Friday, October 16, 2009

A Conservative Interpretation of the History of the United States (for a Friend)

I would like to say that the United States of America, with some minor challenges in some areas, is a little slice of heaven on earth. Our intentions, though sometimes poorly executed within and without the nation, are good, always. We have brought democracy and freedom to more people on the planet than any other nation in recorded history, whether those people wanted it, were really ready for it, or actually maintained it. We are a Christian nation that is alright with having other religions recognized, but those religions have to remember the primacy of Christianity within all we do. The United States has also revolutionized race relations in the world, though it's best that we not really recall the history of that achievement, since it brings up the few less pleasant times in our collective past.

Overall, the best way to understand the United States of America is to look at the best aspects of our past and present, to move beyond the things that have been interpreted by some (Liberals) as negative. To engage some of the few conflicts that have taken place in our past is to capitulate to an overarching negative, dare I say Liberal, perspective of understanding our nation. To do something like that undermines the greater good that the United States continues to strive to provide for the world at large.

In many ways, and for the sake of making sure that the United States always puts its best foot forward, perhaps we should return the presenting American history as it was presented in the golden age of the American experiment, the immediate post-WWII period (before the spectre of social history really got a foothold within broader American historiography). In that golden age, historical interpretations were best understood through political, diplomatic, economic and Great Man perspectives, and American history reflected the greatness of a nation in all of its glory.

By returning to these basic historiographical principles, we will best be able to understand who we are as Americans, and how we can proceed to spread freedom and democracy throughout the world.



The $3000 Dress said...

A lot of truth "up there" in your blog. A lot indeed. I do not think that one can dwell too much on the shortcomings or, dare I see, partake a conservative view of parts of our history that, at the time, did not seem productive, but in time proved to be beneficial to many. On the other hand there are parts of our history that have been repeatedly altered, modified, or glossed over in order to justify everything from Manifest Destiny to mechanized labor as we embarked on the industrial frontiers.

We have been an example to the world in what we do, have done and will do: progress with perceived and real minorities, heck liberty and freedoms both "left" and "right". However, we also have a spotty record with regards to our covert activities: coups and "temporary" allies that have cost many innocents their lives and livelihoods while providing little of the intended results.

I, for one, love the fact that I can continue to question my country without imprisonment, although there were times not too long ago where I wasn't feeling so sure about that, but things are feeling a little better now (Exhibit A: Teabaggers).

With regard to the "golden age" you right of, I would argue that a lot of relevant history was omitted during that time. As a former student of Post WW2 American History, I recall reading middle and high school primers of that error and the contributions of African Americans and women were minimalized, Native Americans were portrayed as either barbaric or benign "savages" who were merely in the way of progress. Also the bravado around the Industrial Revolution barely touched on child or forced labor. On the world stage, the very recent WW2 victory was almost entirely granted to the contributions of the English speaking allies and the heroics of the "Commies" of Leningrad were not touched on any more than the Heroic efforts of the French resistance, the Polish resistance, or even the attempted coup by Hitlers own General Rommel. I am not so sure that the text of this golden age as ideal as the fact that history seemed clear, relevant and fresh. You felt like you were living in historic times. You were not as easily distracted by simple luxuries and such an inundation of "fluff" entertainment.

What is available to us now is amazing - we now live in a time where many more points of view are on the table and students have access to so many different perspectives to all that has made America what it is and what America means to the world.

Unfortunately, folks like yourself and we latent (nee!) Historians, are a dwindling breed. The emphasis on Math and Science (important indeed) has led to an almost a de-emphasis on reading and comprehension skills and our precious history.


Mike said...

Well said! ... I'm a liberal (sort of) that has ALWAYS believed that the U.S. -- even with its many flaws -- is the greatest nation in the history of mankind (shameless flag waving moment).
That being said, we could be better. I think the issue and much of the conflict is a matter of perception.
Sometimes it seems that we liberals dwell on the negative. Like Michael Phelps constantly complaining about his technique after setting a new world record.
It's understandable -- we just want our country to do better -- but still a little annoying sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Nice and concise, Mike!

hscfree said...

@the $3000 dress: I wrote this post to challenge a friend of mine who is convinced that liberals see only the bad in American history, which I don't think is true. I think that liberals have pushed to tell as much about the past as is available, good, bad and ugly. I think that conservatives like my friend would like only to see the good, and to ignore (as often as possible) the bad and the ugly. I think that for this friend, telling that part of the American story is unseemly, and does nothing to help us see who we are as Americans.

I think a part of our greatness is in fact our openness, as you suggested in your comment. We can offer both praise and criticisms without fear. I know that I strive for "the more perfect Union" when I have written about the American past.

I also think that for many conservatives dealing with the history of those who have been missing in the past is too painful a reminder of how many of those who made the pages of our written histories in the past stood on the backs of the missing to do those great things. Great things do not happen within a vacuum, and folks who deserve credit for jobs well done, no matter how small, deserve credit. Many who were not white, not male, not wealthy did good jobs, provided support to those great white men, so that they could do those great white men things that conservatives love to tout.

Those folks need a place at the historical table as well, and some of their stories are not pretty. Some of their stories do show the not so great sides of great white men. But I happily concede that there were indeed some things, many things, done well by great white men. I just don't feel that conservatives often want to offer the same concession to folks who weren't, because that might be a reminder of those not great things.