The value of understanding history

 “There is no such thing as a pure fact, innocent of interpretation. Behind each fact presented to the world by-a teacher, a writer, anyone –is a judgment. The judgment that has been made is that this fact is important and that other facts, omitted are not important. The consequence of those omissions has simply been not simple enough to give a distorted view of the past, but, more important, to mislead us all about the present.”

 The above was a quote from one of my favorite historians, the writer of “A Peoples History of the United States.” written by the late Howard Zinn. I feel this book should be read by every American including students so they can truly understand the true history of their country. I appreciate his writing as his works are well researched and documented with letters and journals. I have listened to him speak on different subjects on C Span and deeply impressed with his views on many subjects.

 In this context, a few comments challenged my views of early history in an article I wrote in our daily newspaper as they obtained their nationalistic information from schoolroom textbooks, omitting many facts of history. They were of the opinion that our Founding Fathers and other leaders were the perfect humans similar to the sculptured images on Mount Rushmore. Politicians and flag wavers have a tendency to elevate them beyond mere mortals. In-depth research will reveal that like most leaders today they were blessed with the same flaws and self interests as the ruling class today.

 Historian Charles Beard noted that slaves, indentured servants, Indians, women and men without property were not represented in the Constitutional Convention. He did not think the Constitution was written to benefit the Founding fathers personally, but mentioned that Franklin, Madison, Hamilton and others were extremely fortunate economically. Washington was the wealthiest of the group.

 This accumulation of wealth by a few has been carried on through the 1700s and still prevailing today only with the wealthy more powerful. A few families of pre and post Civil War eras; the Morgan, Mellon, Astor, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller families and others accumulated wealth during these periods and are still in charge of our country.

 From elementary school and on we are subjected to nationalistic teachings, resulting in wrapping ourselves in the flag. People don’t want to read history not  nationalistic as the truth is usually painful. This keeps the populous in lockstep.

The media focuses on excitement rather than misery. The media focus this week is the inconsequential wedding in England while the country’s economy is about to collapse. The two weeks of saturated coverage of Tiger Woods’ sex life was more interesting and important to the American public and me.

 Our two wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Tiger Woods have disappeared from the radar. The media is presently immersed in becoming involved in another civil war in Libya and as usual they overindulge on conflict and tabloid material. Our three hawks from the Senate are over there in their standard military solution to all problems; bloodshed –congruent to the tribes in the Middle East. If history was important our leaders would have realized from the past history of the Middle East the futility of converting their culture to meet our standards. The deep rooted animosity of the Shiite and the Sunni divisions of the Muslim faith have been at war since the death of Mohammad and will continue despite our interference. The tribal cultures solve their problems by violence which no one can change. If we are interested in humanitarianism there’s a great need for it in our country and money spent for the industrial military complex could be better spent at home. If we allow the fighting overseas to continue the threat of terrorism diminishes.  

 The economic crisis we are experiencing today is not new. History shows that we had economic crises in –1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, 1907, 1919, 1929 usually caused by synonymous exploits of financial leaders in our present system. Small businesses were wiped out bringing unemployment and suffering for the working class while of the Astors, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Morgans kept growing; quite similar to today. Poverty usually results in a rise in the stock market and cheaper labor,    

 “What we learn about the past doesn’t give us an absolute truth about the present, but may cause us to look deeper than the glib statements made by political leaders and experts in the press.” The use of the words national interests, freedom or liberty incite the susceptible to bring out their flags and fall in to step for wars or anything else the users of these words use them for. We only seem to become publicly aroused when government actions affect our own pocketbooks.

 I can hear the word unpatriotic and synonyms of this word creep into the readers mind, but I’m just trying to make the point that history is interesting but does little to change the past as most of what’s going on today has been built into the system and unneeded wars and economic crisis is inevitable.        

















4 responses to “History

  1. Vicki Sue McKinnis

    Thank you for that interesting article. I didn’t hear myself thinking “unpatriotic” while reading your words because I don’t think we have to glamorize the founding fathers to appreciate the excellent structure they were inspired to give us in the US Constitution. Edmund Burke (1729-1797) said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” I appreciate your reminder that we need to be careful about the bias of those reporting the “history.”

  2. Good Evening Don,
    This is one subject we can agree. And I wish we could discuss it for hours. History is ful of judgements and misinformation. Darn, I just read a great quote today something about what is true in life just indicates what we know or see….(ha,ha it was said in some elegant way)

    When child learn they can’t see past what teachers/ parents present. It takes a while to get out of your own world but as they grow they see beyond the books. But, do we ever truly get out of our own world? I remember the first time I realized that a teacher/book could get history wrong. I was talking with my father about the Wright brothers. He said he saw a man (I think he said the name was Watson) fly for a 20 minute flight along the coast of California (near Monterey) before the Wright brothers every made there first very short flight that made the history books.

    My friend made a comment about this very thing. There is a big billboard that says “Jim Bridger Discovered the Great Salt Lake” It has a picture of Jim in his Explorer clothes. I had never thought much of the sign until my friend made these comments: (Starts with a comment to me)

    “I wasn’t trying to be interesting. I was trying to provoke thoughts about out how easily people are brainwashed into a totally nonsensical way of thinking. Somewhere, somehow, somebody decided that a discovery doesn’t count until it’s done by a white guy. ??? What about all the native people who knew about the Great Salt Lake loooooong before Jim Bridger got lost in the desert and stumbled onto something that had been common knowledge for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years? Seriously… here we are in the 21st century and we still buy into this ridiculous “great white explorer” garbage!? We might just as well be burning witches and worrying about falling off the edge of the earth!

    I may have missed something here… what does market research have to do with Jim Bridger???????
    February 27 at 11:17pm · Like

    Brent Wagstaff Our alien overlords discovered everything first. They discovered earth and decided to use it as their free-range breeding grounds for their human slaves (after they killed off all the dinosaurs of course). So keep that in mind when you find yourself being harvested!
    February 28 at 6:02am · Like
    Zart Mies Thomas,

    Good point. A+ comment. I totally agree. It’s true, in a sense, that I could say “I discovered a good vegan restaurant in Omaha” and that may hold validity within my circle of friends and it probably wouldn’t/shouldn’t even prove to be inflammatory from the perspective of the indigenous Omahans (?), but how silly and presumptuous would it be for my friends to put me up on bunch of billboards as the undisputed “discoverer of vegan cuisine in Omaha”.

    What would be the argument in favor of prioritizing foreign perspective over indigenous perspective? Wouldn’t it make sense for Tibet to declare the first ascent of Everest (since it was almost certainly not made by a white guy lol) or for France to declare the inventor of the croissant? Shouldn’t indigenous Africans be the ones to claim discovery of all things african and not the maniacal foreign conquers? It seems to me that the Great Salt Lake, being an american thing, should fall under the prudence of the indigenous Americans to designate it’s discoverer… rather than to that of foreign despots that come with more people and more guns to claim everything and designate history in their own language and according to their own liking rather than according to the obvious truth.

    It’s one thing to say that Jim Bridger introduced the Great Salt Lake to a given group of people but to say, without qualification, that he “discovered” it, carries culturally biased implications that could be inflammatory and should be unacceptable in a modern theater of racial awareness. Furthermore, it serves to perpetuate inaccurate and sloppy thought processes in non-indigenous American school children who tend to too easily absorb such propaganda from textbooks, billboards, etc. Now, I’m not too bright, and a lot of stuff gets right past me… but… it seems to me that holding on to, promoting and/or justifying the archaic notion and language suggesting that Jim Bridger “discovered” the Great Salt Lake with it’s accompanying implications or racial superiority (even though in a narrow sense it may be perfectly accurate) is as shameful and irresponsible as maintaining and/or justifying the doctrine and policies of slavery or male superiority.

    For the purposes of this discussion… I think that the distinction between Étienne Provost and Jim Bridger is inconsequential. History, with it’s hoards of unsung heroes, suggests that neither of them were likely to be the first white guys to wander past the Great Salt Lake but rather they were the first ones that were presumptuous enough to declare it.

  3. If we did know our history then the rich would be called into account much more often. Instead we are fed the line that we are a democracy founded by the common man looking for religious freedom and democratic ideals. The true motivations that focus on ownership and control of the rich has been blotted out and they continue to run things much as they always have.

  4. I think that is among the such a lot vital information for me. And im satisfied reading your article. However want to observation on few general issues, The web site style is wonderful, the articles is actually excellent : D. Good activity, cheers

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