “nuance” and their superior understanding thereof, but nuance seems to quickly go by the wayside when there is an opportunity to portray the U.S., its civil society, and its people in a bad light: all those shades of gray turn into black and white pretty rapidly. And the obsessive focus on group identities, as reflected in the views of the grad students at the Alamo commemoration, is particularly destructive.
The innate character flaw of the political right, with its thrumming appeals to the logic of blood and soil, is its lamentable tendency to go in search of enemies abroad. The left, on the other hand, with its own appeals to the politics of envy and class warfare, is content to find mortal enemies closer to hand.
Today’s “progressive” movement seeks to reduce American society to nothing more than an arena for a neo-Hobbesian struggle of group against group–and its obsessive focus with race and ethnicity as core determinants of group identity, as exemplified by the behavior of the grad student cited above, show that today’s “progressivism” borrows as much from Fascism as it does from Marxism.
This worldview has gained great power and influence–most notably in academia, journalism, and entertainment–and has declared war on American civil society. If not checked, the spread of the “progressive” Leftist belief system will destroy our society. And the collapse, if it does happen, will be a lot less enjoyable than many people seem to anticipate.