Can we handle the truth?
Citizens of most countries confuse patriotism with nationalism.
“In America most of us – not readers alone but even writers – are still afraid of any literature which is not a glorification of everything American, a glorification of our faults as well as our virtues. To be not only a best seller in America but to be really beloved, a novelist must assert that all American men are tall, handsome, rich, honest, and powerful at golf; that all country towns are filled with neighbors who do nothing from day to day save go about being kind to one another; that although American girls may be wild, they change always into perfect wives and mothers; and that, geographically, America is composed solely of New York, which is inhabited entirely by millionaires; of the West, which keeps unchanged all the boisterous heroism of 1870; and of the South, where everyone lives on a plantation perpetually glossy with moonlight and scented with magnolias.” This was one paragraph in Sinclair Lewis’ speech in accepting the Nobel Prize for literature in 1930.
Conditioned patriots are those who are repulsed by Lewis’s assertion that we must recognize that we must glorify our faults as well as our virtues. He was one of many Curmudgeons, in that age called Muckrakers, who didn’t look at the world through rose colored glasses but took a realistic picture of the world. Witty sharp tongued Muckrakers the likes of Mark Twain, James Thurber, H. l. Mencken and Upton Sinclair kept the rest of the world honest. They were major players until the world was overwhelmed by the baby boom and everyone had to be young forever, allowing the government to run amok. Homer Simpson’s father, Abe, said “The good Lord lets us grow old for a reason: to find fault with everything he’s made.”
Allowing constructive and realistic criticism of our past helps the future to be improved. For all the warts, we are a great country and want the American dream to stay alive and well in a changing world.
When looking at past events we must ask the question, could it have been done in a different way. What does history tell us about today and the future? History revealed in today’s education omits many of the foibles of the past including today’s economic crisis which came about by the same reasons for the 30s depression. I’m not a mental giant, but predicted this recession a number of years ago. Please read “Losing what my father’s generation gained” in 2010 Archives.
A few bumper sticker and clichés used to maintain nationalism are: you can’t fool the American people, wars are fought for our freedom, our country is greatest country in the world, etc. Most these sound good if used in the right context. Some are used to to promote patriotism and others to induce nationalism, justifying actions of the ruling class. Freedom, liberty, security, national interests etc are key words in justifying any action by our leaders. These words are used loosely by pseudo patriotic citizens while wrapping themselves in the flag
To justify my point, let’s analyze a couple of these overused expressions. Our young people risking their lives for our freedom or national interests could be an example of the use of nationalism, but the last war fought for anyone’s freedom was the Civil War which can be questionable. All other wars can be traced to money or the benefit of the military industrial complex and the wealthy. The description of some wars as “Good Wars” is a misnomer as there aren’t any good wars. Before anyone gets excited about this statement lets examine the balance sheet in some good wars by looking first at who benefits and doesn’t benefit from these good wars and could these gains been accomplished in other ways.
The Revolutionary War is considered one good war if we only look at one side of war and gloss over balance sheet to determine costs of the war, not only financially but in human lives. Lives lost in wars only affect those killed or their loved ones. We never obtain an accurate count of deaths, but 25,000 is a number sometimes quoted in this war. If we compare the population at that time with today the % of deaths would amount to two and a half million men, mostly the poorer human beings in society. We can then ask the question was it worth two and a half million lives and could it could it have been accomplished in a less costly way. I wonder how Canada won its freedom from England. The slaves and Indians weren’t any freer after the war; in fact many Indians fought for the English. John Adams said that 1/3 of the white population supported the war, ! /3 were Loyalists objecting and many went back to England the other 1/3 didn’t really care.
I could continue the probe of this and other wars and reveals many other aspects of these wars more thoroughly in an attempt to demonstrate things glossed over in history learned in school. This type of balance sheet should be used in the study of our history and ask, what does it tell us about today and the future. History is of little value if important details are omitted or buried in a mass of other information.
How many history courses emphasis or even mention that the landing of Christopher Columbus, not on the North American Continent, but Bermuda igniting a genocide in which the indigenous population of Arawak Indians of Hispaniola was annihilated or taken back to Spain as slaves. We even celebrate this barbarous man with a holiday in his honor.
Andrew Jackson, the man on our $20 bill is portrayed as a hero and man of the people according to textbook history. In reality he was a land speculator, merchant, slave trader, and the most aggressive enemy of the Indians in early American history. He was instrumental in driving the Indians Westward until there was nothing left to do but herd them into reservations. These are examples of omissions changing the real story of our country. A Yiddish proverb states that a half truth is the same as a whole lie.
We are often confused with the difference between patriotism and nationalism. Revealing facts such as those of the Wki Leak papers or Michael Moore’s books and movies anger the public and called unpatriotic. Hiding these facts from the public could be called nationalism and used by the ruling class to keep the masses in tow. I don’t know if it’s the American people who can’t stand the truth or the ruling class is afraid of us knowing the truth. Be wary of the latest word transparency. They may be worried about possible reactions similar to the young people in Egypt. Change must come from the bottom up.
The summer before entering High School in 1938 my father advised me to take a class from two university seniors titled “History you won’t learn in school”. It taught some omitted facts in text books, but more important was ways to obtain authentic facts. One must investigate the biases of the author presenting them. A Japanese proverb states that if you believe everything you read, don’t read.