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US History. Fact or overblown myth?

Discussion in 'Historical Debates' started by SomeRandom, Jul 12, 2020.

  1. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise

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    With all this talk of tearing down statues “erasing history” I’m curious.
    I hear, even from people on this very site, that their own education system essentially taught American exceptionalism instead of true history. If I misunderstood anyone, I apologise. But even kids shows have made that observation in the past so.....

    The Founding Fathers seem revered, deified even, to my view.
    I’m not against origin myths mixing with history. But I mean America takes the concept and runs with it.

    So how much history is actually being portrayed by these “contentious” monuments do you think? And I mean actual history, not glorified myths.
    Because a lot of your statues look more like religious statues than something one would find in a museum.

    I have no horse in this race. This is just to quench my own curiosity.
    Americans, how honest do you think your History is? Has that changed over the years, do you think?
    Is there merit to keeping the myth rather than face the truth?

    Discuss and debate as you like and mods feel free to move this thread if you think it’s in the wrong spot.
     
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  2. Tambourine

    Tambourine Well-Known Member

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    I am not familiar with American history as it is actually being taught in US classrooms.

    But on the subject of monuments, I would say that their connection with history as an academic subject - as opposed to, as you say, "glorified myths", is usually fairly tenuous.

    However, I would like to make a distinction here between monuments and memorials.
    The former is, indeed, built to glorify a particular person or event that is considered foundational or otherwise important in a national or local myth. The latter, I would argue, is a lot closer to the history (as opposed to glorified myth) that nations have factually experienced, because it usually exists to commemorate a loss that is factual, and emotionally important.

    I don't want to say that memorials cannot also be problematic in light of a contemporary shift of values or understanding of history, but I feel that they are much more connected to the raw experience of real, factual history, than monuments to (ostensible) past glories.

    However, I would argue that in either case, their importance to history is secondary to their connection to the political and cultural discourse surrounding history.
     
    #2 Tambourine, Jul 12, 2020
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2020
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  3. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Shadow Wolf's Aspie sibling

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    American exceptionalism is not exceptional. You can find it in other cultures and countries.
    You need to add more to get a feel for it. How successful is the given culture/country in history and currently?

    Then you need to look at how the myth actually works and how it plays out as values and how they are connected to power, respect and resources. Yes, I know, but a standard analysis of a country/culture involves these 3 elements and they are interconnected - How is the power justified (rights, form of government and how it is that good(connects to respect) and how does that play out as access to resources; i.e. knowledge, technology, money and material resources?
    Then you go back to history, geography and so on. How is the USA situated in history, culture, technology and geography and what has changed over time?

    So the short answers is that the USA is founded on colonialism and the idea for the superior white man and the Christian God and influenced by geography. All 4 are in a sense "snap-shots" in history and the world is changing.
    That is in a sense the culture war. The world around the USA is changing and so is the make up of the USA.

    The US exceptionalism is build on the conquest and control of other people, the technological and moral superiority of the white man and his white God and the geographical situation of the USA.

    So you can view the monuments as a part of that.

    Now please don't ask me if this is right or wrong and all that jazz. That is in a sense a whole other ball game.

    Regards
    Mikkel
     
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  4. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    I suspect a lot depends on the teacher. In my middle school, American history was taught by a woman who was quite honest and informative about the social and political problems of the day.

    For example, she stressed -- among many other things -- that American's right to free speech was never wholly secure because the Governments, both State and Federal, had histories of trying to suppress it. If I recall, she also pointed out the hypocrisy of several of the Founders in owning slaves while espousing liberty. And, of course, she debunked some of the popular myths surrounding George Washington. Stuff like that.

    I didn't take American history in high school, focusing instead on British, Greek & Roman, and World history. But what I had in middle school seems to me more or less balanced, although it was very weak on the conflicts between capital and labor.

    However, I think that its overall quality was more a matter of the time, the place, and especially the teacher.
     
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  5. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium Sākṣī
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    I'm not sure I'd go as far as calling US history "overblown myth," but my education did paint a bit of a exceptionalist picture of the US.

    However, I'm not sure if our history is any more embellished than it is in any other country to teaches Pride in Country™, because I have nothing to compare it to, as I don't recall having been raised and educated in any other country. ;)
     
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  6. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Shadow Wolf's Aspie sibling

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    Try asking a (West) German. Even as Danish we do it in part as the Germans.
     
  7. Rival

    Rival Noahide
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    THREAD MOVED TO HISTORICAL DEBATES.
     
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  8. Tambourine

    Tambourine Well-Known Member

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    For what it's worth, I doubt that many young adults in Europe would be able to come up with a coherent story as to how their country came to be, but this sort of thing seems to be almost foundational to the way students in the US are being taught their own country's history.

    Take Austria, for example, to the extent that we even have a "foundational myth" it's basically that a Bavarian bishop wrote down in a document that Austria exists and is going to come under the domain of some other lord.

    That's it. There's no greater story attached to it, no mythical tale of Ocean Blues or Cherry Trees, just some guy whose name most students won't even remember writing down that some part of his domain is going to be owned by another guy. Nobody cares, really.
     
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  9. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium Sākṣī
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    That may be because the US is a much younger country than most and therefore has better historical documentation.
     
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  10. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Shadow Wolf's Aspie sibling

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    Well, ours is a bit more religious than just a bishop. God gave the Danish flag(it came down from the Heavens) to a bishop praying for some soldiers fighting the Heathens and thus we became proper Danes. Whatever that is. The rest of founding of Denmark is also tied to God, Christian version.
    Of course Denmark was there before we became Christians, but Denmark proper is tied to being Christian even today.
     
    #10 mikkel_the_dane, Jul 12, 2020
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  11. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise

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    Okay, say you’re learning about world history. Someone told me on this website that they were taught that America was responsible for “saving the day” in terms of WWII. That’s something no other country teaches, as far as I’m aware. So would you agree that that is an exceptionalism sentiment?
     
  12. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium Sākṣī
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    Yes.
     
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  13. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Shadow Wolf's Aspie sibling

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    It is a half-truth. Yes, they are a part of it and in a sense necessary, but the "jury" is still out on if that is all there is to it.
     
  14. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    America is heterogenous. There are those who love history and those who view it with an almost contemptuous indifference. But I suspect that most of us were raised on the thin gruel of American exceptionalism and are oblivious to the resulting malnourishment.
     
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  15. Shaul

    Shaul Well-Known Member

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    I reject this as a revisionist myth. The USA was not built on conquest or white supremacy.
    That
    is
    a
    Lie.

    The USA was based on settlement, cooperation and the universal equality of mankind.
     
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  16. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    At no point in my education have the "founding fathers" been treated as gods, nor was "exceptionalism" really a component either. At most, "manifest destiny" was discussed because it was a historically important idea used to rationalize the subjugation and displacement of indigenous peoples of North America. And yes, the subjugation and displacement was definitely mentioned and covered. In high school, we got to write a paper about some aspect of World War II; I wrote mine on the concentration camps created to imprison Japanese citizens and it was one of the many war atrocities mentioned in our textbook. One history teacher I had took us on a field trip to an archival library and taught us about how historical research is done - the importance of primary sources and all that.

    Long and the short of it, the history education I had wasn't mythologized, and it wasn't rose-tinted. Then again, my state at the time (I can't speak for at present) was known for having a very good public education system, so mileage may vary.
     
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  17. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Christine's Uncle Fergus
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    Without taking the entire land from those inferior Indians,
    how would Ameristan even exist? Same for Canuckistan
    & prolly every other country on this side of the planet.
     
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  18. Stevicus

    Stevicus Veteran Member
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    I would say it's probably become "more honest" in the past 30-40 years, although it takes time for it to filter down and work into the fabric of "Americana" itself, which is not so much history, but a kind of "mythos" which some people have embraced.

    I respect most historians as honest scholars, but they're not always the ones who are telling the history to the masses, which is another part of the problem.

    Part of U.S. patriotism has been a desire to make Americans feel good about themselves and their country as being a beacon of hope, the shining city on the hill, the guardian of freedom and democracy all around the world.

    Of course, we can still look back on our history and give an honest appraisal of what was actually done in Americans' name. If it means reevaluating these statues and the historical figures being glorified, then that's what it means. In a way, it's not just learning about history itself, but also about the "history of history," so to speak.

    I'm not sure where this unraveling of the mythos and lies of our history will ultimately lead. Perhaps it might cause the entire basis of America's existence to become totally irrelevant.
     
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  19. pcarl

    pcarl Well-Known Member

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    Interestingly, the statues that are being taken down are not of American heroes, they were no longer members of the USA. They were heroes only to the enemies of the US.
     
  20. columbus

    columbus yawn <ignore> yawn

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    Well, that's obviously not true.

    The USA was built on liberal, non-Scriptural, ideology. With a big help from violence, slavery, genocide, and capitalism.


    Seriously,
    You think that women, blacks, and natives were part of " All men are created equal"?
    Heck, Jews were hated and oppressed until the post WWII period. Then the Allied powers could shuffle them off to some Middle Eastern wasteland and feel righteous about it.
    Tom
     
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