History Matters

George Santayana is the novelist and philosopher credited with the well-known statement: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  However, our generation’s greatest challenge in learning American history is not that our memories are poor; no, today’s challenge is to separate truth from the falsehoods we were taught in our youth.  It is not a surprise for conservatives that many of the most influential historians over the past 100 years, like Charles A. Beard, Richard Hofstadter, and Howard Zinn, were progressives with an ideological ax to grind.   In general, progressive American philosophy advocates for an incremental “progressive” march toward “bring[ing] the great corporations under complete control,…[and would] …do many of the things usually associated with the modern concept of the welfare state.” (Link 19)  For decades, progressive historians have sought to replace individual liberties which come from the hand of God (as defined in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights) with entitlements that come from the hand of government.

Many Americans of my generation were educated from textbooks written by progressive historians.  We were taught, for the most part, by well-meaning teachers who assumed (like most Americans) that the historical content provided by the textbooks represented a historically accurate presentation of facts.  Sadly, in too many cases, it did not.  In fact, the progressive’s version of American history continues to be shared in high schools and colleges today with little or no discussion of its extreme bias.  In particular, Howard Zinn’s words are injected into the minds of unsuspecting students, carefully disguised as a brave and unbiased inoculation against ignorance.   When, truthfully, his views represent a sort of virus; a virus which is unconcerned with examining the American Republic and seeks only to multiply the number of those who despise America just like him.  It is my conviction that this progressive, secular, historical narrative, that was quietly planted years ago, has become  a disease that has taken root and come to be the cause of the growing social and political turmoil seen in America today.  This destructive philosophy, that assumes America is fundamentally flawed and foundationally guilty, has not only taken root but has grown in strength and influence over the past century to the point that “change” in America means “fundamentally transforming” and not “restoring” principles of freedom.  

For many modern progressive historians, the story of America has become one long apology tour, driven by guilt to quickly and enthusiastically confess to any real or imagined crime or injustice.  American culture has been besieged by guilt on every side, guilt for the success of American ingenuity and the relative wealth created by capitalism, guilt for slavery, guilt for small pox wiping out indigenous peoples, and guilt for ending WW II with a bang.  I contend that a good historian will see warts (flaws) in our nation’s history and should have the courage to talk about them.  Obviously, I am neither proud of slavery nor the general treatment of Native Americans; however, when historians intentionally misrepresent America’s external, and generation’s-old, blemishes (warts) as internal structural flaws, their intent to use guilt to fundamentally transform America becomes clear.

There have been numerous progressive historians who have sought to understand America’s past through the lens of 20th century social justice, and to them America doesn’t seem fair.  According to Karl Marx and the far left today, “fairness” is directly proportional to how equally wealth is distributed among all members of society. The progressive historian does not understand that when government attempts to force equal outcomes, it must ignore the reality of unequal ability, unequal effort, and unequal circumstances. For those living on planet Earth, it is hard to understand why progressive historians continue to believe that it is possible to enforce an equality of  lifestyles in a society when the individuals that make up the society are born inherently different.  The truth, that is not self-evident to progressives, is that “…all men are created equal…” but they are not created equal in their ability, or in the things they will accumulate in life, or in the power they will obtain, or in the status they may achieve.  No.  However, we are created equal in this sense: we have been given, by our Creator, an equal measure of liberty and opportunity to pursue our individual definition of happiness.  This gift of liberty is found in “…certain unalienable Rights … [of] Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”   The progressive historian is unable to tell America’s incredible story simply because he/she does not believe in America’s most fundamental and self-evident concepts.  He/she cannot accept that Americans have an equal right to pursue happiness without the absurd “guarantee” of equal results.

Ronald Reagan once said that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”  This assertion has become an almost prophetic warning.  Only in a fictional Orwellian society, one generation ago, could one, with a straight face, assert that: “SLAVERY IS FREEDOM.”  Yet, today, America’s youth are clearly struggling to tell the difference between a similar falsehood: “DEPENDENCE IS FREEDOM.”  In too many cases, parents have unknowingly delegated their divine appointment of teaching foundational and Constitutional truths to their children to the state-run Board of Education, or the government, which invariably benefits from fostering increased dependence and ignorance from its citizens.   Moreover, we should not trust that progressive historians will ever accurately depict America’s founding principles.  And even further, the responsibility of teaching our children of their inalienable rights should not lie with well-intentioned  teachers.  This weight and blessing rests squarely upon the shoulders of parents.  If we are serious about restoring America and fighting against those who seek to alter the Republic, we must first reclaim the knowledge of the principles of liberty for ourselves and our kids.  Only through an honest reflection of the Constitution and the unfiltered words of the Founders, will we be prepared to defend the Republic and its principles.  For the sake of the Republic and for everything the Founders fought and died, it is my hope that my generation will rise up, embrace this responsibility and preserve this land of the free, home of the brave, this one nation under God.

Link, Arthur S. Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era. New York: Harper & Row, 1954. 19. Print.

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