I have always loved history. In “He Was Weird,” Mark also loves history although when he imparts certain historical knowledge, he gets bullied for “showing off.” A second ago, I was going to write that my last statement was a digression from the intent of the post but it is linked. Throughout the ages, history has been misused. Often times it’s misused by the right to foster hate or promote patriotism and misused by the left as a stick to beat people with. Either way, history gets misused.
The right’s misuse of history is very straight forward. They want to use it to celebrate historical events that make their country look great. At the same time, they want events that don’t make their country look so good de-emphasized or not taught at all. Look at the holocaust deniers, which is why the best thing Dwight Eisenhower did in World War 2 was to order photos taken of the concentration camps. Because like he said, “In fifty years time, some bastard will say that this never happened.” He was right.
Back in the 1980s and I’m sure it still goes on, the American right wanted the Vietnam War de-emphasized where pupils were taught, that America didn’t really lose or that the protesters lost the war for America and we would have won if it wasn’t for that. Gee, when I was in the marines, some of my fellow marines said the army lost Vietnam for us. The right’s obsession with covering up Vietnam even got the point where Jello Biafra has a three minute tirade called, “Vietnam Never Happened.” It’s quite funny. Has it worked? Well, it did back in the 80s. I remember a teenager stating that America won Vietnam. Also, the greatest but little known success of the Reagan presidency was the vilification of the 1960s.
Other nations are the same. In my adopted home, the UK, British children are not taught about the American War of Independence and if mentioned, those on the right are quick to point out that Britain won most of the battles, they did. Then again, they aren’t taught about the French and Indian War which Britain did win. The only mention I’ve ever heard or seen was a history documentary about the decisive victory at the Battle of Quebec. I know that the right wing in other countries are the same way with the teaching of history.
Now to the left, which my Asperger’s mind has real problems with. The left go totally the opposite way with the teaching of history, to the point where they want to portray their country as evil. The British Empire is a prime example of this. See, in principle, I agree that the Britain and some of the other European nations proclaiming parts of Africa and Asia as part of their empires was wrong. I know that a lot of atrocities were committed in the name of the Empire and I think that was terrible too. However, my question is, how long should the people today pay for the sins of their forefathers? The left uses this history as justification for letting all the world come settle in their country. While they may have a point, it’s not practical. The empires were more than 100 years ago and those nations now have independence. Yet the left wants to use events of over a century ago as a stick to beat the people of today with and this leads to my point. History is a learning tool used to point out where people went wrong or got it right and used to guide the future generations so they won’t make the same mistakes as their fathers did. I’m talking right and left here.
Before anyone on the left who is reading this starts calling me racist, I’m not. However, history is used by both left and right as a tool for racism. American history is full of examples, especially in regards to African Americans. Slavery was wrong, totally wrong. The right use it to point out to African Americans that they should be lucky they weren’t living back then if they think that they have it so bad now. What a load of hogwash! Furthermore, white people living in the North, have no right to use it as an excuse to lord it over the South and especially towards African Americans whom Northern whites on the right believe should feel grateful to them for freeing them from the bonds of slavery. I wonder is this the reason why I have met a good number of African Americans from the South who have “Southern pride.” And to Northern right wingers, it’s not Stockholm Syndrome. On the other hand, slavery should not be used as an excuse by African Americans to hate whites. This is also punishing the children for the sins of their fathers and why should I be hated for something that ended a century before I was born? And thanks to my step mother’s efforts in tracing my geneology, I can say with a good deal of certainty that none of my ancestors were involved in slavery while it was going on. Slavery in America is a perfect example of how the right uses history as a tool to oppress and how the left uses it as a stick to beat people with. In either case, the end result is hate.
I’d like to raise a point about the American Civil War here. This is directed to the Southerners I’ve met in my lifetime who haven’t dealt with the fact that the South lost. First, if the South had won, the United States would be two separate nations and not as strong as it is now. A Southern victory would have made the Monroe Doctrine unenforceable and the nations of Europe would have expanded their empires to South America. That is why during the war, France went in and took over Mexico. Furthermore, Germany might have won World War 1 and God knows what would have happened with World War 2. So, maybe it was good for the US and the world that the Union won the Civil War. I am not trying to lord the North’s victory over the South, in fact, I am dead against the tearing down of Robert E Lee’s statues. He was a great general and should be honoured as such. After all, Rommel fought on the side that promoted genocide but I’ve heard no claims against him. I’m just using history in hindsight to show the good things that came out of that war.
I guess what I am doing is trying to make sense of the use of history in my own mind. The teaching of it has often times been misused to further some political agenda, both by the left and right. It should be taught that while most historical events have been for the best, there are some which haven’t. The only tool history should be used for is a learning one so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past and build on the successes of that past in the hope of building a better future.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1505813006&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird