The distortion of history

The above paragraph and the debate around it is rarely taught as a part of our national history; it serves as a part of the real historical record of the bitter debate over slavery. Within some academic circles there has been a very loose standard applied where the national history of the United States is being viewed through the moral values of today’s society. As a part of this style of academic intellectualism is the need to reinterpret facts according to the emerging set of norms instead of allowing history to be taught according to an understanding of the time in which they occurred. At that point, how we arrived to this point in our society today – history – becomes irrelevant since the events no longer help us understand the journey from there to here. Not only do we see this redefining of the principles of the American Revolution but other facets of our nation’s history such as the Civil War and even the use of atomic weapons against Japan in World War II. Since the early years of the Vietnam War, there has been an effort to reinterpret and rewrite American history to support the American Left/Liberal/Marxist viewpoint.

Everything within American history has been taught through a Marxist lens of struggle. Until the mid-1980s, only college aged students were exposed to this view of America’s past. By the end of the next decade, the Marxist interpretation could be found in middle and high school. Now, in the second decade of the new century, Marxist ideology is taught in all levels of academia and infiltrates entertainment geared towards the younger generation. As an example, the Revolutionary War, which had the support of a majority of colonists and even freed blacks, is now being taught as a struggle led by the top-tier of British American society. Instead of focusing on the Enlightenment philosophies that would give rise to the American concept of personal liberty, attention is now redirected to how certain colonies treated the American Indian, the white ownership of black slaves (while ignoring Anthony Johnson, the first man to own an African slave in North America was actually black and had been brought to the colonies as an indentured servant), and the “plight” of colonial women (while ignoring that women in the respective homelands actually possessed less education and less political rights than women in most of the British American colonies). Instead of focusing on what remains remarkable about the American Revolution and how its struggle can continue to give a strong national vision of success and ability to overcome even the most bitter obstacles, it has become nothing more than a lesson in oppression, of a continued restriction of rights, and the exploitation of blacks.

It should go without saying that these early Colonists did not enjoy the exercise of rights as is possessed by the citizen today; however, for the time when they lived, the American citizen possessed rights only imagined by their European counterparts. While Europe was struggling with the impacts of the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon, the American citizen was considering and voting on extending property rights to women, extending public education to girls through the age of 15, and in the role that the national government would play in building the infrastructure of the nation. Questions about the rights of freed blacks was considered a state issue; Rhode Island and Pennsylvania would be the first two that would allow black males to vote providing they were educated or possessed 50 acres of land, or could afford to pay property taxes on 50 acres of land. At that time, both states had restricted suffrage to those who were taxpayers, believing that participation in the political process should be limited to those who either owned property – even if they were white. The story told by the facts tell of a far different national past than our system teaches today.

Why the distortion of history?

The United States and the path it has taken since its founding shares many of the facets of the civilizations I teach about in my college courses. It was formed with people who had a common vision and common desire to create something entirely new. As its foundation were new philosophies in the function and structure of government that stood in direct contrast to an established and accepted tradition – monarchy. The system they founded was, by today’s definition, far from a perfect government but for the era in which they were in, it was the best that could be achieved at that time. The modern concept of men and women being equal would have been considered as unfathomable in the eighteenth century. As far-thinking as the philosophers of the Enlightenment were, the idea of men and women being equal in all but biology was too radical of a concept. Since the founding of many of the nation-states of Europe, the religious authorities taught the physical and mental inequality of women. To expect a complete repudiation of church teachings by those thinkers of the day is an unjust expectation on our part. It is far too easy (and sloppy) for the Enlightenment thinkers to be condemned by the modern casual reader of history for this and other shortcomings.

The reasoning behind the distortion of history is to create a common consensus in support of a common agenda. This is not uncommon in the development of societies that progress towards a more socialist leaning political philosophy. It has happened in Russia, China, and in most Latin American nations. Within this trend is the desire to create a classless society where all the citizenry fall into two broad categories – the governed and the party that governs in the “name” of the governed. By manipulating the history of our nation through a Marxist interpretation, it becomes easy to convince the average American of the need to accept things that have been traditionally shunned by many – including gay marriage, abortion on demand regardless of gestation period, wealth redistribution, government ownership of the telecommunications, media, and even food distribution systems. By claiming that only government oversight will provide complete equality and fairness to all, it becomes essential to revise history to reflect a nation in disarray where discrimination, inequality, and lack of opportunity exists at all stages and all levels regardless of the social norms of the time. By the re-inventing of the stories of America’s past through the lens of socialism and political correctness we are literally sewing the seeds of our own destruction. We are already to the point in our national identity where the younger generation sees no value in being identified as a citizen of the United States – an “American.” The question now becomes in how we address this important issue.

Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons is an adjunct instructor of history at Henderson Community College. He has been teaching at the college/university level since 2004. Within the scope of his degrees, his areas of emphasis are U.S. foreign policy, public policy history, political history, and U.S. history.

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One response to “The distortion of history

  1. Thank you for your insightful writing.