A post-4th reflection on patriotism

It has been less than a century since the Germans corralled millions of helpless Jews, Poles, and other genetically "inferior" specimens into concentration camps, yet the Germans are a proud nation.  It has been only 60 years since the Soviet Union trafficked hordes of dissenters, activists, and petty criminals into the bowels of the frigid Siberian countryside, yet the Russsians are a proud nation.  It has been only 40 years since Norway freely practiced chemical castration, yet the Norwegians too are a proud nation.

If we rewind the tape – perhaps to a nation's inception – oh the genocidal, sexually miscreant, and barbaric tales Father Time could tell!  How can it be that these peoples are "proud" to be citizens of such odious polities?  Thankfully, history is not myopic – just its interpreters.

On this glorious post-4th Wednesday, it is easy to ruminate on the travesties of our nation.  Our indiscretions are, after all, numerous, gruesome, and studded throughout our nation's past.  Ask any 5th-grader, and he'll regale you with a story of genocide, rape, and enslavement.  Of course, the U.S. is not unique in this respect; nor is it a particularly serious offender when compared with other post-imperial nations.

This is an inconvenient truth overlooked or perhaps ignored by educators of the last decade.  Don't believe me?  Gallup recently released a poll illustrating a trenchant decline in national pride among all generations, but most acutely in our nation's youth.  The reasons for this abatement seem multi-factorial – the rise of Trump, social media echo chambers, and the like – but these are likely side-effects rather than root causes.  The real issue is the systematic indoctrination of American students into an ideology that denigrates our assorted history with a jaundiced eye.

The founding fathers are pegged as wholesale bigots, genocidal killers, and charlatans.  Our long march to the present is truncated and effectively edited to reflect the "worst of our angels."  As children matriculate, most witness an almost de facto acceptance that this country was built upon the backs of slaves and the slaughtering of natives – the rest is just artifice and pointless exposition.  What a sad and vacuous narrative.

This is not to suggest that Lady Liberty does not have her black eyes; they are obvious and shameful.  It would be more than an egregious mistake not to educate children about the totality of our horrors.  But it behooves us to remember the good bits – the many, many good bits.

On slavery, while the United States nearly tore itself in twain in order to vanquish the peculiar institution in 1865, it would take much of the globe far longer.  For another 20 years, slavery would fester throughout the vast Ottoman Empire, Brazil, Morocco, and Siam (China) and would even take veiled forms throughout much of the Western world.  For suffrage, too, the U.S. had made great strides, relatively speaking.  In 1920, the U.S. became among the first Western nations to grant women the constitutional right to vote, almost a decade ahead of Britain, Italy, and Spain and more than two decades before France.

The point of this discussion is to put things into perspective.  It is too easy to paint a one-sided narrative in which a monolithic, patriarchal, white hegemon reigned supreme until power was wrested from it by outside forces.  This is just not true.  It was the work of that very same hegemon that fought tooth and nail for abolition and suffrage.  William Lloyd Garrison so despised slavery that he was on more than one occasion beaten and nearly murdered.  John Quincy Adams would implore Congress in two- to three-hour-long tirades to abolish slavery in the face of largely venomous opposition.  Abe Lincoln and more than half of the country risked their lives, money, and freedom to secure the individual liberties of their bounded neighbor.

History is a complicated beast.  Our history is not at all different.  Leashing it to a particular narrative, especially one that degrades and reduces our nascence to oppression, fails to do anything except engender scorn.

The reality is that American liberalism, American initiatives, and American military might paved the way for freedom across the globe, buttressing and rescuing our European allies on more than one occasion.  It is a regrettable day indeed when one of liberalism's great pioneers, the founder of the United Nations, and the lender of last resort, is understood by its own people as shameful.

It has been less than a century since the Germans corralled millions of helpless Jews, Poles, and other genetically "inferior" specimens into concentration camps, yet the Germans are a proud nation.  It has been only 60 years since the Soviet Union trafficked hordes of dissenters, activists, and petty criminals into the bowels of the frigid Siberian countryside, yet the Russsians are a proud nation.  It has been only 40 years since Norway freely practiced chemical castration, yet the Norwegians too are a proud nation.

If we rewind the tape – perhaps to a nation's inception – oh the genocidal, sexually miscreant, and barbaric tales Father Time could tell!  How can it be that these peoples are "proud" to be citizens of such odious polities?  Thankfully, history is not myopic – just its interpreters.

On this glorious post-4th Wednesday, it is easy to ruminate on the travesties of our nation.  Our indiscretions are, after all, numerous, gruesome, and studded throughout our nation's past.  Ask any 5th-grader, and he'll regale you with a story of genocide, rape, and enslavement.  Of course, the U.S. is not unique in this respect; nor is it a particularly serious offender when compared with other post-imperial nations.

This is an inconvenient truth overlooked or perhaps ignored by educators of the last decade.  Don't believe me?  Gallup recently released a poll illustrating a trenchant decline in national pride among all generations, but most acutely in our nation's youth.  The reasons for this abatement seem multi-factorial – the rise of Trump, social media echo chambers, and the like – but these are likely side-effects rather than root causes.  The real issue is the systematic indoctrination of American students into an ideology that denigrates our assorted history with a jaundiced eye.

The founding fathers are pegged as wholesale bigots, genocidal killers, and charlatans.  Our long march to the present is truncated and effectively edited to reflect the "worst of our angels."  As children matriculate, most witness an almost de facto acceptance that this country was built upon the backs of slaves and the slaughtering of natives – the rest is just artifice and pointless exposition.  What a sad and vacuous narrative.

This is not to suggest that Lady Liberty does not have her black eyes; they are obvious and shameful.  It would be more than an egregious mistake not to educate children about the totality of our horrors.  But it behooves us to remember the good bits – the many, many good bits.

On slavery, while the United States nearly tore itself in twain in order to vanquish the peculiar institution in 1865, it would take much of the globe far longer.  For another 20 years, slavery would fester throughout the vast Ottoman Empire, Brazil, Morocco, and Siam (China) and would even take veiled forms throughout much of the Western world.  For suffrage, too, the U.S. had made great strides, relatively speaking.  In 1920, the U.S. became among the first Western nations to grant women the constitutional right to vote, almost a decade ahead of Britain, Italy, and Spain and more than two decades before France.

The point of this discussion is to put things into perspective.  It is too easy to paint a one-sided narrative in which a monolithic, patriarchal, white hegemon reigned supreme until power was wrested from it by outside forces.  This is just not true.  It was the work of that very same hegemon that fought tooth and nail for abolition and suffrage.  William Lloyd Garrison so despised slavery that he was on more than one occasion beaten and nearly murdered.  John Quincy Adams would implore Congress in two- to three-hour-long tirades to abolish slavery in the face of largely venomous opposition.  Abe Lincoln and more than half of the country risked their lives, money, and freedom to secure the individual liberties of their bounded neighbor.

History is a complicated beast.  Our history is not at all different.  Leashing it to a particular narrative, especially one that degrades and reduces our nascence to oppression, fails to do anything except engender scorn.

The reality is that American liberalism, American initiatives, and American military might paved the way for freedom across the globe, buttressing and rescuing our European allies on more than one occasion.  It is a regrettable day indeed when one of liberalism's great pioneers, the founder of the United Nations, and the lender of last resort, is understood by its own people as shameful.