When I was stationed in Europe in the early 1990s, I spent a great deal of my leave time travelling around to various places in that I had heard about or studied. One of the places I visited was Athens, Greece, and was amazed at the number of classical Greek ruins still visible as a testimony to the greatness of the Greek empire and later Roman domination of the region. These buildings were (and am presuming still are) the focus of many various projects to maintain them for future generations to enjoy and to be inspired as I have.
As a historian and with an academic background in the study of sociology and psychology, I believe that one of the things that led to the collapse of both the Greek and the Roman Empires was that of a transitioning culture. What past generations once held as dear and as being the bedrock of their society. What had been built by the older generations was neglected by the next generations; by the time the younger generations began their rise to power, there was a disconnect from the traditions and customs that had allowed Greece, and later Rome, to rise to prominence as a Mediterranean power. All that remains as a tribute of those empires’ greatness are ruins, legends, and other intellectual achievements. Outside of education, most people never think of the impact of those people from so long ago have on our world.
In the twenty-first century, the United States is undergoing a transition of its own. Beginning in the 1960s, the “new” American Left, wrapped in the ideas of free speech and the rejection of “traditional” mainstream values began making its way on the college campuses across the United States. Learning from the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement, the New Left focused on delivering its message to those in society that had become disillusioned with the demands of the American capitalist system. It is during the 1960s, specifically the Lyndon B. Johnson years, where the New Left and the Democratic Party will claim the victory for the Civil Rights Movement – something that the Democratic Party had actually been in opposition to since the late 1860s (there was absolutely no Democratic Party support for the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, or Fifteenth Amendments, the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1875; had it not been for Republicans and the wide base of Republican support, the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 would not have passed).
There were a lot of things that the New Left claimed that needed to change in the United States; there were issues that did need to be addressed such as the racial and sexual discrimination and inequality that had become the standard. However, the assault against American society did not end there but continued to assault the things that had made America different from the rest of the nation. The free market system was one of the first things to come under attack; it was claimed that the capitalist system in America had created an unjust distribution of wealth and had left out a large percentage of the citizenry. Also under attack was the role of the church – both as a public institution of the community and as an influence within that community. Besides the structure of the economy and religion, they also targeted the concept of the American nuclear family. The New Left adopted a tone that not only discouraged other points of view from being expressed, they also began to craft the notion that any attempts to defend those social norms were attempts to enforce conformity of a minority to the will of a majority – and that this concept was distinctly - anti-American.
The current generation of publicly educated youth and college students have now grown up without an objective education about our nation. Instead of teaching of how this nation was founded by a generation facing odds that many believed at the time was hopeless, they ventured out into the danger. Through the blood and sweat of Americans of every socio-economic status and every race, they fought and won independence for a nation that the political theorists of their day deemed folly – no common people had ever governed themselves successfully. Governance was reserved for the crown and the aristocracy, not the common man. Anything else was deemed to be against the natural order of mankind. Instead of focusing on the achievements of those men, the modern college history course and textbook teach that it was a group of white men who had no concern for the fates of women, free blacks, slaves, or even American Indians. The textbooks discuss that it was a revolution that had to be sold to the common American colonist by the merchant class. The “New Left” revisionist history of the United States not only denies the odds that generation faced, it also disregards the social norms of European society of that era (no nation allowed the common woman to take part in politics nor did any nation allow slaves or others outside the prescribed citizenry any sort of rights), but it also ignores that the American Revolution was truly unique – it was the first time that the entire strata of a society shared a common vision.