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  • On Historical Revisionism

    Posted by ken on August 3rd, 2005 (All posts by )

    Heinlein’s heroine Maureen Johnson had this to say in To Sail Beyond the Sunset:

    But why are the people of the United States and their government always the villains in the eyes of the revisionists? Why can’t our enemies – such as the king of Spain, and the kaiser, and Hitler, and Geronimo, and Villa, and Sandino, and Mao Tse-tung, and Jefferson Davis – why can’t these each take a turn in the pillory? Why is it always our turn?

    This was written in 1982, so of course Saddam Hussein is not mentioned. But he’d fit right in, and the question still stands more than 20 years later.

    Now of course serious historical research does turn up some less than savory aspects of the character of our nation’s heroes. And it can be depressing to note, for instance, that the man who wrote that it was “self-evident” that all men were created equal failed to apply that self-evident notion to his own slaves.

    But we must keep our perspective. It’s the words, more than the men themselves, that influence us across the generations and make our country what it is today. And Jefferson’s words, long after his death, motivated men who took those words more seriously than he did to take up arms and drive slavery off of our continent.

    But in any case, it doesn’t make sense to compare flesh-and-blood rulers against ideal rulers unless you know of some way to produce those ideal rulers. So far, no such rulers have shown up; until they do, I’ll take most any American President and Congress, past or present, over the available alternatives. Or, as Ashish Hanwadikar notes, after linking to one of the less savory alleged actions of the Lincoln administration:

    It is a fact that our leaders are made up of myths! Beyond their great legacies lies some horrible crimes that we choose to ignore because it doesn’t fit the great leader story! If this is case in a free society, I shudder to think how much horrible “leaders” like Mao, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mugabe, KIM Jong Il and others!

    So true! Our guys aren’t the only ones that hide skeletons in their closets. Which means, given what we already know about some of the non-Americans, past and present, that (mis)ruled various parts of the Earth, their skeletons must be frightening indeed.

     

    6 Responses to “On Historical Revisionism”

    1. chris Says:

      I believe it has a lot to do with there being no TRUE evil superpower left(i.e. Russia). No one likes one nation to have as much power/influence as we have had…before it was tolerated more because we were seen as the check to CCCP’s balance….but now with no “real” evil empire…they just have to make due with the sole remaining superpower….

      Maybe China coming up will reverse this trend again…

    2. Sandy P Says:

      We have and will always be the enemy because we are and always have been different.

      We just don’t see the world like everyone else, and they will not be happy until we’re as miserable as they are.

      Look at the latest poll via the Washington Times, overall, Americans are the happiest on earth. And that’s 1 thing they hate about us, we think we can do anything.

    3. Bruce Chang Says:

      And that’s 1 thing they hate about us, we think we can do anything.

      Precisely, which accounts for all the arrogance. Whenever we do fall short of our dreams, they say, “Hoho! Ah knew zees was going to ‘appen, eh!

    4. lindenen Says:

      Sandy P, do you have a link to this poll?

    5. RVD Says:

      NO,no, my man Chang and the others are hitting around the target, but overlook a central psychological point–namely that we really DON’T CARE what the rest of the world thinks or does–and that fact alone drives them crazy in and of its ownself.

    6. GUYK Says:

      “It is a fact that our leaders are made up of myths! Beyond their great legacies lies some horrible crimes that we choose to ignore because it doesn’t fit the great leader story! If this is case in a free society, I shudder to think how much horrible “leaders” like Mao, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mugabe, KIM Jong Il and others!”

      No one’s leaders are every perfect. It is just that some leaders are closer to perfect than others.