Please do not rewrite history – there is too much to learn (a still needed reprise)

The following post was written about six years ago. Unfortunately, the white washing of US history continues as would typically be done in more autocratic regimes. If we do not bother to know history, we are destined to repeat it, especially by some who do not want us to know.

In the US, a few states have acquiesced to the push by some conservative funding groups to whitewash history. The target is the Advanced Placement US History curriculum. The problem the group is solving in their minds is we do not pat ourselves on the back enough and discuss American exceptionalism. I will forego the word exceptionalism as I can devote a whole post to this, but when we try to hide our warts and how we have protested or overcome those warts, we are missing a key part of our greatness – our ability as citizens to protest and right a wrong.

I have written before about May 35 which is a real reference to an imaginary date. Per the attached article in the New York Times, it is a reference to what happened in Tiananmen Square in China on June 4, 1989, which has been expunged from Chinese history, including internet search references to that date. So, to make sure the Chinese kids remember this protest which was brutally squashed by the Chinese army, historians established a May 35 web link.*

I mention this extreme, as we must know our history, the good, the bad and the ugly, to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Here are few things we must never forget and constantly remind ourselves and question the why, the where, the what, the when and the how around these issues. If we do not, we will repeat the same mistakes.

– our forefathers did not give women the right to vote in our US Constitution. This was not remedied until 1921 after a significant and building level of women protests.

– our forefathers did not disallow slavery, but to give the southern states more clout agreed to count slaves as 3/5 of a person. Slavery was not outlawed until near the end of the Civil War in 1865.

– our ancestors conducted a war on Native Americans who would not play ball to let settlers live amongst them as we seized their land. These tribal leaders were constantly lied to, mislead and slaughtered in some cases. Eventually, we made tribes move to designated areas for their own protection.

– during the industrial revolution, business tycoons exploited everyone and everything to make their profits. These folks were called Robber Barons and it took a concentrated effort of President Teddy Roosevelt to make sure Americans got a Square Deal. The traits of these Robber Barons can be found today in major funders of political elections who want to win and do away with those pesky regulations around job safety, pay equity, and environment, etc. that get in their way.

– one of our greatest Presidents in FDR confessed later his chagrin over having to place Japanese Americans into guarded camps during World War II. It was a malpractice on the rights of Americans and leaves a bad taste in many mouths.

– we remain the only country to ever drop a nuclear bomb on people and did it twice. While we may understand the rationale, as bringing a Japanese surrender would have been a horribly bloody affair, we need to learn from this and never, ever let it come to this again.

– although slavery ended 100 years earlier, it took a major effort of protests and marches to bring codified rights of equality to African-Americans ending a long period of Jim Crow laws and the killing and maltreatment of people of color. This racism still festers in our country, but we need to shed a spotlight when we see poor behavior, such as the masked Voter ID laws that usually carry Jim Crow like provisions.

– one of the reasons Iranians do not trust Americans is in 1953, the CIA helped overthrow a Democratically elected leader to establish the Shah of Iran who was supportive of the US. The Shah was overthrown by rebellion in 1979. My guess is over 95% of Americans are not aware this happened. Why do they hate us so much, many may ask?

– one President came very close to being impeached, only saving himself from this fate when he resigned. President Nixon used to say “I am not a crook.” Mr. Nixon, you are wrong. You are a crook and ran a burglary ring from the White House, had a dirty deeds campaign to discredit Edmund Muskie forcing him to resign his campaign, and had an enemies list who you spied on with the help of J. Edgar Hoover.  While you did some good things, you got less than what you deserved as you dishonored the White House and dozens of your compatriots went to jail, including your two key advisors.

– we supported folks like Osama Bin Laden to help repel the Soviet army from Afghanistan (watch “Charlie Wilson’s War”). Once the Soviets left, we left these folks high and dry and the country fell apart. After 9/11, when we had a chance to get Bin Laden, we let him get away. To save face, President Bush led the invasion of an old nemesis in Saddam Hussein under the premise he possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. This information was fabricated from misdirection that Hussein used to let his enemies think he was more powerful than he was. We have been paying for this invasion for twelve years and will still pay for it with ISIS, who was formed from the police force we helped fire. Our weariness from the wars also led President Obama to pull troops from Iraq leaving the country less stable and underestimate the problem in Syria. A historian notes we overreacted to 9/11 and underreacted to Syria, as a result..

I could go on, but we need to remember all of these moments. We have a great country, but it is an imperfect one. We must learn from these events and avoid repeating mistakes and instead emphasize the equality of all Americans. If we forget our history, then we will not learn from our mistakes and do them again. A good example is fighting an elongated unwinnable war in Vietnam. The same thing happened in Iraq. We owe it to our soldiers to have a set strategy and a definition of what winning looks like. This is their message to our leaders – we do not mind fighting for our country, but give us support and an end goal.

Do not let anyone whitewash history. We need to know the good, the bad and the ugly, as all three are there to be found. We need to avoid the need for May 35th.

35 thoughts on “Please do not rewrite history – there is too much to learn (a still needed reprise)

  1. Reblogged this on Scotties Toy Box and commented:
    Hello Keith. We have reaped what our ancestors / we have sown. I am watching the Sunday news shows, and our political leaders still can not admit to what happened just a few months ago. It seems ignoring inconvenient reality is the new game in political circles. Reality is only what you can convince your audience it is. How the youth of today will be able to create a better world than we are leaving them I do not know. Hugs

    • Scottie, thanks for the reblog. I agree on the rewriters of recent history – Senators Ron Johnson and Mitch McConnell are examples whose words should be viewed with little veracity. Keith

  2. Hi Keith,
    What an amazing write up so well delivered.
    I so agree about not whitewashing history and learning from our past.
    I loved this “I have written before about May 35 which is a real reference to an imaginary date”. I will be sharing this with my family. I’d reblog but they would never see it since they barely read my posts.. 🤣🤣🤣 Happy Sunday!💖

  3. Excellent post, Keith. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said that we have failed to learn the lessons of history. And lately there are those who would deny that things such as the Holocaust ever happened. When the former guy established a commission to determine that our true history should be glossed over, painted with a different brush, I was incensed. Fortunately, one of Biden’s first moves was to disband that ‘commission’, but we nonetheless do a lousy job at teaching our young people the full history of this nation, the parts we should not be proud of are often omitted altogether, else sugar-coated to make them more palatable.

    • Jill, the Iraqi invasion was the best recent example. Senator Jim Webb from Virginia and former Vietnam veteran, Navy sailor and leader said on the floor of the Senate, if we invade Iraq, be prepared to stay there for thirty years. That was eighteen years ago. Keith

  4. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Our friend Keith has reprised one of his older posts about the whitewashing of history, the attempts to erase the mistakes we’ve made (and there have been many!) throughout the years. But, if we don’t remember our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. Thanks, Keith, for an excellent post, a timely reminder.

  5. There will be a constant urge to massage history to suit the view of one group or another; this has been going on since Humanity started to record events and is almost impossible to avoid. Ballads, folk tales and dramatised versions of events always being popular in all cultures. Writers of histories with their own agendas and of course ‘The Official Version’
    Here in the UK many in my own political homeland of the Left are as willing to adjust the facts as any MAGA adherent . And nationalist groups in Wales, Ireland and Scotland can be most selective in their readings of what took place over the past 1,000 years, not taken into account that without the help of locals ‘England’ (well actually to begin with Norman ruled England) would not have actually reached prominence.
    This will continue, all a person can do is keep a balanced judgement and watch out for those with agendas, then call them out, which in each instance will take some time as you have to marshal your facts and arguments like a lawyer in court and then they will still not accept your case!

    • Roger, so true. But, here we have kids that are taught Creationism as a science. How would that make the child feel that they were misinformed after they go to college and get out in the real world? Keith

      • Roger, you are a student of history. The arc toward what believe to be true. What is the old line from the end of the movie “The Man who shot Liberty Valance?” “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Keith

  6. Thank you, Keith: this in particular
    ” in 1953, the CIA helped overthrow a Democratically elected leader to establish the Shah of Iran”

    is a good example of what we were actively taught to disbelieve. I did not learn of this until I took a job to live outside of the country, and met Persians whose family members had been executed, yet were supportive of neither the old nor the new regimes in Iran.

    Learning that history of my own country came as a harsh shock, despite having grown up hearing about the Tuskegee Experiment from friends of the family and from family members who personally knew Tuskegee Airmen.

    Thank you, again, Keith, for helping to right a tiny bit of some of the wrongs done in the past, and for helping us to educate ourselves, collectively.

    Stay safe,

  7. Pingback: Thanks, Keith: Please do not rewrite history – there is too much to learn (a still needed reprise) — musingsofanoldfart | Critical thinking for Human Community

  8. It is awful to think that the College Board would even suggest teaching a revisionist form of history to students who are already, usually, in a privileged situation to be able to take AP. Thank you also for sharing about May 35th. I had no idea.

    • Many thanks for stopping by. It is alarming. There is also a textbook company who has added text to emphasize certain events that add postive spin, while minimizing history like Jim Crow, Native American genocide, etc. Keith

  9. Note to Readers: Two events that did not get covered in American history books is how white citizens did a coup on the elected local government in Wilmington, NC about 125 years ago because the government had a lot of African-Americans elected. Also, the 100th anniversary of a massacre in Tulsa on the “Black Wall Street” just occurred. These are sad events in our history.

    I mention these as yesterday, eight people were killed in Atlanta, which what appears to be a racist shooting of Asian-Americans. People who have perpetuated the fault of the pandemic on Asian-Americans need to be asked questions in my view, including the former president who started this mess to distract from his hoax stories.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.